How IoT is making waste management smarter

IoT-enabled waste bins and data analytics reveal hidden value for maintenance
By Colin Bell

The decreasing costs of sensors means the Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly moving into new areas of commercial and residential properties. While smart thermostats, intelligent lighting controls and digital water meters are nothing new, the number of connected devices in an average property is projected to increase exponentially in the next five years, bringing smarter innovations in all kinds of areas, such as recycling and waste management.

This year, there will be 31 billion connected IoT devices globally, according to new research from business information provider HIS Markit, and it’s expected the commercial and industrial sector will account for close to half of all new connected devices between 2018 and 2030.

For some time, owners and managers have been automating building maintenance activities with the primary goal to achieve cost savings and operational efficiency through improved energy management and reduced personnel costs, but there are other far-reaching benefits from using these devices and data. Observing an IoT-connected waste or recycling bin offers a clue.

A smart bin is a waste or recycling bin outfitted with a sensor that can detect bin fill level, collection events, fire, tilt and temperature. There are a variety of sensors on the market that use ultrasonic sensors, laser measurement and image recognition to collect data.

All this data from smart bins offers some immediate and obvious benefits; however, when examining the data generated through a multi-dimensional lens, there is much more value than a trip saved walking around a property looking to see if waste has been collected.

Easy Pickings

  • Fill level measurement: With insight into which bins are not full on pick-up day, managers can pose the question of whether these bins be picked up less often and therefore reduce costs. On the flip side, identifying which bins are full before pick-up days and are likely to overflow can help managers prevent associated  clean-up costs and cleanliness issues.
  • Collection events: The data gathered allows managers to determine if the bin is being collected as per the agreed-upon schedule with their waste/recycling vendors. It also provides a quick overview of how often pickups are missed as well as the time of the day pickups are typically being completed.
  • Fire alerts: Real-time and accurate alerts in cases where a container catches fire.
  • Tilt alert: Instant notification of when a bin gets tipped over.

Beyond Basics

  • Patterns and trends on how bins fill up: At some properties, in certain jurisdictions, bins can fill up on Fridays as workers complete end-of-week cleaning and often remain empty from Monday to Thursday. Bins may be more or less full in the winter or summer. For properties with weather dependent activities, such as patio dining areas, there may be a clear link between sunny days and more waste volume.
  • Comparing similar buildings: Some buildings generate more or less waste/recycling. Tenants in these buildings have different services based on waste output; for example, a restaurant tenant requires more frequent collection than an office tenant. Understanding these trends allows managers to properly forecast and plan waste services when new tenants move into a property.
  • Illegal dumping: Through image-based camera systems that can visually assess waste types managers are able to identify the bins where illegal dumping occurs and can take appropriate actions, such as locking bins and installing video surveillance if required.

Surpassing What’s Expected

  • Drive accurate sustainability reporting by using the actual volume measurement instead of estimates or inaccurate weights.
  • Charge tenants by the verified amount of waste or recycling that is generated instead of an estimate or inaccurate cost sharing of predicted volumes.
  • Reduce traffic, noise and congestion on a property with less truck visits due to reduced pickups.
  • Reduce wear and tear of parking lots, doors and enclosures with less truck visits.
  • On demand pickup of waste and recycling eliminates unnecessary truck trips with no overflow.

Capturing the Full Value

Even a basic smart bin can generate a large amount of data, which can be overwhelming for property managers who must manage and analyze it.

Specialized IoT service providers with industry and/or sector-specific experience can help managers facing hardware troubleshooting and data analysis issues to access and use the relevant information to make good decisions.

For property managers who want to capture full value from their IoT investment, it pays to consider fully integrated providers that offer IoT hardware and software platforms along with vendor management capabilities.

Examples of specialized IoT service providers would be energy management IOT management firms that provide both the IOT hardware (smart meters and sensors), the analysis of the data using software and procurement expertise to provide the full value circle of IoT.

This approach to IoT is now moving into waste and recycling management with smart waste management companies providing IoT in the form of smart bins, software to analyze the data and vendor management expertise to deliver the full circle of IoT value to real estate managers.

Colin Bell is a Managing Partner with RecycleSmart Solutions. He leads the IoT program with over 3000 IoT enabled smart bins installed across Canada. He can be reached at [email protected]

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