Metabar founder and CTO & Design Jarmo Lehtonen tells HEQ about game-changing smart washing technology.
Metabar Technology Oy develops and produces intelligent cleantech solutions like washing and cleaning applications, products and services e.g. for the promotion of public hygiene. Inventor, founder, CTO and Design, Jarmo Lehtonen tells HEQ about the history, goals and future of Metabar.
The origins of Metabar
My educational background is in industrial design and interior architecture; I have a Master’s degree in Industrial and Product Design from Aalto University. Essentially I am a dedicated designer for user interfaces, bases and special materials. As an industrial designer I am well versed in practical creativity and especially 3D design and 3D printing methods, but I also take a keen interest in front line technologies: I used to work with physics and exercise training environment, and while performing as founder of in-house industrial design department in world leading heart rate monitoring company Polar Electro, functional and operative electronics and product design work in the mid-1990s I was able to devise a vision and concept with my final thesis (Aalto) of a prototypical tablet and smart watch, around 20 years ahead of the iPad. In my thesis scenario I wore the smart watch every day while it collected essential data from my body; and then when I came home from work, I could use the tablet to generate information on the daily status of my health.
After completing my diploma, I spent five years working in consumer sport and fitness product design and user experience design; following which I spent a total of 15 years working for Nokia as a category design lead designer, business unit design manager and Nokia Design strategy research manager, where I learned how to define, design and create world class business, products and services: that set me on the path to where I am today. In mid-2008 I became an entrepreneur working with my own companies – I have operated two consulting companies focusing on business, technology and design development – then in 2014 I invented the key Metabar technology, a new intelligent water tap solution and system.
The initial washing system and station I devised in my summer cottage was based on a compressed water system – there are existing companies which already make these – but then during my cottage renovation I introduced air compression technology to the system to create a new kind of washing process and the first Metabar prototype was created. The most remarkable aspect of this system was its minimal water consumption: it used up to 90% less water than the compressed water system. From that initial concept, the Metabar company was founded late 2016; in 2017 we received first funding (TEKES), produced proof of system and concept, filed patent application to the core technology – we now have patent (pending) filed in Finland, the US, China, Japan, Europe and the Middle East. Metabar is three+ years old and is available on the market. We are working with customers and currently strengthening company team; since February 2020 we have been focusing on creating solutions in the fight against COVID-19. With hygiene solutions we use Metabar low PSI technology.
The Metabar washing system (patent focus) adds liquid – this can be water, disinfectant or soap – to compressed gas and releases it at speed through innovative 3D metal printed nozzle design: this creates customised three-dimensional mist, which can then be used to clean objects. Because the system is intelligent, we are able to scale the power of pressure on demand, meaning it can be suitable for a vast range of cleaning types and processes while reducing the consumption of liquids: the system uses up to 90% less liquid, depending on the use case and the scale of the operation.
In addition to working with companies to provide washing services, during the COVID-19 pandemic the key focus has been hand hygiene as a means of infection control. We offer a number of different process solutions for cleaning hands; and because Metabar technology is intelligent and has a very low rate of liquid consumption, we can create products and service solutions which are functionally long lasting. One of the services we offer is essentially Metabar in a box, so we believe that we can build on that to create a product with no need for any external connection to electricity or water outlets; meaning that our standalone products won’t need to be fixed to a wall or in a specific area and they can be placed in strategic locations where they are accessible to everyone and most needed, such as like pathways at airports, cafes, restaurants, and shopping centres.
Metabar’s primary business aim is technological development. We want to develop further cleaning, washing and hygiene technologies based on the Metabar system and interlinked intelligence software platform; and we have limitless possibilities and opportunities to create new innovative concepts and collaborate with technology and research institutes and universities (Aalto). We also offer the opportunity for companies to create their own brand products and solutions and Metabar can license the technology to them in order to work collaboratively; or if companies approach us with an idea or concept using our technology and we can design and develop the solution for them.
Business, industry and use cases
Within industry, Metabar’s products are game-changing: our products are totally different to existing ones. The washing function is different; the washing process is different; the planning process is different, so we don’t need to restrict our system to traditional environments. This means that we can adapt the space, service and product designs with our technology.
We have three territories at the moment; we are working on creating new solutions in focus areas such as handwashing; we are also looking to focus on other areas of personal hygiene – we have been asked to create a new shower based around our technology. Two other future key areas for us are the food sector, where we can develop products for cleaning fruits and vegetables; and industry, where there are commonly still strict standards on washing, cleaning and chemical processes.
We will patent both the design and the technology behind each of our products and solutions. We focus on minimalistic, functional design using high quality materials: each material used in our designs is selected for a particular purpose in order to optimise the final product quality. The key phrase is that we optimise everything: we optimise air and liquid consumption; we optimise energy use; we optimise components size and materials; we optimise service time duration; we optimise all costs.
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic
Metabar is aiming to play a significant role in the fight against COVID-19 through our focus on hand hygiene: our service is very well suited to meet this challenge. The main goal here and now is to create a service solution to cover the most critical areas and continue to maintain a high standard of public hygiene even once the pandemic is over – it is likely that it may soon become mandatory to install hand hygiene points in public spaces. It’s not enough to only have those facilities in public toilets; they must be offered in places where people congregate, like air terminals, train and metro stations, and ports; as well as buses, trains, ships, aeroplanes and other public methods of passenger transport. There must be more hand hygiene points in the future, and Metabar is preparing a solution to address that. In addition, because Metabar is an intelligent system, we are also prepared to track user and passenger conditions and raise the alarm if a user may be infected.
Metabar is also appropriate for domestic use: I am creating and testing the first prototypes at home and I use one hand hygiene concept in my home; I have used it regularly and it works perfectly. Other feasible use cases could include kindergartens, schools and universities; as well as hospitals, libraries, trade shows, office environments and sports arenas, just to mention a few.
One future use case which we are excited about is the potential use of Metabar technology in space travel: spacecraft are necessarily subject to strict requirements regarding the storage, reuse and optimisation of liquids so Metabar may well be able to provide the solution to those limitations.
Altruism and philanthropy
In a global sense Finland is in a good position, because we have entrenched systems in place to ensure we are able to easily access clean water. There are so many places around the world where there is no water, or the water which is accessible is not clean. Metabar is willing to co-operate with other companies to develop large scale solutions to these issues, based around our technology, solutions and products; we are partnering with an NGO to provide big volume hand hygiene stations to villages and schools in African and Asian regions experiencing water poverty. Because these stations can operate with wireless communication, without electricity or water connection, they are well suited to be deployed in these areas – the same NGO solution also works with army armament in war zones and refugee camps, why not in festivals and outdoor concerts where tens or hundreds of thousands of people are crowded together; and where hygiene solutions like this are badly needed.
Metabar’s business model
We are developing and creating new technological concepts; and we are working with other companies to create required solutions. In business terms, we can sell our products, we can sell our concepts and our services with the licensed technology; and we can also rent out fixed term licences for our technology and services. As we grow, we are seeing more and more opportunities to create and expand further through building new partnerships and reaching new markets. Our business is always open for discussions and there are many ways to build on our strategy going forward.
Metabar’s concept and technology can save huge amounts of water. We want to fight water wastage around the world; and because we use the latest modern technology and processes, all our devices are designed to provide sustainable, resource efficient solutions. When we collaborate with other companies, we expect them to have some kind of sustainability strategy in place, comprising both efficient rates of water and energy consumption and low or reduced emissions: essentially, we support and offer solutions to our client companies to invest and achieve sustainability goals in general.
Metabar and the future
We know that technology can solve so many things. We can do so many things so much better; we can take less time over things. People are noticing we must change as a society; and that’s why Metabar is a game-changer. We will continue to test all our operations and processes carefully to ensure they are superior to traditional systems – there is no reason to use the amounts of soap and water that they do. Many of the regulations currently in place in the US, the UK, the EU and Finland are based on outdated technology and information; Metabar wants to work with regulators to enact change and modernise the regulatory landscape, to make regulatory standards more up to date and rational and more responsive to real world needs and lifestyles.
In order to arrest the spread of infection, we must find ways to make it easier and accessible to maintain hand hygiene – people do not always want to go out of their way to keep their hands clean, so we must make it logical and easier for them. The need to wash and keep our hands and the public environment cleaner will not go away once the pandemic is over; hygiene is a constant necessary standard. There are many directions which Metabar could go in the future, but at this point we are particularly focused on hand hygiene and the food industry; as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, which remains a significant current issue – maybe for a longer period than we hope. Traditional technological solutions are not helping: we need to get rid of the old methods and mindsets and look to the future.
All images and concepts are supplied and used with permission from Metabar vision projects.
COVID-19 in Finland
The government of Finland declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19 on 16 March, by which point laboratory testing had confirmed 272 cases across the country. The majority of schools and public facilities were closed down; public meetings were restricted to 10 or fewer attendees; and Finns over the age of 70 were encouraged to stay home. By 27 March, with 1025 confirmed cases of COVID-19 throughout Finland, the borders of the populous Uusimaa region – which includes Helsinki, the Finnish capital, and houses just under a third of the total population of Finland – were closed, with the hope of slowing the spread of the virus.
The prompt response of the government and citizens of Finland in taking steps to address the spread of infection appears to have been largely successful. On 15 April, the border restrictions around Uusimaa were lifted without incident; libraries reopened in early May and were shortly followed by kindergartens and primary schools. Throughout May and June, restrictions were gradually lifted on secondary education; international travel for work purposes; outdoor sports and entertainment events; and restaurants and other public indoor spaces. The government has pledged to continue domestic production of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other healthcare equipment even after the pandemic, in order to avert a recurrence of the global supply issues which affected the world’s health sectors in the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak.
As of 25 July, the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper reports, Finland’s total COVID-19 figures are as follows:
- 7388 COVID-19 infections in total;
- 329 total deaths from the virus;
- Four patients still in hospital care; and
- No patients remain in intensive care.
Founder, CTO & Design
Metabar Technology Oy
+358 50 405 1188
This article is from issue 14 of Health Europa. Click here to get your free subscription today.