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Innovation in Smart Bin Technology

Sensors and wireless communication modules provide real-time data on the fill status of these bins, keeping all stakeholders informed through an app, and creating alerts for timely waste collection.

Who isn’t familiar with the sight of overflowing trash bins, their contents spilling over onto the footpath or the road, creating a mess that is difficult to clear, and that remains uncleared for days? Municipal bodies across India are grappling with the problem of timely waste collection. Some say our urban areas are generating too much waste, others claim the existing sanitation manpower is insufficient to tackle such a large load. Whatever the cause, residents end up facing the consequences: of over-full trash bins which aren’t emptied for days, which cannot accommodate any more refuse brought to them by conscientious citizens, and which become public health hazards by attracting mosquitoes, flies, rodents and other pests. All this, apart from the offensive odour of rotting garbage and the eyesore it becomes to passersby.

Mahek Shah is an alumnus of IIT-Madras, who believes this problem can be solved by applying the right logistics. He is the founder of Antariksh Waste Ventures Pvt. Ltd, a start-up incubated in the IIT-M incubation cell, which has developed an IoT module-based smart bin technology called Airbin.

The Smart Bin Technology

This consists of two elements: sensors and wireless communication. Airbins are fitted with ultrasonic sensors to detect fill levels of bins, and load cells to calculate the weight of the garbage collected inside a bin. These sensors maintain 24×7 vigilance of the garbage collected; this information is regularly transmitted to various stakeholders of the sanitation system.

This transmission uses a combination of LoRa or NBIoT technology. LoRa is a lowpower, long-range communication technology that uses lesser battery power; a single battery can be used for up to 110 days. This technology can be fitted onto existing bins, or on special fibreglass bins devised by Antariksh.

The sensors connected to the wireless communication module provide an accurate picture of the working of the waste management system of an area. This can be readily viewed on a smartphone through a specially designed app.

Real-time data

Airbins provide constant updates on the fill-status of each bin to anyone who has appropriate access to the app, in the waste management system hierarchy. Most importantly, it creates pickup alerts which appear on the smartphones of sanitation workers as well as citizens, ensuring that no bins overflow ever again. These alerts highlight pending tasks, and equipment management needs. Conversely, this also helps workers identify bins that are not full, and do not need to be attended to for some time, thus helping them concentrate their time and resources on bins that do require their attention.

The data is also compiled into historical analysis of bin-fills with estimation of waste generated by each street, area, ward, zones, and city, based on waste types and area categories.

Airbin also relies on the principle that every household has at least one smartphone. Hence, households in an area can be alerted when a sanitation worker is scheduled to visit, so that can keep tabs on garbage collection in their area, as well as plan their own trips to the garbage bin to dispose off their household waste. Alternatively, it can inform residents about the arrival of sanitary workers at their doorstep, and the time left for the bins in their locality to be cleared.

It also keeps senior civic officials posted about the number of bins in their jurisdiction that need to be cleared. Hence, it connects all the stakeholders on a common platform: citizens, sanitary workers, top civic officials and even recycling units.

Other advantages

• It will inculcate a sense of discipline and punctuality among both workers and citizens, towards waste management.
• At present, municipalities do not levy a separate charge for waste collection; with this new data, Smart Cities will be able to charge citizens based on the amount and type of waste being generated.
• Many municipalities outsource the task of waste collection. By providing data on actual waste pickup and waste generation mapping, it will enable contractors to claim their rightful compensation.
• It will improve turnaround time and operational efficiency for contractors.
• The app also creates awareness about waste segregation at source, the importance of safety gear and other skill development information for workers, and alerts supervisors about the time to supply a new set of safety gear to workers.

Present status

Antariksh is currently running a pilot project by installing Airbins at Chennai’s Thiruvanmiyur (beach area), with five smart bins. They have gleaned multiple learnings from citizens, workers, supervisors, administrators and representatives of the recycling industry perspective, which they will incorporate in their product.

Founder Mahek Shah says, “We are yet to fully commercialise the product manufacturing. Once we have stabilised the product hardware and made sure it can be tuned to different geographies, we will go to market strongly (probably through smart cities). Reach is not an issue in this new technology age.”

He added, “The value which we are looking to provide in enhancing and digitising the waste management eco-system in an overpopulated world, easily surpasses the monetary investment expectations. It will take some time, but its adoption is expected to drastically increase, once we have a few larger pilots in any of the smart cities in India or abroad.”

In recognition of its technology, Antariksh was shortlisted as one of the ten top startups in Qualcomm’s Design in India Challenge 2019 – the only startup from the waste management category.

Compiled by Mrigank Warrier


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