Akara Robotics unveils ultraviolet disinfection robot with up to 99pc success rate

3 Dec 2020

Image: Akara Robotics

The latest healthcare-helping robot from Akara Robotics has been officially launched at the Web Summit.

Following a series of prototypes and tests by the Akara Robotics team, Violet made an official debut at the Web Summit, this year hosted as an online event.

Violet is a robot equipped with ultraviolet technology designed to eliminate bacteria and viruses including Covid-19, influenza and MRSA.

“Violet is the product of two years’ worth of innovation and hard work, but in reality is a system which has been over 100 years in the making,” said Akara Robotics CEO and co-founder Dr Conor McGinn.

“Cleaning methods in hospitals and care settings around the world have largely gone unchanged since before the Spanish Flu in the early 1900s, and Covid-19 has accelerated the need to address this issue. Violet is the culmination of that history and presents hospitals with a system which doesn’t just save lives and money but is designed to work alongside existing frontline staff.”

Using ultraviolet technology, Violet can be used as a tool to disinfect entire rooms. Akara claims the robot can make hospital cleaning up to eight times faster than the norm, with disinfection taking as little as five minutes in some tests.

‘Violet represents a real step change in how hospitals and care settings can use technology to improve on current practices’

With the support of the HSE, Violet was trialled at the Midlands Regional Hospital Tullamore, where the team say the robot achieved a 90pc to 99pc success rate of eliminating germ concentration. Longer cleaning cycles were said to yield even higher results.

“Violet represents a real step change in how hospitals and care settings can use technology to improve on current practices,” said Noreen Hynes, general manager of Midlands Regional Hospital Tullamore.

“Akara have existing pedigree in developing innovative, digital health solutions which are human-centric, and seeing Violet in action on our wards has benefitted our operational approach. In particular, Violet’s interaction with existing staff was excellent to see.”

UV light sanitation systems for hospitals are already available but are known to be bulky, costly, and typically not safe for use with people present. Making Violet safe to work alongside healthcare workers was a priority for the Akara team, ensuring that areas would not have to be evacuated before cleaning can take place.

The aim is that a robot assistant such as Violet could save time spent on disinfection while also freeing up staff, who can continue working as Violet cleans.

Violet also has potential in areas where deep disinfection practices can’t currently be applied because of high footfall. This includes waiting areas in hospitals, as well as office spaces, retail settings, transport facilities and aviation.

Akara believes a robot such as Violet could save a radiology department more than €5,000 a day. Broader use across hospital settings could also minimise the risk of healthcare-associated infections, which affect more almost 9m people across Europe each year.

Akara Robotics is a spin-out from the robotics lab at Trinity College Dublin. Founded in 2019, the company’s flagship Stevie robot has undergone promising trials as an assistant in elder care facilities. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, development on Stevie has stalled and the team’s focus turned to a solution that would be useful in the face of a global pandemic.

Violet was largely build at the Digital Hub campus, where Akara Robotics is currently based. “We have seen first-hand how it operates and its effectiveness in settings outside of healthcare. I have no doubt that Akara will continue to go from strength to strength over the coming years and become a name synonymous with digital transformation in healthcare,” said Digital Hub CEO Fiach Mac Conghail.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.