The transition of the waste management industry to a data-driven industry will only make the waste collection process more efficient. This efficiency brings a double benefit as haulers and municipalities and clients could save money by introducing IoT technology to an industry in need of a revamp.
Collecting and analyzing data is essential for the growth and optimization of any business. According to Forbes, connecting different objects to the Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing the way whole industries and cities are operating.1 Waste management stands out as a large global industry that needs a transition to IoT-based technology. This transition should drastically improve the waste collection process by making it a data-driven process.
Today’s waste collection solutions begin with garbage trucks that follow set routes and schedules to pick up waste from homes and businesses. This process could be vastly improved, as these routes and pickup times are often not based on data.2 It is easy to infer that many of the garbage cans on a particular route are not full and could potentially be picked up a day or two later. One could also imagine a similar scenario where a can would fill up before its scheduled pickup time, leaving home and business owners stuck with nowhere to put their excess waste.
The waste collection industry’s first attempt at improving its classic process came in the form of smart garbage bins, or bins with sensors on them to report capacity (some sectors within the industry refer to them as fill level sensors). The folks at Wired.com even published an article that discussed how smart bins will revolutionize the way garbage is collected throughout American cities.3 What they did not foresee, however, was that smart bins could actually drive up costs instead of reducing them.
Imagine a city has 100,000 garbage bins. This means 100,000 sensors that need a power source, potential maintenance and a method for communicating with a central database. All of these factors make smart bins with fill level sensors a non-practical choice for cities looking to make their waste collection process more efficient in order to save money in the short and long run. Past pilots and trials with smart bins have shown high deployment cost and low ROI. As a result, many haulers and municipalities grew weary of making waste management a data-driven process, leading to other potential solutions.
Next came companies that feature a technology that is built on truck-based monitoring.4 This form of monitoring presents a far better solution, as haulers and municipalities do not have to put a sensor on every garbage bin, but only need to outfit their trucks with sensors. These smart garbage trucks could then replace the bins as the objects that would bring IoT technology to the waste collection industry.5
For instance, using a system of hardware, software and data processing technologies, it is easily retrofitted on trucks, optimizing waste collection and reducing costs. The mounted system measures weight and capacity for each lifted can. It also monitors pickup time and location and provides a photo of each upload and download. The information is displayed to the end-user on a simple dashboard, in real-time, and simultaneously sent to the cloud for process analysis. The data generated leads to predictive modeling, which is constantly learning over time, allowing the user to optimize routes, scheduling, contracts, and fleets, while gaining an edge over competitors.
As IoT technology continues to develop and break into the waste management industry, some haulers will begin incorporating monitoring technology before others. These haulers will have a strong selling point for their potential clients, as they will be able to provide a more efficient service. Haulers will be able to use their collected data to plan optimal pick up times and routes due to the bins’ fullness and weight. Their clients could then rest assured knowing that they are not overpaying for a service that may be picking up empty cans or allowing the cans to overflow. In addition, these haulers would be saving money from reduced man hours and fuel costs, so they could potentially offer rates lower than their competitors.6
Since the current market is full of products and technologies, a waste hauler considering an acquisition of new technologies should ask these critical questions before making any decision:
- What are the challenges that are keeping me up at night?
- Will the new product help solve those challenges? Or some of them?
- I am playing a competitive game, is the product granting me with a competitive edge?
- What is the deployment cost for big accounts?
- What is the operating expenditure in the long run?
Once a hauler has made sure that the product generates real-world values and the extremal expenses are on the upside of the cost-effective chart, it is most likely that the acquisition will take the business to new heights.
A Data-Driven Industry
The transition of the waste management industry to a data-driven industry will only make the waste collection process more efficient. This efficiency brings a double benefit as garbage collectors (haulers and municipalities) and clients could save money by introducing IoT technology to an industry in need of a revamp.