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03 Dec 2019

Supporting the smart city

Gerard Kissane

The development of smart cities is growing at a dizzying pace. Expenditure worldwide is projected to exceed U.S. $158 billion by 2022, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC). Factors make the need clear and urgent, such as depleting resources, traffic and commute times, and waste generation, which will outpace population growth by more than double by 2050, according to the World Bank.

What’s needed is sustainable change.

The concept and technologies to support this transformation are new for most municipalities and waste management contractors, or relatively new. You can be forgiven if you’re feeling overwhelmed by what it all means and your place in it, and how to make sense of so much data.

The challenge is in making the most of these opportunities in connectivity, whether you’re a municipality or providing waste and recycling services. Technology can give you the ability to navigate through it all seamlessly providing you with information in real time so that you can make informed decisions.

We’re already seeing positive outcomes of what can be achieved. Barcelona is a prime example. In 2013 Barcelona developed its strategy for becoming a smart city, along with the definition of what they wanted to be: a self-sufficient city of productive neighbourhoods at human speed, inside a hyper-connected zero emissions metropolitan area.

Some of the technologies they’ve implemented include an LED-based lighting system that’s not only more energy efficient, but also reduces the heat that the old lamps produced, resulting in cost savings. The lighting systems’ sensors relay information about pollution, noise, humidity, temperature and other variables. The bus transit system has decreased emissions by using hybrid buses. Smart bus shelters have solar panels that provide energy for the screens that communicate waiting times.

In Barcelona, visionary leadership with co-ordinated collaboration with private industry have developed what just might be the world’s defining smart city. This is important to note too. Primary players – such as government authorities and waste management contractors – must be in sync with each other in terms of values and vision in order to have the right relationship to meet the needs of citizens.

So if you’re a municipality wanting to implement smart-city initiatives, your waste and recycling contractors will need to have digital capabilities. If you’re a contractor, you need to ensure your digital transformation is underway.

Waste management, a key service of any municipality, represents a new era for improving quality of life. The traditional system that we’re all used to works according to predetermined schedules. Waste is collected based on a predetermined schedule, whether bins are full or not. This is terribly inefficient, while costly in terms of labour and fuel, not to mention the CO2 emissions involved.

Barcelona – and not just Barcelona, but cities in Portugal, Denmark, Sweden and many more across Europe – use smart bins. A vacuum sucks the waste into underground storage bins, eliminating overflowing rubbish and unpleasant odors. Sensors detect the fill levels of these bins, optimising the collection.

For example, a waste management company reads the data from these sensors and knows the bins are only half full. No need to put trucks on the road to make collections yet, which saves Co2 emissions, fuel costs, manhours – in short, operating costs are reduced and the environmental impact is minimised.

Understanding your goal

Keep in mind that technologies are a means to an end, and nothing more. If it doesn’t contribute to better living – better service for customers – and a healthier environment, it’s worthless. It’s important to keep this in mind so that you’re not blinded by shiny technologies that ultimately, don’t help you improve how people live.

What you want is a dynamic system that makes it easy for you to access data and make real-time informed decisions. Think about this. Live data tells you what’s happening at any given moment, allowing you to deliver the best possible services while lowering operating costs. This is how efficiency works. You don’t have to key in anything. You’re able to carry out collections based on knowledge that bins are full, using optimised routes that cut out wasted mileage and time. 

So how does this actually work or rather, what technologies do you need in order to be agile and respond to situations right away? Your first need is a cloud-based platform that connects to multiple systems and devices, such as containers, collection vehicles and lifters. If you’re to get the most out of your platform, the user experience must be seamless and easy to navigate so that you can get clear information from the data collected, as events take place.

The end-to-end solution

Your platform should be an intuitive, enterprise grade cloud solution. This is AMCS Platform, the end-to-end solution designed specifically for the waste and recycling industry. AMCS combines the two things the smart city needs most – expertise and experience in best-in-class technologies and deep knowledge of the industry itself, with all its challenges and nuances.

AMCS Platform provides extensive API connectivity and scales with your requirements. It grows with the needs of urban areas as they transform into smart cities.  For example, it connects to smart devices and captures data from truck-mounted RFID and weighing, or any other data-capture device as they’re added. 

Using intelligent information design, it allows you to access information to get actionable insights on how best to act upon any situation. With AMCS’ extensive suite of optimisation solutions, you can manage these actions automatically.

For example, AMCS Fleet Planner enables dispatching and real-time transportation optimisation.  Users have experienced reductions in mileage, CO2 emissions, and driving time by up to 20% and planning time, by up to 75%. AMCS Route Planner handles extreme data volumes for high-density planning and many waste-specific planning requirements. It provides up to 30% reductions in miles driven and CO2 emissions – this, in part, is what defines the smart city. 

The operational savings that all of this provides is significant. Based on Microsoft Azure, this is enterprise grade cloud – built for larger organisations – with the presence of an extensive API layer for interfaces, so that it integrates into or onto existing or new smart city infrastructures.

The fact that it’s an enterprise grade cloud translates to powerful performance and compliance built into the architecture. Because it operates on the cloud, it requires lower upfront costs than a traditional software solution. This is because you’re only paying for the bandwidth you use and infrastructure resources. Nor do you have to carry out any maintenance or upgrades. AMCS takes care of it automatically.

Those are some of the benefits to users, of course. AMCS Platform empowers organisations with an intelligent platform that predicts and actions. But the most important factor is that it supports the smart city. This is a sustainable solution that ultimately enhances the quality of life for citizens.

With real-time information, you can address issues that affect them. Unnecessary and inefficient collections are eliminated. CO2 emissions are lowered. Fewer trucks on the road, less noise pollution and traffic – this is good for all of us.