Have you ever stood impatiently on a New York City street corner on a hot day in July waiting for the pedestrian signal to change to “walk,” as you held your breath to avoid inhaling the sweet, moldering aroma coming from the nearby trash bin? Chances are you have, whether in New York or any other city on the planet.
The United States alone produces 33% of the world’s solid waste but accounts for just 4.6% of the global population. In fact, 80% of U.S. products are used once and thrown away despite tremendous advancements in recycling. New York City alone produces over fourteen tons of trash each day, which is enough to fill the Empire State Building. Imagine the view from the top of that trash pile!
Removing this much trash daily requires tremendous logistics. But it’s not just a question of curbing bad aromas; it’s an issue of public health and sanitation. Historically, trash removal was a brute force exercise. Today, automation and analytics are being used to reinvent trash collection. Think of it as digital transformation at the street level.
For example, solar-powered sensors attached to trash receptacles can automatically transmit data about the capacity status of a specific container via a wireless network created by device placement on utility poles or other nearby public infrastructure. Once the data is transmitted and received at the central trash collection station, a truck can be dispatched to empty a full trash container. Instant analytics at the network’s edge results in instant pick-up.
A solution like this isn’t just for highly developed countries with a mature public infrastructure. In India, my birthplace, waste management is an essential part of Swachh Bharart, the country’s national cleanliness campaign. The government is carefully evaluating the installation of a digitally powered solution like the example I described.
Everything’s Up To Date in Kansas City
As cities around the world become smarter through their use of digital technologies, one urban locale that is helping set a great example of how to effect change is here in the United States. Kansas City, Missouri has created a Living Lab to promote citizen engagement and act on ways to implement digital transformation to improve the city’s “Livability Index.”
At 319 square miles in size, Kansas City’s transformation will be far reaching.;