Water treatment and mobile phone washing: A sink at McDonald’s shows it

At the end of October, the Japanese software engineer Sho Sawada landed his biggest hit on Twitter: his little film was clicked 4.8 million times, showing him sticking his smartphone in a slot next to the hand basin at McDonalds Japan.

The device disappeared, a flap closed. Then a blue light came on to show that something was happening in the slot as well. In fact, the cell phone was irradiated with ultraviolet light to rid its surface of bacteria and viruses.

“McDonald’s today not only has a place to wash hands, but also to wash smartphones,” he said. And that wasn’t fictitious. In fact, the slot was labeled “Smartphone”.

The new sink is not a marketing gimmick. Rather, the Japanese Startup Wota With the transfer of a previously more private trend of mobile phone disinfection, its already innovative, environmentally friendly hand wash basin Wosh has been upgraded a bit more.

The name of the start-up says it all: water. Wota is the phonetically Latinized form of the Japanese phonetic transcription for the English word “water”. And the company develops handy water treatment systems. “Our goal is to free society from its dependence on large central infrastructures and to accelerate the transition to a small, decentralized society of water reuse,” explains the start-up.

The first product was the Wota Box, a small box on wheels that could purify water. In autumn 2020, Wota then launched the barrel-shaped Wosh washbasin, which does not need a water connection, just a power connection. Because it is a device with a closed water circuit.

The waste water is cleaned with three filters. And as a special highlight, the engineers have also given the device a smartphone disinfection system that is pandemic-correct. Until now, private individuals in particular have bought small boxes in order to clean the object that homo digitalis touches most frequently every day.

And so the engineers apparently thought that hand washing makes more sense in modern times if the fingers also touch a clean smartphone after cleaning. And suddenly they found a client – ​​and global publicity.

Japan has always tried everything possible with electronics – and often the impossible. Every Thursday our author Martin Kölling reports on the latest trends from Japan and neighboring countries.

At a new McDonald’s store in Urawa, north of Tokyo, the sink was installed in the dining area on the first floor in April. By washing by hand near the table, the store manager wanted to fulfill a customer request for cleanliness. Because at McDonald’s, the dishes are cleaned by hand.

However, there are no water connections in the shop outside of the toilet and kitchen on the ground floor. And that’s how Japan’s largest restaurant chain came up with the idea of ​​renting Wosh from Wota, since it only needs one socket to operate. The pretty play of light from LED lighting around the sink even provides additional entertainment value for customers.

Now it has to be proven whether the Wota products also fulfill the promises made by the engineers. By using sensors and artificial intelligence, they not only want to be able to reuse 98 percent of the wastewater, significantly more than water treatment plants in the international space station. The process is said to be 93 percent cheaper than before.

“What we offer is essentially a water treatment operating system,” writes the company. “In the future, water treatment plants around the world could fully automate their processes using our patented water treatment OS.”

In order for the global leap to succeed, the company has found a potent investor: Softbank Corp., the Japanese mobile network of the large Japanese technology investor Softbank. Since then, the products have been able to exchange data with the head office via Softbank’s mobile Internet.

In addition, the partners plan to build infrastructure together with other companies, initially in Japan. As a market, they think of depopulated areas and remote islands of the East Asian island kingdom “that struggle with water infrastructure problems.”


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