Using data visualisation to take out the trash

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Smart cities are increasingly crunching and data visualisation at speed and scale to boost efficiencies and make significant bottom-line savings.

One area in which location intelligence is providing real-life benefits is in waste management – by nature a time-consuming, resource-heavy and imprecise task.

For those who manage the garbage collection process, there are a number of variables to consider, including the best route for the vehicles and the best time of the day to avoid traffic.

However, the most unpredictable – and costly – part of the process is the time taken in collecting bins that do not contain a sufficient amount of garbage and would, ideally, be left until a later time or date to maximise efficiencies.

Data efficiencies

In recent years, though, proactive cities worldwide have been engaging companies such as Ecube Labs, which provide solutions to the garbage-collection headache that rely on managing increasingly large volumes of data.

Ecube Labs’ CleanCAP and CleanFLEX fill-level sensors measure five types of primary data: fill-level, GPS location, temperature, tilt angle and acceleration, as well as secondary data covering troubleshooting and maintenance issues such as battery voltage and telecommunication signal strength. The company’s CleanCUBE solar-powered waste compactor also produces a broad variety of data, helping the company to troubleshoot malfunctions remotely.

Each fill-level sensor and solar-powered waste compactor contains a 3G/4G cellular modem, which sends periodical data, such as fill level, temperature, location and more to Ecube Labs’ server, located on the Amazon AWS cloud computing service.

This information is then gathered and, through data visualisation, analysed by the company’s waste analytics platform, CleanCityNetworks, which can be used to monitor the waste containers’ fill-levels, optimise collection routes, generate analytical reports and send push notifications. The application is accessible through web browsers, iOS and Android platforms.

“The data gets updated in real time, following the telecommunication cycle set by the user,” Ecube Labs’ global business development manager, Matti Juutinen, said.
“For example, a fill-level sensor can be configured to sense the fill-level every 10 minutes and report the data to the server once every three hours.
“Additionally, our clients can receive instant notifications when their containers require collection or if a container needs attention due to rapidly increasing temperature, an open lid, or a malfunction.”

Smart city benefits

Cities have been discovering the benefits of this technology, underpinned by data.

Ecube Labs has approximately 5,000 active product installations in more than 30 countries across five continents.
In Washington D.C. 25 CleanCUBE solar-powered waste-compacting bins in areas of high footfall have allowed the city to decrease the collection frequency from 21 times per week to three.

At Dublin Airport, 300 CleanCAP fill-level sensors have tackled the problem of high collection frequency. The collected data revealed unknown trends in the waste generation for an airport, paving the way for a far more efficient collection process.

More recently, Ecube Labs provided a complete fleet management solution to the South Korean city of Goyang, including 270 CleanCAPs, 35 CleanCUBEs, and 120 vehicle trackers. As a result, the city has discovered that the waste compactors reduced the number of collections by 66 percent, and over half of the regular waste bin collections were inefficient in terms of fill-level. After taking data-driven action, Goyang is now saving money on every waste collection.

Connected network

The data visualisation technology is also being used by universities, train stations, parks, stadia, beaches and textile recycling companies, all with the aim of optimising waste collection operations. However, as Juutinen explained, using data to manage waste collection services is just part of a much more extensive network of connected opportunities for smart cities.

“Smart waste management using big data and IoT is simply a slice of the larger overall scope of smart cities,” Juutinen added.

“The waste sector has long been a standalone industry, much like other aspects of city management. However, as IoT is bringing everything together, from energy, utilities and traffic management to street lighting and waste operations, under one smart management dashboard, the future of smart waste management is in integration.
“The waste sector is one of the last of the core city services to be automated or brought online, and most waste sector operations are still manual and offline.
“Connecting everything and integrating it into the smart city systems will open up new possibilities for expanded features and functionality.”

To find out more about how GeoSpock can help smart cities with location intelligence now and in the coming years, contact us.

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