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Smart city platforms for intelligent urban living

Tatjana Krieger
13. Sep 17

Information overload? Town councils and local authorities appear to have woken up to something. All over the country, digital solutions are being developed to reduce the amount of resources consumed, make information available more quickly and save local citizens time, effort and unnecessary journeys. These projects are often isolated undertakings directed at specific target groups (council staff or council service providers, tourists, the residents of a town), and the more of them there are out there, the harder it is to keep up with what's actually on offer. If all this data were to be integrated into one "smart city" platform, the added value created would be incredible. Central nervous system A well-designed smart city platform can simultaneously be the provider of real-time data, a city's digital memory, and its library. Ideally, the information available on smart city platforms makes life easier, more sustainable and more efficient. One pioneer in the field is the Dutch city of Amsterdam, which makes real-time information about energy, education, culture, tourism and transport available to its citizens via a portal. Santander in northern Spain encourages its residents to submit information about overgrown hedges, rubbish by the side of the road, abandoned building sites and the likes by mobile phone. The more people join in, the more information is available and the more everyone benefits. Binando monitors the fill level of waste containers and calculates the most efficient route for collection vehicles to take - thus saving fuel and other resources. The Stuttgart-based start-up could, theoretically, share this data on a municipal platform. Highways departments could contribute information about roadworks, meteorological services could provide temperature and rainfall data, sensors fitted to traffic lights or buses could measure air pollution levels, and camera systems could provide street-by-street information about the parking situation in a town. The possibilities are endless, as are the prospects which big data opens up. To irrigate public gardens automatically as required: this also enabled by the "Smart City" Who owns the data? Before smart city platforms can become established on a major scale, various questions need to be answered - the most important concerning the ownership of the data. Once data has been transferred to a platform run by a private provider on behalf of the council, and once it has been accessed by users, who does it belong to? The council, the operator of the platform, or the user who has downloaded it? The answer is relevant not least because new and potentially very profitable products and services are likely to be developed from this type of linked information in the future. It costs money to collect, process and make information available, and at the same time companies, academics and developers will all undoubtedly be keen to access and analyse the data. So who will bear the costs and who will reap the profits? Until these problems have been solved, potential private sector suppliers of information, including Binando, will be hesitant to share their data. The need for standards Another challenge, this time of a technical nature, lies in the management of the vast amounts of data which are likely to accumulate. Smart city platforms rely on contributions from a large number of parties. To ensure that a platform doesn't disintegrate into lots of separate IT projects, a common standard needs to be agreed upon to govern data formats and the way in which information can be exchanged. Having numerous separate interfaces for unstructured data from various sources would weaken the system and make it liable to break down. In view of the fact that future platforms may link data not just from individual cities, but from whole counties or regions, considerations of security and stability become even more important. This is the necessary basis for collecting data from anywhere at any time: hardware

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Smart data management for the waste disposal industry

Tatjana Krieger
23. Aug 17

Data - the raw material that's shaping the future Everyone's talking about big data. Whatever industry you're in - logistics and waste management included - being able to link and interpret information is the way to get ahead. In fact, being a data scientist has been deemed the sexiest job of the 21st century. Data scientists work with billions upon billions of bits and bytes to try and discover hidden customer needs, determine which products and services clients may find useful, and work out how new business models can be developed from them. Clarity vs. chaos The information which these computer experts deal with can take many forms. The easiest data to work with is known as "structured data". It comes in a specially designed database or table and is organized according to consistent principles, which makes it simple to arrange, sort and compare. Customer files are a good example of structured data in action. The user just has to type in selection criteria such as age, place of residence or date of most recent order and can generate a list of those customers in the desired target group at the push of a button. Unstructured data, on the other hand, is not organised in any way nor even consistently formatted. Unlike structured data, it has to be pre-processed before it can be used effectively. This problem is one with which HR departments, for example, are familiar. Candidates send applications via online application form, by e-mail, by app or by post, attaching their CVs and references as PDFs, word documents or any one of a number of photo file formats. In order to make this data comparable, it has to be processed, either manually or automatically. Otherwise, there is no simple and uniform way of accessing and handling it. What's important in the waste management industry? Processes in the waste management industry could be optimized significantly if more data was harnessed and interpreted. Waste disposal vehicles, waste containers and the surroundings in which they are found can all provide potentially resource-saving information. Traffic data, for example, can indicate when an accident has led to a road closure and flag up any traffic jams in which collection vehicles are likely to become ensnarled. Equally, environmental data can provide a useful advance warning of weather conditions which may slow the vehicle down. Data relating to fuel consumption, journey times, kilometres travelled, wear and tear and the amount of time vehicles spend not in use are all helpful in fleet planning. And ultimately, recycling containers themselves can harbour not just empty bottles and paper, but important information about the state of repair they are in, their location and how full they are - thus revealing a lot about the way in which they are used. Binando is already bringing most of this data together and automatically analysing it for clients in the waste management industry. The Binando app identifies the most resource-efficient route for a company's collection vehicles and ensures that only those containers are called at which actually need emptying. The result? Cutting out unnecessary kilometres reduces fuel consumption and saves time too.

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New communications network technologies promise big savings

Tatjana Krieger
24. Jul 17

Anyone with data to transfer will have come across the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM). Nowadays, in fact, there are few alternatives. Known to mobile phone users as 2G, 3G or LTE, the system is firmly established as the standard network technology. It is available in around 200 countries and territories, and has several obvious advantages. It provides blanket coverage all over Germany and beyond, and data transmission is quick and reliable. Binando’s smart waste solution currently uses GSM technology to transfer information from its sensors, which measure how full a waste container is, to its servers, where it is processed overnight. The Binando software uses the data to calculate the most efficient route for waste collection vehicles - thus saving disposal companies time, energy and money. The method is tried and tested and works without a hitch, yet it's not necessarily the ideal solution. The latest GSM technology LTE is unbeatable when large amounts of data have to be exchanged at short intervals in real time. The Binando product, on the other hand, relies on single measurements being transmitted at relatively long intervals. GSM can do more, then, than the intelligent app which helps waste disposal companies to avoid unnecessary journeys requires. Binando is not the only business to be facing this dilemma. Because of the lack of alternative solutions offering blanket coverage and the necessary functionality, many companies are using GSM without actually exploiting it to the full - in other words, they are paying too highly for a technology which is more sophisticated than they need. The good news is that alternatives are on the horizon. Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) have been shown in the Internet of Things to be the ideal way of connecting low-energy devices, such as Binando's battery-powered sensors, with a network server. LPWAN technology consumes less electricity than GSM, meaning that batteries last longer and costs can be cut. Three promising LPWAN technologies are currently emerging. The Sigfox network, based in Labège, France, already spans 30 countries and is set to be available all over the world within the next few years. Data capacity can simply be bought or booked as it is in the GSM network today. Another network protocol for communication within the Internet of Things (IoT) is the Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN). However, because the expansion of the network is the responsibility of the user, LoRaWAN is not yet as advanced as other comparable technologies. Finally, NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) is an IoT network being developed and rolled out by large network operators such as Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefónica. Binando co-founder Moritz Pfeiffer is following the situation with interest. "It will be interesting to see which of the emerging technologies manages to establish itself in the end. As a young IoT provider we are dependent on the existing infrastructure to meet our requirements, but need to make sure that excessive communication costs don't put us at a competitive disadvantage." As it will be some time before any of the new communications networks are able to offer stable blanket coverage, Binando will have to rely for a little longer on the established GSM standard to guarantee its partners in the waste disposal industry a service which is unlimited and reliable. But with customer satisfaction its top priority, that is a price it is willing to pay.

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Binando Technology passes first field tests

Tatjana Krieger
08. Jul 17

Binando recently carried out a pilot project in three towns to see how its smart waste solution performs under genuine operating conditions. The results are now in - and they're impressive. The product is convincing on paper, but will it actually work in real life? Is the technology going to function as smoothly as it's supposed to? The moment a good idea is transformed into reality is always a nerve-wracking one for its developers, as Binando founders Nikolaos Baltsios and Moritz Pfeiffer know from personal experience. The results of their first field tests, however, confirm that the Stuttgart-based entrepreneurs are well on the way to permanently reducing unnecessary journeys for waste collection firms. The pilot project saw Baltsios, Pfeiffer and their team fit all the bottle banks in Stuttgart and those in two other administrative districts with a total of over 130 Binando ultrasonic sensors. The data transmitted by the sensors was processed automatically by a server, which in turn provided precise information about whether the recycling containers were completely full, almost at capacity or used so infrequently by local residents that they didn't need to be emptied yet. On the basis of the fill levels, the Binando software was able to calculate, more or less overnight, the most efficient route for the collection run. The technology means that drivers of waste collection vehicles can simply programme their sat nav with the suggested route and must only stop where it is really necessary. Containers which don't need emptying are not called at, unless they are in the direct vicinity of a required point of call. In order to optimize the route even further, the way in which it is calculated will soon take into account the traffic situation and information about roadworks. Nikolaos Baltsios went a day with the waste collection and gathered valuable information. The fill levels of the bottle banks and the status of collection runs were tracked during the pilot project in real time using a management dashboard which is available as a web app for computers, tablets and smartphones. The app also enables the user to monitor individual containers and collection vehicles. The locations of recycling containers and the routes being run can be seen at a glance on a map. With this first three-town pilot project now successfully completed and various other tests currently underway, Binando is an important step closer to its goal of a market ready system for intelligent and efficient route planning in the waste management industry. Summing up the field test, Binando-founder Moritz Pfeiffer expressed his satisfaction. "Not only did we show that our smart waste solution works, we also gained some useful practical experience. The data we generated will help us to develop our product further and tailor it better to what the industry needs." Moritz Pfeiffer helped to build the prototypes of the pilot series. The two entrepreneurs are certainly clear about their next step, which is to fit all the waste containers in a city or administrative district with sensors, enabling information about the fill levels not just of bottle banks but also of paper collection points, household waste bins and so on to be collected in one single database. This will finally allow the council's waste disposal services to follow a collection route that has been perfectly optimized, avoiding empty runs and unnecessary detours and thus saving time and reducing fuel consumption.

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Binando at London Tech Week (TechXLR8)

Tatjana Krieger
23. Jun 17

Sometimes Binando can be encountered at Events As anyone involved in the digital economy will tell you, London Technology Week is not to be missed. Buzzing with brand new ideas, the latest technologies and live events all round the city, its conferences, exhibitions and forums also provide a round-the-clock opportunity to talk to interesting speakers, potential business partners and the founders of hotly tipped startups. This year, with its three core product elements (sensor, software and routing) now ready for the market, Binando headed to the British capital to take part in Project Kairos - the central event for startups at London Tech Week. Project Kairos enables innovative young companies to present their ideas to industry representatives and investors, and Binando's co-founder Moritz Pfeiffer made the most of the three-day programme to get people talking about his Stuttgart-based startup. Binando featured alongside other European companies showcasing solutions from the fields of virtual reality, health, security and Industry 4.0 - all busy networking with and industry insiders and visitors. Moritz and Herbert Pfeiffer before the big rush in front of the Binando booth. The Binando concept - which provides the waste management industry with intelligent, fully digital fill level monitoring and route planning - grabbed the attention of investors, potential pilot customers and the media alike. Visitors to the Binando stand were particularly interested in the company's business model, and many wanted to know exactly how the technology which determines the fill level of dustbins and skips works. Pfeiffer and his father Herbert, acting as his assistant, answered questions unwearyingly, explaining how sensors fitted inside the waste container emit ultrasound waves to determine the depth of fill, and then transmit this data onwards. Two representatives of Smart Waste Management, one from the Netherlands and one from Denmark, were particularly keen to find out more about Binando, and there was even talk of joint pilot projects. Whether or not the plans come to fruition will be revealed in the next few weeks. Pitching Time for Binando Moritz Pfeiffer pitching at Project Kairos. One of the high points of Project Kairos at London Tech Week was a competition involving around fifty startups which were divided into six different categories. Having made it through the pre-selection round, Binando was placed by a jury in the group "digital solutions for industry". Moritz Pfeiffer then had five minutes to present a pitch covering everything from how the product works to its costs and benefits. Despite having to pack so much into such a seriously short time, Pfeiffer got his message across and Binando came in second in its category. "There was another start-up which was a few critical steps ahead of us. We didn't win this time, but it was a valuable experience," Pfeiffer commented after the event. All in all the trip to London was time well spent for the German entrepreneurs. The Binando idea for optimizing waste collection routes reached large numbers of people, and various positive contacts were made. And in the process, Pfeiffer was able to keep abreast of the latest developments in augmented reality, artificial intelligence and connected vehicles.

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