The improvement of the urban waste collection service and, in general, the achievement of a more efficient management of the waste, is one of the main challenges that the cities face, especially due to the population growth. Thus, smart waste management is a key factor of smartcities.
Within the public services – priority element of a smartcity – waste management, is a fundamental pillar. In order to understand its importance we must take into account that the management of urban waste is composed of different stages, from the collection and transport to its treatment. Being the collection the key factor to achieve this efficient management of urban waste for two reasons, its costs and its logistic component.
Mainly, we must focus on reducing costs, as it is especially costly, since it involves many workers and vehicles as well as improving the planning of waste collection, since having a high logistical component, allows a wide margin of improvement through solutions that business intelligence can bring.
Therefore, while the proper development of a Smart City addresses waste management in a holistic way, the collection of waste is fundamental to improve the service to the citizen and also in the environmental side, as well as with the objective of obtaining an economic saving for the administration.
Within a scenario that pursues efficiency, according to the objectives of sustainability of the work set out by Horizonte 2020, the EU’s research and innovation framework program, whose reports are considered key to the development of a smart city for community growth, focus on pillars of municipal management, citing among them the collection and management of waste.
Therefore, the ecological challenge or sustainability becomes an urban challenge, in which modern city is a harmonious and flexible space, managed intelligently by information technologies. When it comes to seeking sustainable solutions for waste management in municipalities, must face these challenges.
Different smart collection systems
On one hand, we find different systems of waste collection in the cities. From the so-called pneumatic pickup or the system based on underground containers to the one that uses trucks with different types of load, either side or rear.
Logically, all of them fall under broader systems of waste management that have their own characteristics, as well as a greater or less efficiency, among other factors, depending on their strategic connection through the Internet technology of things(IoT)
The application that information technologies may have in each of them will be specific and, above all, will depend on each particular case; however, it usually must be carried out from a plan that responds efficiently to the needs of each city.
Currently, the collection of waste is carried out either without performing a demand analysis or by means of predictive techniques of a global type based on historical data, or by using an intelligent system thanks to the solutions provided by the new technologies, facilitating a good planning. The latter, ideally, in real time.
Key role of real-time data
Faced with conventional solutions, which involve making unnecessary trips to almost empty containers and, on the other hand, not meeting the demands of those that are most filled, and in many cases overflowing, we find those that take advantage of the valuable information that provide the data in Real time from the sensors installed in them.
The design of an intelligent urban waste collection system raises practical questions that respond in detail, determining in real time the allocation of available resources as efficiently as possible.
Its achievement implies a development that values a series of factors for its integration in function of the objectives pursued, always looking for the generation of a successful strategic plan that coordinates the workings of the waste management.
At the technological level, it will do so through information systems that collect and process relevant data, including those provided by the IoT and others related to the Big Data universe. Not to mention that along with the use of real time data we have many other technological resources.
Without going any further, batch information may also be interesting for obtaining useful information, let‘s say. Overall use allows, rationalizing and making the best decisions to achieve an optimal performance of the resources involved.
Our dashboard for Smart Cities, Urbo, which we have developed together with Telefónica, is a good example in this sense, as it not only works with real time data from sensors but also many others, such as geospatial solutions and machine learning, in which, for example, the system interprets data through learning.
The visualization of real-time data collected through sensors distributed throughout the city is a characteristic aspect of this innovative smartcity platform. They are data that feed a dashboard oriented to Business Intelligence to facilitate the making of technical decisions.
In turn, thanks to different levels of access and publication of information, information is offered to citizens with a design that emphasizes usability in both cases. On the one hand, the private portal offers all the information and has a dashboard to manage and monitor the results, as well as the generation of reports.
On the other hand, the free access portal offers real-time information on different variables related to waste management, mobility, air quality, noise levels or other aspects related to citizen well-being.
The main objective of the use of real-time data and other new technologies that seek to maximize the usefulness of data, is no other than to reduce the overall cost of collection for greater efficiency. That is to say, to optimize the resources and, with it, also the quality of the service, without forgetting the economic saving and matched the environmental care.
Fortunately, the current digital era provides great opportunities for smart waste management that allows us to adopt sustainability policies in this critical field. Above all, given that smartcities pursue these same objectives in many other areas, approaching a more habitable, participative and environmentally friendly city concept.