IoT and Waste Management: Revolutionizing an Old Industry

July 22, 2016
By Kristina Heinze

Hauler IoT waste

Experts estimate 50 billion connected devices by 2020. We typically think of the Internet of Things (IoT) in terms of autonomous cars, fitness wearables and smart homes, but some of the best applications of IoT technology are in fields that are industrial and intensely practical. One such example is waste management.

The U.S. generates nearly 230 million tons of trash every year – that’s 4.6 pounds of waste per person, per day. With strained budgets and growing populations, most nations are facing a crisis that keeps growing.

But there is a resolution: sustainability-focused IoT companies look at the waste crisis as both a challenge and as an opportunity to invent solutions that will reduce costs and increase efficiency. In fact, they’ve already made a number of significant advancements by innovating with sensor technology.

Sensor technology and route optimization

The ultrasonic level sensor is one type of sensor that IoT companies have put to good use. Initially designed to measure slurries and liquids, a number of businesses and municipalities are applying the sensor to measure solid waste as well. Ultrasonic level sensors work by emitting acoustic waves and then listening for an echo. Upon reaching a level surface, the waves will reflect back to the sensor with a measurement reading – similar to the process of echolocation. Think of it as a radar system that tracks the amount of garbage in a trash can.

One IoT company that specializes in remote monitoring systems, SmartBin, is using ultrasonic level sensor technology to help Australia-based Corio Waste Management reduce unnecessary collection trips. Corio’s haulers collect trash from bins spread across distances that range from six to nine miles. After a few months on the job, Corio realized they were wasting a significant amount of financial and environmental resources by sending trucks out to trash bins that were partially full or, at times, entirely empty.

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