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Dictionary of digitalisation: What is smart waste management?

Tatajana Krieger
13. Jul 18

Dictionary of digitalisation: what is smart waste management? What is smart waste management? Intelligent digital concepts for waste disposal and management are integral aspects of a smart city. Technological applications which measure the amount of waste building up at collection points and translate these data into efficient collection routes help to improve quality of life in cities. Urbanisation - the new megatrend City or country - where would you prefer to live? More and more people are choosing the former, but with many urban centres already struggling with infrastructure problems, congestion, emissions and public spending cuts, this influx, combined with existing population growth, is placing cities under enormous pressure. While not even a third of the world's population lived in cities in the 1950s, the UN estimates that by the year 2050 two thirds will do so. If smart city models are anything to go by, however, the megalopolis of the future could still be a pleasant place to live. Intelligent technological solutions for transport, education and energy promise to create urban habitats which are efficient, sustainable and clean. Waste disposal - an urgent problem Smart waste management is an important component of urban digitalisation - but what exactly is it and how can it improve people's lives? The German government has made reducing the amount of waste the country produces an explicit goal, but at the moment, homes and businesses still generate around 50 million tonnes of rubbish per year. Though there are separate bins for different materials and as much as possible is recycled, the weak point in the system emerges when it comes to collection, which takes place on a fixed schedule rather than according to necessity. If a household's rubbish bins are emptied on Wednesdays, the rubbish truck comes every Wednesday regardless of whether the family is at home or on holiday and whether the bins are full or not. Ironically, municipal waste is the most time-consuming and logistically challenging to collect: as well as visiting communal disposal points such as bottle banks, dustbin men have to stop at all the houses, office blocks and business premises in the city in order to pick up what are comparatively small amounts of rubbish. This increases the levels of traffic, noise and exhaust pollution which residents are exposed to, and is disadvantageous for waste management companies for the simple reason that it's just not efficient to empty containers which are only a quarter or half full. It's here, then, that smart waste management comes in. Smart waste management explained Digital disposal concepts are based on the interplay between a measuring device, software and an algorithm. Bins are equipped with intelligent sensors (these are either built in or fitted retrospectively) which use technologies such as ultrasound to measure the level of glass, paper or residual waste inside. The data collected are transmitted using an IoT solution to software which registers all the different fill levels in an area and uses an algorithm to calculate the optimum collection route - one which takes in only those containers that are completely full and actually need emptying. Obviously, routes will change from day to day. This automated system makes "empty runs" or redundant trips a thing of the past. Who benefits from smart waste management? The benefits of efficient route planning are clear. By only making journeys which are really necessary, collection vehicles become less of a traffic problem. They generate less noise pollution, pump out fewer exhaust fumes, and subject fewer people to their unpleasant smells. Buildings, residents, and wildlife all benefit from the cleaner air. At the same time, smart waste management ensures that full bins are emptied as quickly as possible, even more frequently than once a week if necessary. Gone are the days when an overflow of takeaway cartons would block the pavement for days on end. Individual payment models such as a "pay-as-you-throw" solution in which customers pay according to the amount of waste they actually produce give residents the chance to save money and reward those who take steps to reduce rubbish. Equally, smart waste management allows the waste management industry to optimise its processes. Eliminating empty runs saves recycling firms time and money which they can invest elsewhere. Where are smart waste containers to be found? The intelligent applications which will take waste management into the modern age are already available. The Binando solution is a closed system consisting of sensor, software and satnav which reliably directs collection vehicles to the containers which need to be emptied. Binando is conducting various pilot projects and cooperating with a number of waste disposal and management companies to provide a whole range of cities with its smart waste management solution.


Waste management then and how – getting rid of rubbish

Tatjana Krieger
04. Jul 18

How we get rid of rubbish is an issue which affects us all. Out of sight, out of mind? Absolutely, when it comes to waste. For most people, rubbish is good for one thing: chucking in the bin. What happens after cardboard, plastic and paper have been thrown away remains a mystery to the majority of the population thanks to an ingenious and almost invisible system of waste management. The "good old days" - less waste, more pollution The question of how to get rid of rubbish has been a matter of concern ever since humans started to live together in large communities. Even in Ancient Rome there were special officials, the "aediles", whose job was to make sure that streets and public squares were kept tidy. If a householder neglected his duty to keep the area around his domicile in good order, a hefty penalty could result. In those days, domestic waste and sewage would be thrown into drains and gutters, ultimately ending up in the environment. Even then, however, valuable materials such as glass and metal were collected separately, melted down and turned into new objects. From a throwaway society to one which manages its waste The amount of waste generated in antiquity bears no comparison to that generated today. Though most people agree that trying to reduce what we throw away and live more sustainably are worthy ideals, reality tells a different story. The average German produces 626 kg of rubbish per year - significantly more than the European average of 480 kg per year. In order to keep us from actually drowning in refuse, the waste management industry has set up a system which allows certain materials to be separated and recycled. Paper and glass, for instance, are collected in special containers before being processed and reused. Metals, plastics and composites are also recycled, while organic waste becomes compost for agricultural or horticultural use, or, alternatively, is transformed into biogas. Residual waste - that which is left over because it can't be recycled, is burned or taken to landfill sites. In 2016, EU member states recycled 30 percent of their waste and composted a further 17 percent. 27 percent was burned, and 25 percent ended up in landfill. The logistics of disposal: flaws in the system Although the percentage of waste being recycled is rising all the time, the waste management system as a whole has various flaws. There is particular room for improvement in the way recyclable materials are collected. Usually, collection vehicles visit recycling containers according to a schedule which is fixed, inflexible and not attuned to real needs. Bins are emptied even if they're only half full. The consequences are unnecessary journeys, inefficient use of time and more vehicle exhaust fumes in the atmosphere. With most towns and cities already struggling with traffic problems on a massive scale, it's high time for the waste management industry to try out new ideas and to optimise its processes. The future of waste management is smart! How does waste management tie in with the concept of a smart city? Can our vision of a clean, green, low-emissions metropolis accommodate rotting waste, greasy packaging and the smells that go with them? The fact is that smart waste management is a central component of intelligent, digitalised and connected cities. The question of how to get rid of rubbish is one that smart cities will answer in innovative and brand new ways. Digital technologies, the Internet of Things, which permits information exchange between objects, and algorithms which calculate optimum solutions in complex scenarios have the potential to revolutionize the waste management industry. Apps like Binando don't just work out the ideal route for collection vehicles to follow, they ensure that containers are only visited when they need emptying - saving time, cutting down on emissions, alleviating the traffic situation and benefitting the environment.


The future's here! What is a smart city?

Tatjana Krieger
15. Jun 18

The future's here! What is a smart city? The cities of tomorrow are digitalised, connected and intelligent. They rely on information and communications technology to make them efficient, eco-friendly and safe, improving the quality of life for everyone who lives there. So, what exactly makes a city smart? What is a smart city? To put it simply, smart cities use the latest information and communications technologies to ensure that even huge urban areas remain desirable places to live. From public safety to cleanliness, healthcare, mobility and administration, hardly a single aspect of life will not be affected by digitalisation in the city of the future. As urban populations increase worldwide and the consumption of resources grows, this transformation is more necessary than ever. Why cities need to become cleverer The fate of the world's population will be decided in its cities. Over half of humankind already lives in urban habitats, a figure set to increase to 70 percent by 2050. Metropolises will become the main source of emissions and the main consumers of resources and energy. At the same time, cities will be faced with a whole range of daunting challenges. Their ability to use digital technologies to develop sustainable concepts that enable huge numbers of people to live comfortably side by side will have a key effect on the future of humanity. Smart cities serve human needs For this reason, politicians, researchers and companies all over the world are experimenting with ideas to make cities smart and fit for the future. Around 20 billion Euros per year are already being poured into smart city technologies. The focus is on complex questions such as how mobility can be preserved without private car use causing emissions to spiral out of control, how quickly and efficiently municipal authorities can meet the needs of residents and visitors, and how public safety, public spaces and the cleanliness of urban areas can be improved. Technology is not an end in itself, but a way of making life easier, safer and healthier for the people it serves. Case study: environment and energy Sensors which monitor and transmit air quality data can form the basis of intelligent traffic control systems. Devices which gauge how full recycling containers are lead to sustainable waste management concepts by ensuring that bins are only emptied when necessary. Smart offices and residential buildings generate their own electricity and feed the surplus back into the public electricity grid. As these examples show, urban planners and developers are working round the clock to reduce emissions and the amount of resources consumed in smart cities. Case study: civic life In a smart city, queuing up for public services is a thing of the past as apps and online forms replace piles of paper and official stamps. Online petitions allow citizens to participate actively in shaping society, and the internet is the perfect way for civic authorities to inform the town's residents about things that affect them directly. Which roads are currently snarled up in traffic jams? What are air pollution levels like today? What concerts and events are on next weekend? Smart cities make life easier and more efficient for residents and tourists alike, with everything they need to know available at the touch of a button or the swipe of a screen. Case study: economy Smart economy is not just about processes becoming faster and more efficient, it also refers to the individualisation of products and services. Think apps which, Tinder-style, automatically match job seekers with vacancies; assembly lines which exploit human-machine communication; shopkeepers who, thanks to a smartphone ID, know what the customer who has just come in has been looking for online; intelligent route planning in logistics and waste management. Alongside all this, concepts from the platform economy are providing new impulses and ideas for sharing which motivate people to become responsible consumers. Case study: education and healthcare Evening classes, night school - the very words conjure up stinky gyms, ancient desks and musty classrooms. Smart cities, on the other hand, offer a wide range of online courses which encourage inhabitants to continue learning throughout their lives - via apps, webinars or learning platforms. And hey, even if your yoga course does demand your presence at the local school gym - at least you can register electronically and from anywhere. Healthcare is another area in which the benefits of smart technologies are already being felt. Finding the nearest casualty department or a chemist which is open on New Year's Day now takes mere seconds. Doctor's appointments can be made by smartphone, and you can even "see" a doctor remotely if that makes life easier. From psychologists to dermatologists, the number of healthcare providers offering virtual consultations is on the rise everywhere. Digital all-rounder What is a smart city? The opportunities afforded by digitalisation have radically changed the prospect of the city of the future. Until a few years ago, our planet's growing cities threatened to become inhospitable urban jungles, but the smart city has replaced this with a far more promising vision. Intelligently connected cities are somewhere it is a pleasure to live and work, rather than the backdrop to a struggle for survival. Smart cities are a digital all-rounders in which technology is used to serve the population and improve almost every aspect of life. They are low in emissions, careful with resources, green, healthy and timesaving. Smart cities provide hope for the future.


Binando and ZENNER Connect confirm cooperation

Tatjana Krieger
15. Mar 18

Partnership between digital pioneers Two trailblazers in the field of innovative IoT solutions are joining forces to revolutionise waste management in Swiss towns and rural communities. Binando and ZENNER Connect AG, which is based in Regensdorf in the canton of Zurich, recently met in the Black Forest town of Deißlingen to seal the deal. Moritz Pfeiffer, Martin Sigrist, Nikolaos Baltsios and Alex Nanzer (left to right) present the Binando fill level sensor. Smart City solutions for Switzerland The Minol-ZENNER Group subsidiary ZENNER Connect operates the Switzercloud, on which open and technology-independent applications for the Internet of Things (IoT) run under the smart anything approach. As all data are processed and stored exclusively in Switzerland, both public and private sector users are guaranteed the highest possible data security. Starting now, the Stuttgart-based startup Binando is to make use of Switzercloud's technological infrastructure when it comes to pilot projects in Switzerland. This gives municipalities, utilities companies, manufacturers of recycling containers and waste management firms the assurance that all the data collected will remain in trustworthy hands. The cooperation between Binando and ZENNER Connect paves the way for greater sustainability and efficiency in the field of logistics planning in the waste management industry. Once installed inside bins and recycling containers, Binando's fill level sensors detect via ultrasound which containers are ready for emptying, and transmit the data to the Switzercloud servers in Zurich. The software element of the smart waste solution then automatically works out the shortest and quickest route for the next day's collection rounds. Avoiding empty runs reduces emissions, fuel consumption and wear and tear to the collection vehicles, and simultaneously saves a considerable amount of time.


Route planning: using algorithms to make the most of data

Christian Enchelmaier
06. Dec 17

Smart city apps arrive in the home A medium-sized town somewhere in Germany, where residents separate their rubbish into glass, paper, food waste, plastic, old clothes and various other categories. All the bins are fitted with sensors to measure the fill level, and all the data is transmitted to a central server. We're talking here about thousands of bins. Millions, even, in large urban areas. Reliably transmitting signals, day in, day out. But who's supposed to process this information? The sheer amount of data generated would be way too much for even the brainiest human being to cope with. Big data needs smart software Even if we're not quite at the stage described in the scenario above, Binando already has the technology to make it happen. It only makes sense to collect data for the waste management industry, however, when this data can be turned into intelligent solutions, calculated using the right software. The solution which Binando has developed promises to help companies identify the shortest and most efficient routes for their waste collection vehicles. This is good for the environment, reduces congestion on the roads, and saves time and money. Accurate digital cartographical data is required for optimum route planning Artificial intelligence to improve urban living Binando has developed a complex algorithm which takes account of a number of factors. These include not just the actual fill level of bins or recycling containers, but predictions about when they are likely to need emptying. At the moment, the predictions are based on data collected in the past, but machine learning technology means they are set to become more and more precise as time goes on. On top of this, the system is able to prioritise individual containers according to their location, allowing bins in busy inner-city areas to be emptied more often than recycling containers out in the middle of nowhere. Once this has been factored in, it becomes clear exactly which bins need to be visited on any given day. Another thing to be taken into account is the fact that not every waste collection vehicle is suitable for every location. Imagine a huge rubbish lorry stuck in the narrow streets of a historical town centre, and the chaos that would cause. Binando's data processing software ensures that this kind of fiasco can never happen. The Binando app displays the planned route inside the vehicle, so the driver knows exactly where to go - all day long. Unbeatable: when humans team up with machines Once the software has identified which containers need to be emptied next, it begins to calculate the best possible route. Taking into account the number of vehicles available, the location of each and the amount of waste each can carry, the algorithm directs them round the relevant bins and then shows them the shortest route to their ultimate destination, e.g. the rubbish tip or landfill site. The software uses metaheuristics to generate the best course for the vehicles by checking, comparing and constantly optimizing all the routes found. The calculation process is stopped at a pre-defined point and the route last calculated is deemed to be the best. This proposal is then passed on to the planners at the waste management company. In the light of the volume of data likely to be generated once the system is fully in place, it is obvious that no human being will be capable of calculating and optimising routes with anything like the accuracy of the algorithm. This is not to say that human planners will become superfluous, however. They will still have to check and approve the routes generated automatically - here as in so many other areas, the best results are achieved when man and machine work together.