From densely populated cities to smaller rural communities, waste management systems keep our homes and communities free from unwanted clutter. Yet, as the world’s population continues to grow, so does the amount of waste created. In an effort to improve sustainability and lower costs, cities and municipalities are turning to smart waste solutions.

Along with smart traffic, lighting and energy, smart waste is an integral part of any smart city. Smart cities are leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) to create more effective waste management systems to save money and the environment. From waste bins equipped with fill-sensors, to data-based management and logistics platforms, the industry is shifting into a cleaner, more efficient role in the life of a community.

Most municipal waste collection operations focus on emptying containers according to predefined schedules. The current process sees half-full trash cans and dumpsters being constantly emptied, driving up fleet fuel consumption and making poor use of city assets.

Using sensor-based technologies, waste management companies can install a radar-like system to actually track the amount of garbage in a trash can. The sensors emit acoustic waves and then listen 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. Waste management operators are able to use this data intelligence to drive operational efficiencies including optimized routes, asset tracking and cost analysis.

Want to see how a combined solution for waste management? Watch our video Live Earth for Waste Management.

Because fill-level sensors track the amount of garbage in each bin, pickup routes can be planned around the bins that are near-full and in need of pickup. Waste disposal companies can leverage this data to plan routes only to bins that need servicing, thereby reducing the overall amount of gas being used, which in turn reduces emissions. Over time, these minor changes can result in improvements in air quality and city cleanliness.

Taking IoT technology to the next level, some smart cities have realized the benefit of a connected network of sensors, where universal sensors and software systems monitor compactor levels, collection routes and pickup histories. In this model, the integration of wireless machine-to-machine (M2M) communication technology creates a universal waste monitoring system that can manage the entire operation on its own. The monitoring system is connected to a network of sensors that can “speak” or share information with each other. The system uses connected sensors to determine which trash bins are full, and, without any human interaction, will automatically call for a pickup, saving time and reducing costs for consumers.

When a smart waste management data stream is integrated with a data visualization mapping platform like Live Earth, smart cities can seamlessly synchronize data from multiple sources and combine live data feeds into an interactive map. Cities and municipalities can use Live Earth to synchronize their waste management and utilities data streams with transportation, traffic flow and weather.

The convergence of public and private data feeds on one visual pane enables smart cities to make the most of their existing sensors and systems by correlating their data together to create actionable intelligence. Smart waste management systems are no small advancement. More than that, smart waste management saves gas, thereby reducing emissions by allowing disposal companies to plan routes and service bins based on need. As more cities opt to adopt smart technology, innovations such as these are pivotal in saving cities money, creating safer spaces for residents and helping reduce environmental waste.

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