Window washers are the next in line to see their jobs replaced by robots.
Even if they’re not afraid of heights, it still takes someone with nerves of steel to work as a window washer, dangling a hundred floors above the ground with a squeegee in hand. A company called Skyline Robotics wants to make window washing much safer because instead of humans, the lift that’s lowered down the side of a building is staffed with robots instead.
According to Skyline Robotics, the window cleaning industry, including those towering structures dotting the skylines of major metropolises, is a lucrative business with over $40 billion in revenue every year. The problem is that 74% of trained window washers are over 40 years old, and there’s not enough young blood to replace them. It’s easy to see why that’s the case. As anyone who’s ever seen the local news reporting on a daring window washer rescue already knows. It’s a risky gig, even if it comes with amazing views. One possible solution? Enter the robots.
Until real windows are eventually all replaced with ultra-high-resolution screens (mark my words, it’s gonna happen) Skyline Robotics hopes to solve the window washer dilemma with robots: specifically, what appears to be KUKA Robotics arms outfitted with a large cleaning brush and a system that automatically pumps clean water through it.
Officially named Ozmo, the robot can be mounted to the same lift mechanisms that carry multiple window washers up and down the side of a building through the use of a motorized crane system on the roof. Unlike humans, however, Ozmo has a much longer reach, allowing one or two of the robotic arms to potentially clean a much larger region on every pass. As with other robotic workers, Ozmo doesn’t take breaks, need lunch, or ever have to go to the bathroom. And since it’s permanently bolted to the lift it’s riding, there are no harnesses to check and re-check before a shift, and should something go wrong, there’s less risk to human life.
If you live in New York and work in a high-rise structure, there’s a good chance you might get a chance to see one of the Ozmo robots at work because Skyline Robotics recently announced a new partnership with a company named Platinum, Inc. that currently has cleaning and maintenance contracts with 65% of the Class A buildings (a classification applied to the newest, most modern skyscrapers) in New York City. It’s the first time the Ozmo robots will be deployed in the US, so you can soon expect a sharp decrease in the number of ‘window washers dangling in peril’ stories on your local news.