This fall I became involved with a team of four other computer engineers and one electrical engineer to begin development on a project for our senior design class, the final test of our engineering skills before graduation. Our project is to design a smarter way to collect municipal garbage.
The standard model of garbage collection has not significantly changed over the past decades. Most residents have one set day of the week where they leave their garbage bin on the curb and a collection service empties the bin into a garbage truck. This is repeated for a set route of houses before the truck is full, where the truck then travels to the dump and empties its contents.
With Americans in the United States generating 252 million tons of trash in 2013, we want to design a system that can create a paradigm shift for garbage collection. What we have proposed is to develop a smart sensor that can be quickly retrofitted to the standard ~90 gallon municipal garbage container. This sensor will be able to keep track of the garbage levels inside the garbage bin, which will then be relayed over a low power wide area network (LPWAN) to a central server where the each resident’s garbage levels are stored. This will allow the garbage company to generate optimized collection routes where trucks can be filled in the minimum amount of distance, thus maximizing collection efficiency.
This project involves full-stack development of an Internet of Things (IoT) solution. I have assumed the role of embedded systems software development in the project. The lone electrical engineer involved in the project is in charge of the hardware design for the sensor package. I also am working closely with another member on the team who is in charge of the networking of the IoT devices. The other three members are in charge of the database, application, and algorithm development. I am excited to see what we end up using for the route optimization algorithm as the computational complexity is equivalent to the infamous traveling salesperson problem.
Our final prototype for this project is expected to be delivered in December. Keep checking on this website to see future updates on this project.