As those of us who’ve been in the waste management industry know, technology hasn’t been a big component in our daily operations to date. It wasn’t too long ago that we began to even go digital, while many other industries jumped that gap almost 30 years ago. So, what makes 2020 any different? Well, to put it simply, technology is making us more profitable, and it’s costing us far less to implement than it ever has before. Additionally, to that, technology represents both a threat and an opportunity for our business. The threat, because it’s so pervasive now that a startup can begin to take market share quicker than ever before and for far less cost. An opportunity, because if we’re open-minded even a little bit, we can seize that same opportunity that the tech-savvy guys have and leverage it to rapidly grow our own businesses.
So what tech is available to us now and in the near future? Let’s go over the tech that will revolutionize the waste management industry.
5G and Waste Management
You’ve probably heard of 5G in passing or in a commercial somewhere but if you’re scratching your head as to what it is and why it matters, that’s absolutely ok. Phone companies haven’t done a very good job at all explaining anything beyond “it’s coming” and that’s not helpful.
5G in essence is the next iteration of mobile communication.
Example: back in 2005, if you had a Nokia brick or Samsung flip phone, that was 2G.
If you had an iPhone in 2010, that level of connectivity was 3G.
Soon after, the marketers took over and the names got very confusing, but what many of us have now is called ITE, and it manages the data between our phone and the cell towers using a very different standard than 3G in order to get higher data rates.
5G is the next standard we’ll all move to and it again is a fundamental shift in how data is encoded into radio waves and then sends this info between our phone and the cell towers. It’ll be a radical shift however because this effectively ends our limitations on computing ability and data transmission rates, we’ll be able to place computers in almost anything. Garbage trucks, trash cans, recycling equipment, literally anything can have a high-speed connection back to a supercomputer somewhere that they can do all the hard work.
This enables us because we’re about to be in a position where we can use these sensors embedded into everything (more commonly called the IoT -or- internet of things) and have them transmit to the supercomputer to calculate in real-time things like;
- The most cost-effective pick-up routs for waste haulers
- Information on what items are being put into the trucks and build us a manifest
- What items are being processed on our conveyers in real-time enough to allow for automated sorting to take place
- Or many other things we haven’t even thought of yet, and that’s very much the point here
5G means the doors are open to cheap or affordable sensor deployment and real-time heavy data manipulation. And for our purposes, there will be a day within the next decade where a smart college kid builds the tech that forces a revolution in our industry. Be ready for that day.
Artificial Technology (AI) and Waste Management
When 5G is deployed, the computing power behind the pending revolution isn’t going to be on the garbage truck, or on the conveyer belt (commonly called the end-point) it’ll be in a supercomputer housed in a massive facility of other supercomputers (dubbed a data center, or “the cloud”). The software these computers run additionally can have the ability to learn from the information we feed it and make suggestions or decisions based on that information. This is in essence what artificial intelligence (AI) is, and if you’ve ever been talking about a product you want to buy near an Alexa device only to get presented with ads for that product on Facebook for the next three weeks, you’ve seen AI in action.
So, imagine that capability, but far smarter, now mapping out pickup routes for drivers that save waste hauling companies thousands in fuel costs, or that tell conveyor belts in real-time to move a recyclable item down a different line. All this is going to be operationally feasible within the next three years and cost-effective within the next 5. So exploring how you can benefit from these technologies over the next 6-12 months is a smart move.
Our own tech fits into the revolution because it serves as one of the ways to profit from the advances in technology. When facilities better and more quickly sort their municipal waste, they’re better able to recycle that waste into resellable components, and BurCell takes the organic portions of that (sorted or unsorted) municipal waste and converts it into various feedstocks and composts which can then be resold.
When AI connects facilities and enables options for receipt of that waste based on the highest bidder feature, we’ll all look for ways to turn waste processing into a raw material production operation rather than simply putting it in a hole.
What Comes first?
The point here isn’t to predict the future, but to begin to think about how technology will continue to connect us and help us make faster and better decisions for our businesses.
This revolution has happened in literally every other industry, and it’ll happen to ours too. If we become more of a supply chain in the future than a service industry it shouldn’t come as a horrible shock.
So what comes first?
The first thing will be that facilities begin to adopt tech like the BurCell system as a means to differentiate themselves, drive additional revenue, and offer an alternative to waste management. Then as the 5G and AI systems begin to come into the picture, those facilities who are BurCell partners or BurCell enabled will be in a position to capture new business and grow far faster than facilities who are reactionary or flat out ignore advances in technology.
It’s a brave new world for us all and Burcell Technologies especially.
If you’re curious about who we are, what we do, and how you can use a BurCell machine to resell municipal waste as a raw material rather than put it in a hole, let’s set up a time to talk and go over how we can partner to get your facility ready for the tech revolution and the new opportunities for profitability.