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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.


Binando at Web Summit 2017 in Lisbon

Tatjana Krieger
15. Nov 17

The ultimate technology conference When the Portuguese capital gears up for Web Summit, the technology scene is already packed and ready to go. Representatives of established technology companies, eager young startups, digital experts from academia and industry and even big name stars make the pilgrimage to Lisbon in their thousands to discuss the latest trends, their visions for the future, and, this time, the risks associated with advancing digitalisation and artificial intelligence. Attracting over 60,000 participants and more than 1,200 speakers from at least 170 countries, the mega-event, now in its second year, lavishly confirmed its reputation as the largest technology conference in the world. As a digital nomad it's easy to forget where you are. This arrangement of brightly-coloured dustbins provides a reminder. Get-together for digital insiders As the guests started to arrive in Lisbon, the Stuttgart-based startup Binando, purveyor of intelligent waste solutions, was first off the plane. Founders Nikolaos Baltsios and Moritz Pfeiffer met up in Portugal with colleagues Niklas Karoly (backend development) and Mohammed El-Serougi from New Cairo, who is helping Binando with the development of its app. The team spent the four days of the summit making contacts, collecting information and batting new ideas about. As a participant in the Alpha startup programme, Binando had a small exhibition stand from which to present its logistics-based business model, gather feedback and get talking to potential partners. Ready to go: Mohammed El-Serougi, Nikolaos Baltsios, Niklas Karoly and Moritz Pfeiffer (left to right) in front of the event venue Stars of the tech scene In addition, the team checked out many of the events on the Summit's programme, including an impressive opening lecture by astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, and attended talks by executives of companies including Slack, Intel, Uber and Reddit. The evening programme was all about networking and exchange, and with the thermometer showing a pleasant twenty degrees, the organisers simply moved everything to the bar and restaurant-lined Pink Street, where visitors could chat informally while enjoying drinks and tapas. Waiting for Stephen Hawking: excitement mounts at the opening event on 5 October 2017 in Lisbon Bustling crowds in Pink Street, whose paving stones do actually glow pink during the day


Binando set for success in Austria

Tatjana Krieger
16. Oct 17

WeXelerate chooses Binando for its first accelerator programme Europe's largest innovation hub, WeXelerate in Vienna, has accepted Binando into the first round of its start-up programme. The smart waste solution developed by Nikolaos Baltsios and Moritz Pfeiffer was chosen from thousands of other applicants following a multi-level selection process. The Stuttgart-based entrepreneurs now have four months in which to work on their sustainable waste management solution in Vienna. Industry focus point WeXelerate is supported by a number of major industry players (Wien Energie, T-Mobile Austria and Raiffeisen Informatik GmbH to name but a few) which run customised mentoring programmes and put their experience, market knowledge and networks at the disposal of the start-ups selected. Some companies even offer the potential for direct cooperation or joint projects, in this case, for example, Post AG Austria or the manufacturer of hydraulic loading and lifting equipment Palfinger. Source of inspiration "For Binando, WeXelerate represents an incredible opportunity for cooperation and exchange with a wide range of established companies and fellow start-ups," enthused co-founder Nikolaos Baltsios after his first visit to Vienna. "We're confident that at the end of the programme, on Demo Day, we'll have a real technological milestone to present." Over 1,000 companies from 72 countries vied for a place at WeXelerate during the last round of applications. A programme cycle lasts 100 days, and the plan is to run two accelerator cycles per year. Each cycle involves around 50 start-ups, which are invited to actually move into the innovation hub for the duration of the programme. The WeXelerate headquarters are located in the appropriately-named Design Tower on the Danube Canal in Vienna, and provide over 8,000 m2 of working and meeting space.


Binando goes East

Tatjana Krieger
09. Oct 17

Sustainable waste management concepts for the Indian subcontinent Binando co-founder Moritz Pfeiffer was recently invited to India as a member of a delegation made up of ten German companies. The five-day trip, which was organised by the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Industry and the German-Indian Chamber of Commerce, was part of a market development programme for small and medium-sized enterprises specialising in sustainable waste management. Among other things, the visit provided a unique opportunity to find out more about the Indian market. Kochi – a smart city of tomorrow The trip started in the southern Indian city of Kochi in the state of Kerala, which with official German support is soon to become a smart city. The programme included a meeting with Mohammed Hanish, CEO of Cochin Smart Mission Ltd., who with the help of a multi-million Euro budget is to initiate this transformation within the next four years. Moritz Pfeiffer and the rest of the delegation were able to inspect the vehicles used to collect domestic waste in Kochi and see how a roadside "mini composter" is being used to recycle residents' food and plant waste. Despite their modest size and appearance, these collection vehicles serve 600,000 residents in Kochi ( 2.1 million in the metropolitan area)! A public "mini composter" in Kochi for residents' kitchen and garden waste. Exchange of ideas on smart waste Next it was onto Mumbai, where the guests attended the IFAT environmental technology trade fair. Other highlights included a tour round one of the city council's rubbish dumps, and a visit to a recycling plant. Various promising contacts with Indian companies were made, and delegates also got to meet Margit Hellwig-Botte, head of the German Consulate General in Bangalore, Bernhard Steinrücke, general manager of the German-Indian Chamber of Commerce, and Amiya Kumar Sahu, founder of the National Solid Waste Association of India (NSWAI). By talking to them, Moritz Pfeiffer was able to form a clearer picture of the challenges facing the subcontinent as a result of the increasing amounts of waste being generated there. A smaller version of the IFAT in Munich: India's leading trade fair for water, sewage, refuse and recycling. Rubbish mounts as affluences increases The problem is serious: over 1.3 billion people live in India. The economy is growing - and with it the amount of rubbish generated. This has negative consequences both for the population and the environment. The Indian Environment Ministry estimates that in 2030, 165 million tonnes of refuse will be produced. Action must be taken - and soon . Isolated municipalities, such as Pune to the east of Mumbai, have introduced strategic solid waste offensives and are already experimenting with refuse separation and ways of measuring the fill level of waste containers. In the rest of the country, waste usually lands, unsorted, on open rubbish dumps. The disposal of refuse and sewage is not regulated at all in some places. A rubbish dump in India is bursting at the seams. Waste spills over into a car park. "It is clear that this emerging economy is facing enormous challenges, " commented Moritz Pfeiffer after the trip to India. "The authorities have recognised that the waste situation needs to improve. If the cities are to become cleaner, digital applications will need to become a firm part of any sustainable strategy."


Effective ways of measuring fill level

Moritz Pfeiffer
06. Oct 17

The technology depends on the content From chemicals, water and other liquids to bulky, non-stackable materials such as those found at the tip, it is the content of a waste container which determines the best way to measure how full it is. The more precise the measurement, the better the Binando app works: only when reliable data is available about fill levels can the software calculate the most efficient route for a waste collection vehicle to follow. Ultrasound for level surfaces The Binando method currently uses ultrasound to measure the level of waste in a container. A sensor installed inside the container emits a pulse of ultrasonic energy. As soon as the signal "hits" something, it is reflected back. The interval between the wave being emitted and picked up again by the sensor corresponds to the distance between the sensor and the surface of the rubbish, thus revealing the fill level of the container. Binando has shown in tests that the technology works reliably in glass, textile and paper recycling containers, and in "underfloor" containers for organic or general waste. As the surface of the waste in these containers is fairly even, this method provides relatively accurate information about how full the container actually is. Moreover, the technology offers a good cost-performance ratio. Alternative methods Nevertheless, there are other measuring technologies that Binando could use in its smart waste app - cameras, for example, installed in or above the container. Here, the fill level is worked out simply by analysing the pictures which the camera transmits. Alternatively, laser diodes can measure the distance to the surface of the waste in more than one direction and thus calculate the fill level of a container with greater accuracy. Both these measuring technologies are particularly suited to containers whose content doesn't have a level surface and whose fill level is thus not uniform, e.g. those used to collect bulky rubbish or wood waste. They are also good for open containers which do not have a lid. Another way of measuring fill level is to weigh the container. The total weight of the container and its contents minus the weight of the empty container tells us how heavy the waste inside is. This can be used to work out whether there is still space in the bin or whether it is completely full. In order for this method to work reliably, however, the rubbish has to have been properly separated beforehand - a mixture of materials with different weights and densities would provide misleading information. Tests coming soon In order to optimize its own method of monitoring fill levels, Binando will be testing other technologies in the near future which will enhance or eventually replace its ultrasonic sensors altogether. The first prototypes are already being developed. In the medium term, the company hopes to obtain reliable data which will help it to improve the ingenious app for the waste management industry even further. Future technologies may make it possible not just to measure the amount of waste in a container but also to determine the nature of that waste (cardboard, glass, textiles, etc.), and the degree of infiltration by materials which actually belong in a different bin.