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Title:
HYGIENE EQUIPMENT WITH REPORTING FUNCTIONALITY
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/063091
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A piece of hygiene equipment arranged to dispense a consumable to a user and/or to dispose a consumable from a user, the piece of hygiene equipment comprising a detector configured to detect a usage event when said consumable is dispended to said user and/or said consumable is disposed from said user, a flash unit arranged to emit a flash of light in response to said detector detecting a usage event.

Inventors:
LINDSTRÖM HÅKAN (SE)
Application Number:
PCT/EP2017/074801
Publication Date:
April 04, 2019
Filing Date:
September 29, 2017
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
ESSITY HYGIENE & HEALTH AB (SE)
International Classes:
A47K5/12; G08B21/24
Domestic Patent References:
WO2016168082A12016-10-20
Foreign References:
US20160275778A12016-09-22
US20090051545A12009-02-26
US20160262580A12016-09-15
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SIEGERT, Georg et al. (Arabellastraße 30, Munich, DE)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims :

1. A piece of hygiene equipment arranged to dispense a consumable to a user and/or to dispose a consumable from a user, the piece of hygiene equipment comprising: a detector configured to detect a usage event when said consumable is dispensed to said user and/or said consumable is disposed from said user, a flash unit arranged to emit a flash of light in response to said detector detecting a usage event.

2. The piece of hygiene equipment according to claim 1, further comprising an ejection mechanism arranged to dispense an amount of said consumable in response to a user operation and wherein said flash unit is arranged to emit said flash of light in response to said user operation .

3. The piece of hygiene equipment according to claim 2, wherein said ejection mechanism comprises any one of a lever operable by a user, a pump configured to eject an amount of consumable, a spring-loaded mechanism for actuating a pump and/or returning a lever, a switch configured to detect an actuation, a power source for driving said flash unit, and a power generating device for driving said flash unit.

4. The piece of hygiene equipment according to claim 3, wherein the lever is configured to actuate said pump for ejecting said amount of consumable and to actuate said power generating device for driving said flash unit.

5. The piece of hygiene equipment according to claim 4, wherein the power generating device is configured to generate more than one power maximum during a usage event for driving said flash unit emitting a flash of light comprising more than one intensity maximum.

6. The piece of hygiene equipment according to claim 2, wherein said ejection mechanism comprises any one of a lever operable by a user, a pump configured to eject an amount of consumable, a motor for actuating a pump, a valve, a proximity detector for actuating a motor, and a power source for actuating a motor and/or driving said flash unit.

7. The piece of hygiene equipment according to claim 6, wherein said proximity detector is configured to actuate said motor driving said pump and to drive said flash unit .

8. The piece of hygiene equipment according to any one of claims 1 to 7, wherein said flash unit is configured to emit a modulated flash of light in terms of any one of intensity, amplitude, wavelength, color, and/or frequency .

9. The piece of hygiene equipment according to claim 8, wherein said flash unit is configured to modulate said flash of light according to payload data to be conveyed by said flash of light.

10. The piece of hygiene equipment according to any one of claims 1 to 9, wherein said flash unit is configured to emit said flash of light in a non-visible light wavelength range, preferably the infrared or ultraviolet range .

11. The piece of hygiene equipment according to any one of claims 1 to 10, wherein said flash unit comprises a part of an enclosure of said piece of hygiene equipment, and wherein said part is at least partially transparent for the flash of light.

12. The piece of hygiene equipment according to any one of claims 1 to 10, wherein said flash unit comprises a slit which extends at least along a part of the front side of the piece of hygiene equipment.

13. The piece of hygiene equipment according to any one of claims 1 to 10, wherein said flash unit comprises means that are arranged to emit the flash of light toward a reflecting surface.

14. The piece of hygiene equipment according to any one of claims 1 to 10, wherein said flash unit comprises a sphere residing moveable in a bearing, the sphere comprising an aperture through which the flash of light is emitted.

15. The piece of hygiene equipment according to any one of claims 1 to 14, wherein said flash unit is configured to emit a second flash of light indicating an opportunity to use the piece of hygiene equipment, said second flash of light being distinguishable from said flash of light.

16. The piece of hygiene equipment according to any one of claims 1 to 15, wherein the piece of hygiene equipment is any one of a soap dispenser, a dispenser for disinfectant solutions, gels or substances, a towel dispenser, a glove dispenser, a tissue dispenser, a hand dryer, a sink, a bin, a used hygienic product receptacle, and a radiation assisted disinfectant point.

Description:
HYGIENE EQUIPMENT WITH REPORTING FUNCTIONALITY

Technical Field

The present invention relates to hygiene equipment with capabilities to report a usage event. More specifically, the present invention relates to a piece of hygiene equipment that can be arranged to dispense a consumable to a user, and/or to dispose a consumable from a user, and provides capabilities to report a usage by an individual.

Technical Background

Hygiene equipment in the form of various dispensers and related devices is common in many premises that are frequented by a larger number of people. Specifically, such premises can be office buildings, manufacturing sites, hospitals, airports, train stations, bus terminals, shopping malls, restaurants, schools, kindergartens, and the like. Usually, such premises have in common that they are places that are visited by a considerable number of people and that hand or body hygiene, or cleaning in general, is desired at least to some degree. As a consequence, these premises will provide restroom or related facilities for the people working, staying in, or using these premises. For example, restrooms and toilets will be provided for the people working in an office building or visiting an airport.

In such facilities the mentioned hygiene equipment may be installed in form of soap, foam or towel dispensers, disinfectant (e.g. alcogel etc.) dispensers, toilet paper dispensers, hygiene bag dispensers, dispensers for hygiene products, such as absorbent articles, diapers, incontinence products, and other related devices. Usually, such hygiene equipment is predominantly present in restroom or toilet facilities. Likewise, such equipment may be found in entrance halls, kitchens, kitchenettes, offices, restaurants, canteens, conference/meeting rooms, receptions, reception areas, elevator, waiting areas, printer rooms and docucenters, gyms, or disposal areas. In the case of a hospital, for example, hygiene equipment will be present virtually everywhere, since doctors and caring personnel will need access to such facilities also when not using a restroom or toilet facility. Specifically, there may be rules and schemes that prescribe the use of hygiene equipment whenever entering some dedicated area, when approaching a patient, or, generally, before carrying out any tasks that require respective hygiene.

In the above examples, the piece of hygiene equipment may be configured to dispense a consumable to a user. The consumable may be identified as any article that the user employs for a hygienic purpose, so that possible articles include an amount of soap or alcogel, towels, tissues, hygienic/absorbent articles, etc. Likewise, however, the piece of hygiene equipment may well be configured to dispose a consumable from a user so that it as such may take the form of a waste bin, used towel bin, and the like.

Another aspect of the related arts is that the actual use of the hygiene equipment is subject to observation and/or promotion. Specifically, hygiene compliance rules may require individuals to use hygiene equipment in specific situations and operators of facilities, such as hospitals etc., may want to ensure that personnel make proper use of hygiene equipment, i.e. behave in a compliant fashion. For the case of hand hygiene the World Health Organization (WHO) has defined the so-called "Five Moments of Hand Hygiene" (cf. www.who.int/psc/tools/Five_moments/en/) including as explicit definitions for opportunities: 1. Before patient contact; 2. Before aseptic task; 3. After body fluid exposure risk; 4. After patient contact; and 5. After contact with patient surroundings. There already exist systems and devices that monitor a compliant behavior by employing dispensers with sensors that can detect usage.

However, the knowledge of actual use instances may not be sufficient for obtaining a reliable picture of whether or not a given behavior is "compliant". Such knowledge may yet be important for implementing measures for promoting the use of hygiene equipment in order to ultimately lower the risks relating to infectious diseases and, in general, to hygiene issues as a whole. One aspect here is the possibility to associate an event of using hygiene equipment to the specific individual who has used the piece of hygiene equipment at a given time. In this regard, the piece of hygiene equipment should be able to react when it has been used and to notify an entity that is responsible for compliance monitoring.

In the light of the above, it is an object of the present invention to provide hygiene equipment that can facilitate the reporting of a usage event. A further object of the present invention is to take into account at the same time the characteristics of the situations when and where hygiene equipment is usually employed and subject to compliance monitoring .

Summary

The mentioned problems are solved by the subject-matter of the independent claims. Further preferred embodiments are defined in the dependent claims.

According to one embodiment of the present invention, there is provided a piece of hygiene equipment arranged to dispense a consumable to a user and/or to dispose a consumable from a user, the piece of hygiene equipment comprising a detector configured to detect a usage event when said consumable is dispended to said user and/or said consumable is disposed from said user, and a flash unit arranged to emit a flash of light in response to said detector detecting a usage event.

Brief description of the drawings

Embodiments of the present invention, which are presented for a better understanding of the inventive concepts and which are not to be seen as limiting the invention, will now be described with reference to the figures in which:

Figures 1A to 1C show schematic views of respective pieces of hygiene equipment according to embodiments of the present invention;

Figures 2A to 2F show schematic views of flash units as part of respective pieces of hygiene equipment according to embodiments of the present invention;

Figures 3A to 3D show schematic views of resulting flash cones according to embodiments of the present invention;

Figure 4 shows a schematic view of the interaction between a piece of hygiene equipment and an individual according to a further embodiment of the present invention ; and

Figures 5A to 5D show schematic views of intensity- versus-time-patterns of optical flashes according to embodiments of the present invention .

Detailed description

Figure 1A shows a schematic view of a piece of hygiene equipment according to an embodiment of the present invention. Here, a piece 11 of hygiene equipment is shown in the form of a dispenser that is arranged to dispense an amount 100 of a consumable (e.g. soap, disinfectant, etc.) to a user. The dispenser 11 comprises an ejection mechanism with a lever 110 that can be actuated by the user so as to expel the soap, disinfectant or the like. Specifically, the ejection mechanism is arranged to dispense an amount of the consumable when a user actuates the lever and hence provides mechanical force of a pump or dosing mechanism. In the present embodiment, the user's action of actuating the lever is one form of a user operation or usage event that triggers the emission of a flash of light.

Specifically, the dispenser 11 according to this embodiment comprises a flash unit 120 that is arranged to emit a flash of light 1 in response to a user action, i.e. the actuation of lever 110. The unit 120 is shown as being arranged inside dispenser 11 but will, however, comprise at least means that allow light to penetrate to the closer surrounding of dispenser 11. Further details in this regard are explained in conjunction with the applicable embodiments elsewhere in the present disclosure. In any way, however, the flash unit emits the flash 1 so that it can be detected by a device 2 in the vicinity of the dispenser, preferably in the form of a device carried by the user.

Specifically, the device 2 is provided with a light detector that can "receive" the flash 1 emitted by the dispenser 11. Suitable components include a camera section, a photodiode, an infrared (IR) sensor, a luminosity sensor, and the like. The device further should be provided with processing resources that are at least suitable for detecting and identifying the flash of light via the light detector and to store and/or forward data relating to this detection. In this way, data may be available that indicates that a specific individual (i.e. the person who carries the device 2) has used a piece of hygiene equipment. An example for a use scenario is explained in conjunction with Figure 3. As far as the device 2 as such is concerned, any suitable implementation may be chosen, including mobile devices such as mobile phones, smartphones, cordless phones, DECT phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) , tablet computers, portable computers, notebooks, etc. In such devices the functionalities may be provided e.g. in the form of software apps . However, also dedicated electronic devices may be employed that at least comprise a light detector and the mentioned processing resources along with a power source and communication means. Examples for the latter are in general tags, smart tags, smart buttons, etc.

With regard to the interaction between the ejection mechanism and the flash unit several solutions may apply. First, the ejection mechanism may be purely mechanic, while the only electric components reside in the flash unit. Specifically, the ejection mechanism may be mechanically coupled to a switch that is electrically coupled to the flash unit. Whenever the ejection mechanism is activated, e.g. by activating the lever 110, the switch may provide an electrical signal. The flash unit may be configured so as to consider a delay before the flash is actually emitted. Further, the possibility that a user activates the lever several times (e.g. for expelling a greater amount of soap) may be considered in that the flash unit only emits a flash in some given time after activation by a (first) activation of the lever. The flash unit may comprise a power source in the form of a battery, solar cell, power adaptor and mains connection, RF power harvester, power over Ethernet, universal serial bus (USB) or the like. Further, the mechanical ejection mechanism may be coupled to a generator device that generates an electrical power pulse from the mechanical energy exerted onto the lever. This may employ means including magnets, inductive coils, piezoelectric elements and the like. As the flash may be short in time, all the available electrical energy may be used for intensity instead.

Figure IB shows a schematic view of a piece of hygiene equipment according to another embodiment of the present invention. Here, a piece 12 of hygiene equipment is again shown in the form of a dispenser that is arranged to dispense an amount of a consumable to a user. The dispenser 12 comprises an electronically driven ejection mechanism employing a proximity sensor 111. The latter is shown in the figure to face downwards so as to be able to detect an individual's hand underneath the dispenser. The proximity sensor can be an IR-, capacitive, or similar sensor that activates a pump mechanism for expelling a given amount of consumable. For this purpose, the ejection mechanism may comprise - or may be coupled to - a power source in one of the already mentioned forms. A motor or electric actuator may provide the mechanical force for expelling the consumable. Likewise also a valve may be actuated, wherein the actual ejection of the consumable is effected by means of gravity or a pre-stressed or pressurized container of the consumable.

In the case of an electronic or electric ejection mechanism, the proximity sensor may not only provide that ejection mechanism with a signal to initiate/execute ejection, but also the flash unit. In this way, the proximity sensor may act as a detector and may activate both the ejection mechanism and the flash unit at the same time. As far as the power is concerned, the proximity sensor, the ejection mechanism as well as the flash unit may share a common power source, again in one of the already mentioned forms.

Figure 1C shows a schematic view of a piece of hygiene equipment according to another embodiment of the present invention. Here, a piece 13 of hygiene equipment is shown in the form of a bin that is arranged to dispose a consumable from a user. For this purpose the bin 13 provides a reservoir 130 for receiving waste in the assumed predominant form of hygiene articles such as a used paper towel 101. If this bin 13 is for example placed in the vicinity of washbasin, the use of the bin, i.e. the disposal of towels or other items, may indicate a use of hygiene equipment. This use may be detected for example by means of a light barrier 131 that detects the passing of an item, e.g. a towel 101. As in the other embodiments, the piece 13 of hygiene equipment provides a flash unit 132 which is arranged to emit a flash of light upon detecting a use instance, e.g. whenever an item passes the light barrier 131.

Figure 2A shows a schematic view of a flash unit as part of respective pieces of hygiene equipment IX according to an embodiment of the present invention. The present embodiment of the flash unit may preferably apply for dispensers, such as the ones 11, 12 described in conjunction with Figures 1A and IB. Specifically, the piece of hygiene equipment IX provides a window 121 on the front side of the device, the window being at least transparent for the light employed for the flash. The window can be made of a separate piece as compared to housing of the piece IX of hygiene equipment. In this way, the window can account for the employed wavelengths while the remainder of the chassis can be formed and designed independent from any optical transmission characteristics specific to the flash.

Generally, any suitable light can be employed for the envisaged embodiments. The flash can thus comprise a light signal of any suitable wavelength or wavelength composition, including signals and components in the infrared, visible or ultraviolet region. While visible light may be advantageous in some embodiments (e.g. for conveying an acknowledgement that is at the same time visible for the user) , non-visible light may be advantageous in other embodiments. Specifically, non-visible light can be used so that interference from other light sources that usually emit visible light for illumination can be reduced and/or so as to not disturb users. Further, light of different wavelengths has different penetration properties through various materials such as cloth. Also, a combination of flash components can be employed that pursues multiple advantages: For example, a combination of a visible and an infrared light may provide a visible acknowledgement to a human and at the same as a reliable signal to a device, i.e. machine. Generally, a flash of light can be thus different from a radio signal, since a flash of light is confined and guided (reflected) by the surrounding (e.g. walls, doors, objects, etc.), while this does not apply generally to radio signals.

As shown in Figure 2A, the window 121 is arranged on a front side of the device and thus emits the flash into a preferred emission cone in front of the device. Thus, an individual using the piece IX of hygiene equipment can be assumed to be situated in a preferable position so that a device carried by that individual can reliably receive the flash emitted through the window 121. Although the window 121 is shown in the Figure in a distinguishable fashion, the flash unit may also employ a part of the device housing, wherein at least that part is sufficiently transparent for the employed light. In this way, the reporting functionality can be concealed, especially when using light that is invisible for the human eye .

The fact that the window 121 is arranged on the device's front side usually implies a minimum distance from a wall and, with this, some kind of confinement of the flash emission cone. In this way, only individuals standing more or less in front of the device, i.e. individuals that can be reasonably assumed to have actually used the piece of hygiene equipment, can detect the flash. Therefore, the risk of a false attribution of a usage event to the appropriate individual can be lowered. The resulting emission cone may be similar to the one shown as cone 1A in Figure 3A, where a position (Y) of an individual may correspond to the appropriate individual using the piece of hygiene equipment and a position (X) would relate to an individual not being involved in the use of hygiene equipment. In this way, a device carried by an individual at position (Y) rightly can receive the flash, whilst a device carried by an individual at position (X) will not receive the flash.

Figure 2B shows a schematic view of a flash unit according to another embodiment of the present invention. The present embodiment may again preferably apply for dispensers 11, 12 of Figures 1A and IB. Specifically, the piece of hygiene equipment IX provides a window 122 which extends along a part of the front side, an edge, and a top side of the device. In this way, the resulting emission cone may be a combination of cones 1A and IB in Figure 3A, where the latter cone is atop cone 1A. In this way, also a part of the flash light rays will have an upward component which can help improving the selectivity of the system as a whole: In a usual environment, a dispenser will be arranged on a wall so that a user' s hand can actuate the dispenser with his/her open palm while usually holding the hand well below chest height. At the same time, however, a tag device 2, e.g. a smartphone, can be carried in or attached to a user's chest pocket. Likewise, carrying the tag device also in a hip pocket can be envisaged by corresponding embodiments. With a light detector at least in part directed downward, the system of the dispenser and the device provide a reliable mechanism for "pairing" in the sense that only the correct device detect the flash, i.e. a device that is carried by the same user who has used the piece of hygiene equipment.

Figure 2C shows a schematic view of a flash unit according to another embodiment of the present invention. The present embodiment may again preferably apply for dispensers 11, 12 of Figures 1A and IB. Specifically, the piece of hygiene equipment IX provides a window 123 which extends substantially along the whole upper side of the device and thus can generate an emission cone as shown as cone 1C in Figure 3B. In this way, the flash light rays will have an upward component which can even more improve the above discussed selectivity. With now additional reference to Figure 4, the interplay becomes clear when considering the user (individual) U carrying device 2 with a detector and the emission cone directed upward from the dispenser device. This has the specific further consequence that also a person (and tag device) located at position X' will not be associated to a hygiene equipment usage event, although standing in the line in front of the device, but not near enough to capture the flash rays with the upward components.

Figure 2D shows a schematic view of a flash unit according to another embodiment of the present invention. The present embodiment may again preferably apply for dispensers 11, 12 of Figures 1A and IB. Specifically, the piece of hygiene equipment IX provides a slit 124 which extends at least along a part of the front side of the device. In this way, a narrow flash emission cone can be generated such as the cone ID as shown in Figure 3C. In this way, the flash light rays will have a narrow distribution especially in a direction into the area directly in front of the device. This can account for systems in which the tag device 2 has a detector that preferably detects light rays having a predominant directional component along the horizontal axis. This yield another type of selectivity in the sense that a device carried by an individual at position (Y) rightly can receive the flash, whilst a device carried by an individual at position (X) will not receive the flash, although position (X) is closer to position (Y) as compared to scenarios described elsewhere in the present disclosure.

Figure 2E shows a schematic view of a flash unit according to another embodiment of the present invention. Specifically, the piece of hygiene equipment IX provides a flash unit comprising means 125 that are arranged to emit the light toward a reflecting surface, such as a wall 4. In this way, a relatively small opening 125 can be used for illuminating a relatively large room volume. Consequently, a relatively large emission cone IE can be formed as shown in Figure 3D. This yields another type of selectivity in the sense that a device carried by an individual at position (Y) rightly can receive the flash, whilst a device carried by an individual at position (X) will not receive the flash, although position (X) is closer to position (Y) as compared to scenarios described elsewhere in the present disclosure. This embodiment may be suitable for systems where on the one hand the density of possible users is relatively low, in the sense that it can be assumed that false attributions of usage events to individuals - just because more than one individual and device are located near a piece of hygienic equipment - are rare. On the other hand, however, the present embodiment can promote detection of the flash by a tag device, since the emission cone and the number of existing directions of flash light rays is increased as compared to other solutions. In this way, it can be easier for the tag device to detect the flash, even in cases when the device is carried by the user in a pocket and the flash light rays may thus need to penetrate through clothes or in general one or more layer of applicable fabrics.

Figure 2F shows a schematic view of a flash unit according to another embodiment of the present invention. The present embodiment may again preferably apply for dispensers 11, 12 of Figures 1A and IB. Specifically, the piece of hygiene equipment IX provides a light nozzle 126 in the form of a punctured sphere. The sphere may reside in a bearing so that its orientation can be changed in one or two directions. By this the aperture of the sphere can be pointed to different directions. The flash of light is emitted through this aperture so that changing the sphere's orientation in the bearing will change the main emission direction of the light cone/lobe. This embodiment allows simple adjustment for instances in which the emission lobe/direction needs to be changed in order to enhance detection reliability. In one embodiment the light source as such is mounted in or on the sphere on a location opposite to the aperture.

In general, also a filter may be employed which can be placed and removed in front of an emission aperture. In this way, a selection of one or more specific dispensers can be achieved by simple means. For example, self-adhesive filter strips can be simply affixed atop the aperture and thus alter the spectral properties of the flash of light. As a result, these dispensers (their use) may be detected only by specific devices that take into account the specific spectral properties of the flash of light.

Furthermore, in some embodiments also the mentioned opportunities may be signaled by one or more second flashes of light. For example, a piece of hygiene equipment may emit in regular intervals a second flash of light in the form of a beacon. An individual entering the vicinity of the dispenser may thus detect this opportunity which in this case may be defined by that the simple fact that there is a piece of hygiene equipment indicates also an opportunity to use it. This second beacon flash may be distinguishable from a first flash of light that is emitted in response to detecting a use and that is explained in connection with the other embodiments. This distinction may employ any one of spectral characteristics, color, duration, pulse sequence, and/or modulated information. In a further embodiment, the piece of hygiene equipment may comprise a proximity sensor that activates the emission of the second "opportunity" flash of light. In a further embodiment, „coded information" (e.g. frequency or modulation or both) can be conveyed also or only by the first signal. The content of the "coded information" can be defined by the user but is in one embodiment geographical or positional information allowing a determination of where the piece of hygiene (e.g. dispenser) is that has emitted the signal.

Figures 3A to 3D show schematic views of resulting flash cones 1A to IE according to further embodiments of the present invention. In the Figures it is assumed that a piece IX of hygiene equipment, e.g. a soap or disinfectant dispenser, is arranged on a wall 4. The piece IX of hygiene equipment IX and the corresponding flash light cones are drawn schematically and as seen from atop. The cones are formed by mainly two effects. Firstly, the flash emitter (e. g. dispenser) may provide screening, projection or focusing means so that the volume in which the flash is emitted may be confined a more or less sharply defined boundary along a side lateral to the main emission direction. Further, the light intensity also decays with the distance from the flash source so that there will also be a boundary with a component perpendicular to the emission direction. This circumstance of a somewhat confined emission volume is schematically depicted in the figures by means of the cones or lobes. The associated details are explained in conjunction with above Figures 2A to 2F.

Figure 4 shows a schematic view of the interaction between a piece of hygiene equipment and an individual according to a further embodiment of the present invention. Specifically, an individual U is using a piece of hygiene equipment, in the shown case a soap or disinfectant dispenser IX. The individual U carries a device 2 that is configured to detect a flash of light emitted from the dispenser IX. The device 2 can be carried on or in a pocket of clothes worn by individual 2 in a way that it can register a flash of light which reaches the individual 2 from a direct front direction. In combination with the specific emission characteristics according to one of a described embodiment, the individual 2 can effectively "pair" with the appropriate piece of hygiene equipment .

In particular, it can be provided that only the appropriate user can be associated with a usage event, while other individuals being located possibly in a closer vicinity to the individual U will effectively not receive or detect the flash of light and thus will rightly not be associated with using the piece of hygiene equipment IX. It is noted that this pairing is achieved by the specific configuration of the piece of hygiene equipment according to the embodiments of the present invention and does not require any complicated, unreliable, and time-consuming registrations or pairing procedures, as those are as such well known in the conventional arts (e.g. the Bluetooth™ pairing procedure). This in all provides a simple but reliable arrangement for registering the use of a piece of hygiene equipment by the appropriate user (individual) .

Figures 5A to 5C show schematic views of intensity-versus- time-patterns of optical flashes according to embodiments of the present invention. Specifically, the flash of light can be modulated in terms of intensity, amplitude, wavelength, color, and/or frequency. This modulation can be employed to provide an additional factor to pairing in the sense that any receiving/detecting device can distinguish a flash of light emitted by a piece of hygiene equipment from any other light phenomena that may be present but as such not associated with the use of hygiene equipment (e.g. reflections of light, activations of infrared remote controls, and the like) . In addition to this, the modulation can also be employed to encode payload data onto the flash of light.

For example, identification information can be carried by that payload so that the receiving/detection device can not only determine the use of a piece of hygiene equipment but also what specific piece of hygiene equipment was used. In this way, the device can collect not only information on usage events but also more detailed information on dispenser identifications or specific locations, which may be - in turn - further employed for analysis and/or plausibility checks. The latter may play a further role in rendering the pairing and flash detection more reliable.

Figure 5A shows a schematic view of an intensity-versus-time- pattern of an optical flash according to an embodiment of the present invention. Specifically, the intensity I varies in a given distribution pattern 1-1 with time t. This specific distribution 1-1 may be generated by the piece of hygiene equipment so as to be later detectable and identifiable by the receiving/detecting device. The latter can analyze the received intensity distribution over time and in this way make a determination whether or not the received flash of light should be actually associated with a use of a piece of hygiene equipment. Further, the pattern 1-1 may be the result of the power source provided in the piece of hygiene equipment. For example, an energy generating device coupled to a mechanical activation/ejection mechanism of the piece of hygiene equipment may provide a particular power-versus-time- profile that depends on the force-versus-time-distribution of the employed mechanism. Specifically, the available force may first rise in time, reach a maximum, and then decay. This would then be also directly reproduced in the intensity pattern by coupling the energy generating device directly to the light emitting unit. Figure 5B shows a schematic view of an intensity-versus-time- pattern of an optical flash according to another embodiment of the present invention. Specifically, the intensity I varies in a given distribution pattern and provides two or more distinguishable peak patterns 1-21 and 1-22. This specific distribution 1-21, 1-22 may be directly generated by a power generating device that generates specific electric power during specific operation phases of the mechanism. For example, the first peak 1-21 may be emitted in connection with electric power being generated when a user activates an ejection mechanism for ejecting an amount of consumable (soap, disinfectant, etc.), while the second peak 1-22 may be emitted in connection with electric power being generated by a spring-loaded ejection mechanism that is pushed back into a normal position after ejection.

Figure 5C shows a schematic view of an intensity-versus-time- pattern of an optical flash according to another embodiment of the present invention. Specifically, the intensity I varies in a periodic fashion in the sense of a well-defined frequency 1-3. This frequency can be filtered by the receiving/detecting device for distinguishing the flash of light emitted from a piece of hygiene equipment from any other existent modulated light signal, including light from electrical light sources carrying a mains frequency component or that of a lamp driving device. The frequency can be chosen in a way so as to maximize selectivity and can thus contribute in rendering the pairing and detection as a whole more reliable. Moreover, also the periodic pattern 1-3 can be further modulated in order to carry payload data. Applicable modulation schemes include both amplitude modulation (AM) and frequency modulation (FM) . The modulation frequency can be generally in the range of 500 Hz, 1 kHz or above and may follow one or more applicable standards and protocols (e.g. IrDA) . Figure 5D shows a schematic view of an intensity-versus-time- pattern of an optical flash according to another embodiment of the present invention. Specifically, the intensity I varies in a periodic fashion similar to the embodiment shown in conjunction with Figure 5C. However, here information is modulated onto the otherwise monotonous carrier frequency with the result of a pulse sequence 1-4, in which information can be encoded by means of distinguishing between presence of a pulse and absence of a pulse. More specifically, a present pulse may correspond to binary "1", whereas a missing pulse may correspond to binary "0". In this or in a similar way, information can be carried by the flash signal, and, for example, convey information on any one of a dispenser ID, a consumable ID, a dispenser location, a consumable type and/or amount, a time-stamp, and the like.

In general any light can be employed for the flash of light in the described embodiments. Although visible light is possible, non-visible light in the infrared or ultraviolet may be preferred since it is not perceived by the human individuals. Further, the light wavelength range may be adapted to the actual working environment, including also the penetration of clothes carried by the individual. In this way, a receiving/detecting device can reliable detect the flash of light even if carried inside a pocket. Further, the reflection or absorption properties of the closer vicinity of the piece of hygiene equipment can be considered. Specifically, if a high selectivity is desired (e.g. as described in conjunction with Fig. 2B or 2D), a wavelength may be employed that is weakly reflected by wall paints or coatings. To the contrary, if a larger emission volume is desired, wavelength can be chosen that is largely reflected by a wall surface, such as described in conjunction with Figure 2E.

Although detailed embodiments have been described, these only serve to provide a better understanding of the invention defined by the independent claims, and are not to be seen as limiting .