Smart waste: Don’t Trash It!

02.09.2020 by Ümit Günes
In smart cities the garbage cans report automatically by IoT sensor when they next need to be emptied.

What with shopping online, having food delivered to your door and working mostly from home, Covid-19 has changed daily life significantly. One result is the growing amount of garbage. Can we deal with it smartly? Find out how the Internet of Things helps organize smart garbage disposal.

Piles of additional shipping cartons and plastic bowls from nearby sushi restaurants and much more household trash have led to overflowing, evil-smelling garbage cans increasingly dominating our cityscapes in recent pandemic months and becoming a serious problem, especially in summer. They are not just unpleasant for residents and passers-by; the situation poses fresh challenges for municipal waste management, waste disposal services and the environment.

Even before the corona pandemic, mountains of garbage created multiple problems and required extra garbage collection callouts in hot summer months. Lockdown made matters worse, especially for household waste. If more people are at home for longer than usual, household garbage will increase in volume. In addition, more use has been made of parks and green spaces since lockdown restrictions were eased and trash cans are full to overflowing with barbecue charcoal, packaging and empty bottles.

How can we handle these garbage mountains intelligently? This is where the Internet of Things (IoT) comes into play. Used correctly, it can help to optimize garbage truck schedules and upgrade the cityscape – and do so with much shorter routes and fewer emissions.

What Use Are Smart Garbage Cans in Smart Cities?

Cities like Darmstadt or Bochum have paved the way, implementing the first smart waste projects with the aid of the Internet of Things. Solution provider SLOC was able with Telekom’s Magenta Business to decisively optimize its waste management sensor solutions. Equipped with a device about the size of a smartphone, waste containers can do more than relay their fill level to a central IoT platform. Is the temperature high? That might cause a fire. Has the container been moved? It is emptied successfully and that is noted in its logbook. Devices even report their battery status to ensure timely maintenance. Based on analysis of this data the software, in this case SLOC’s Waste Collection Portal, works out the most efficient routes for garbage collection operatives. The aim is to empty garbage cans before they are too full and reduce the number of superfluous journeys to cans that are still only half full. That not only cuts operating and waste disposal costs; the environment benefits too. Optimized route planning helps reduce CO2 emissions by saving on mileage and road use. This approach also boosts the circular economy because glass and plastic waste can be recycled faster.

The smart city of the future could also benefit private households. Private garbage cans – and not just municipal ones – could be equipped with IoT sensors too. They would then only be emptied when necessary. That could be once a week or once a month, whenever they are really full. Here too waste disposal services could schedule more efficient collection routes, thereby eliminating unnecessary journeys and cutting costs.

Smart Waste: The IoT Technologies That Matter

A reliable wireless connection is crucial for the IoT application’s success. For that, SLOC’s solution relies on NarrowBand IoT, which as an LPWAN, or Low Power Wide Area Network, is especially energy saving. The wireless modules are also inexpensive and easy to install. With limited data volumes the hardware requires little energy and has a long service life. If the data is then fed in real time to cloud-based software systems, evaluation is automated to output specific information in the next step – such as which garbage containers the operatives should head for first.

Advantages of NarrowBand IoT in the Smart City


  • The right sensors have battery service lives of up to ten years and so often never need connecting to a power supply.
  • NB IoT is designed for especially small amounts of data, investment in wider and more expensive bandwidths is not required and that makes projects more economical.
  • Thanks to the bandwidth used, NB IoT sensors ensure reliable reception even behind thick walls or ceilings, such as in cellars, storerooms or basement garages.


 

Internet of Things: Creative Projects in Smart Cities

Comprehensive solutions like SLOC’s make it increasingly easy for cities and enterprises to try their hand at smart waste management. From the hardware to the Internet connection and app usage, the package includes all of the components that are needed and covers a wide range of requirements. IT service providers like Telekom help decision makers to transform their city into a smart city and enhance urban quality of life. As no one city is the same as any other, SLOC provides a toolbox with all manner of smart city components, and with co-creation in mind members of the public are involved in all decisions and projects.

The examples set in Bochum and Darmstadt show that IoT projects can improve the cityscape and that people appreciate clean cities. With Covid-19, sustainable municipal hygiene concepts have more than ever become a societal responsibility and, properly deployed, the Internet of Things can be a great help. Low-cost all-inclusive solutions like SLOC’s enable waste disposal operators to co-ordinate garbage truck routes better cost-effectively and to help improve a city’s CO2 performance sustainably. Municipal administrations can implement smart waste concepts more and more easily as part of their digital transformation, deal confidently with the pandemic’s special challenges and achieve rapid results. Smart cities will in the long term always also mean smart waste.


 

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Ümit Günes
Ümit Günes

Marketing Manager IoT

Ümit has been working at T-Systems since 2015 and knows a great deal about many facets of the Internet of Things. He is particularly interested in topics related to the digitalization of the business world. For the blog, he reports on new developments and trends in the IoT world that offer real added value for customers.