IoT and Smart City trends boost smart waste collection market

garbage bins
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The Internet of Things extends even to garbage bins.

Waste collection is an essential city service. Ample opportunity exists worldwide for smart technology to increase efficiency and improve the quality of waste collection services.

Currently, most municipal waste collection operations focus on emptying containers according to predefined schedules. This is inevitably inefficient, with half-full bins being emptied, poor use of city assets and unnecessary fleet fuel consumption.

However, smart waste collection solutions on the market track waste levels and provide route optimization and operational analytics. Municipalities and waste service managers are realizing that these solutions can help them meet sustainability goals (such as zero waste), improve services for residents and reduce operational costs.

A common set of elements found in most smart waste collection systems includes: sensors that monitor fill level and other indicators such as temperature and tilt within waste containers, a communication node to transport data and a software suite for accessing, managing and analyzing that data.

Although the smart waste collection technology sector is still in an early phase, these Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled smart bins and sensors are gaining traction globally. According to the Navigant Research Smart Waste Collection report, that market is expected to grow from $57.6 million in 2016 to over $223.6 million in 2025 at a 16.3 percent compound annual growth rate.

The wide availability of commercially viable technologies and associated benefits — including operational cost reductions and improved environment and health safety — will drive market growth. A push for integrated smart city applications and IoT technologies is expected to accelerate this trend.

Integrated smart waste collection solutions

There is a growing awareness among city leaders of the potential benefits of multi-application approaches to the deployment of smart city infrastructure. At the heart of this transformation is IoT technology that connects a range of intelligent sensors and devices to monitor and automate city operations. Areas where technology is having the greatest impact include street lighting, public safety, traffic systems and waste collection.

For example, in June, TDC and Cisco formed a partnership agreement to deploy the IoT City Digital Platform in Denmark. This initiative includes intelligent waste monitoring for which SmartBin has deployed its sensors to a range of waste and recycling containers integrated with the City Digital Platform. In addition, lamp posts and traffic lights have been equipped with sensors that send data to the control console at the town hall.

The Sunshine Coast Council in Australia also partnered with Cisco and Telstra to develop a Smart City Framework in 2014, a portfolio of 13 municipal service areas including waste management. Here, Enevo and its Brisbane-based partner Smarter Technology Solutions had a successful initial deployment of Enevo’s smart fill level sensors and announced plans to move on to a wider implementation in 2016.

Another example of an integrated smart waste collection solution is the solar-powered waste bin equipped with Wi-Fi unit. While many smart city initiatives propose to provide public Wi-Fi hotspots, it can be expensive to lease areas to host the equipment. However, with Wi-Fi-enabled smart bins, cities can run access points by using the solar energy already collected by the bin.

For example, in June, 10 solar-powered Bigbelly bins with Wi-Fi units were installed in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. The plan is to deploy several hundreds of these smart bins to achieve sustainability goals.

Nascent but growing market

Despite the successful deployments mentioned above, there is still limited demand for smart waste collection solutions due to the lack of awareness about cost and the effectiveness of the technology.

Fortunately, most vendors have responded by offering monthly subscription options to overcome the upfront cost barrier. Vendors are also keeping up with the IoT trend by offering sensors that are compatible with other IoT-enabled solutions. Public cellular networks are widely used for data collection, but other options can be used, including radio frequency mesh and Wi-Fi networks. Low-power wide area networks (LPWANs) are also attractive for waste collection systems given their low cost and high penetration.

While the smart waste collection industry remains nascent outside of a handful of markets, momentum is building and there is increasing interest in the connectivity of city services and IoT networks.

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