Connected technology and full transparency are driving an overhaul in the waste management sector—all thanks to the Industrial Internet of Things.

Julian Mossanen

Garbage. Everyone creates it. No one wants to separate the recycling. And no one likes to haul it to the curb.

Let’s face it, the business of garbage isn’t very appealing. Nor has the business of garbage disposal changed much over the years. Waste is constantly being created, then has to be collected and hauled away. As industries go, waste management is decidedly unsexy.

Now, the waste industry is upping its sex appeal with innovative technology. By leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT), waste operations are being transformed with slick, new remote monitors and sensors that are changing the garbage game.

IIoT: The Industrial Internet of Things

In the last couple of years, the use of IoT devices has exploded, offering Internet-controlled advancements for everything from health trackers to connected cars. Gartner pegged IoT device use at 8.4 billion connected “things” in 2017 and estimates 50 billion IoT objects by 2020.

All smart, connected devices have three components:

  1. Physical—Sensor, detector or monitor
  2. Smart—Operating system, digital interface, data capture
  3. Connected—Enables communication over a network

When people talk of the “Internet of things”, they mostly refer to consumer IoT devices (CIoT) comprised of offerings like smart home connected solutions and wearable tech. But IoT is having a massive impact on businesses as well—that’s the Industrial Internet of things (IIoT).

Industrial IoT, also referred to as the “Industrial Internet” and “Industry 4.0”, incorporates several components that operate together, making it a rather different and more complex beast than consumer IoT applications.

Techtarget’s definition of the Industrial Internet of Things is: IIoT incorporates machine learning and big data technology, harnessing sensor data, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and automation.

Techtarget also points out that smart machines are “better than humans at accurately capturing and communicating data, able to pick up on inefficiencies and problems sooner, saving time and money. IIoT also holds great potential for quality control and sustainable and green practices.”

Half of all businesses now have significant Industrial IoT programs in operation, concluded this global study—far greater integrations than that of Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions or robotics. Enterprises large and small without specific IoT initiatives in place report various stages of investigation, planning or pilot programs.

Entire industries, especially those that have not seen major advancements in recent years, are being transformed with IIoT solutions for its two biggest benefits: improved efficiency and cost savings. Existing automated industrial systems are enjoying a renaissance with IIoT smarts that bring new sensor technology and the ability to share valuable data from participating components.

IIoT for Waste Haulers

Like so many other businesses adopting new technology to grow and prosper, waste haulers are now leveraging Industrial IoT for competitive advantage. Remote monitoring devices that capture end-to-end operational data are the new norm in a modern, on-demand model of waste haulage.

Haulers can seek out technology partners, like smart sensor solutions, to improve traditional services. Remote weight measurements, pre-set threshold alerts and automated Purchase Order generation, are just a few examples of intel that haulers now use to deliver more value to their clients.

Digitization provides important operational transparency to customers, building trust in a traditional ‘black-box’ industry. Customers may access key information on pickup and drop schedules, bin fullness and weight, maintenance calls or hauling violations. What’s more, reports can calculate customer waste haul savings down to the exact date, time and bin location.

That same digitization also boosts operational efficiencies. New technology need not be seen as a threat, but rather a benefit to the business. Smart haul scheduling—as needed—makes the old rigid pickup schedules obsolete, freeing up time to grow operations, add more clients, be more competitive, more profitable and more environmentally responsible.

Sustainability measures are another critical motivator to adopt smart sensors. Transparent reporting provides essential oversight and evidence that environmental guidelines are met. Eliminating unnecessary pickups is an obvious way hauling firms can reduce carbon emissions and comply with green initiatives.

First Step: A Pilot Program

Smart sensor monitoring is a low-cost way to track and improve waste removal operations. Pilot programs need only a small number of bin locations to gather data, achieved by installing discrete Industrial IoT devices, smart sensors, onto waste containers. Fullness thresholds are set in advance so the smart monitor knows when to trigger a pickup notification. It’s that simple.

IoT smart sensors bridge the gap from the physical to the digital world and enable detailed, real-time reporting previously unavailable remotely. Expanded reporting includes key data such as bin weight, last pickup, and of course, fullness stats for each compactor. Results are digitized and Web-connected, so reports are accessible anytime on any device.

Driving the Overhaul

Hauling companies have started to make the shift from traditional operations to the “on-demand” model now seen in so many other industries. Waste is no different. Connected technology and full transparency are driving an overhaul in the waste management sector—all thanks to the Industrial Internet of Things.

Julian Mossanen spent 15 years as a sales and marketing executive in the highly competitive AdTech space. Now applying his leadership skills and strategic thinking to clean-tech, he is CEO of Sensa Networks (Toronto, ON), a smart sensor company that uses industrial Iot devices to help businesses operate efficiently, transparently and sustainably. He can be reached at [email protected].