Internet-Connected Food Waste? The Internet Of Every 'Thing'
Development and Innovation The mechanical stomach: using Internet of Things technology to divert waste and reduce carbon footprint.
There are a few sectors that come up time and again when talking about the Internet of Things (IoT). People talk about home automation through devices such as smart thermostats. They talk about intelligent vehicles and public transportation. And they talk about energy infrastructure and the Smart Grid.
It’s important to remember, however, that the potential applications of Internet of Things technology extends to, well, pretty much everything. One of the most compelling success stories of a Canadian company embracing IoT technology lies in the perhaps surprising sector of food waste.
The Orca is a 'mechanical stomach' developed by Toronto’s Totally Green Incorporated. It takes in organic food waste from restaurants, grocery stores, and other businesses and then converts them biologically into water and sewer-safe compost. Having an Orca on-site not only saves businesses money by eliminating the need for waste pickup and disposal, it also diverts a large amount of waste from landfills and reduces the methane load on the environment.
Since 2007, the Orca and Totally Green have been successfully helping their customers across Canada and the United States increase efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint. But where does the Internet of Things come into this?
Information breeds efficiency
A waste-composting device might seem an unlikely candidate for Internet connectivity, but the people at Totally Green were able to see the potential. They recently teamed up with Rogers to add IoT technologies to the Orca, incorporating sensors and cellular transmitters.
Eric Simmons, the General Manager of IoT at Rogers, explains: “We put sensors into the machine to be able to wirelessly track the waste levels, whether the machine was too dry, whether there was the right amount of bacteria and whether there were any mechanical issues. Now they can diagnose all those things remotely and proactively manage their service.”
“The waste industry can benefit from greater transparency, and IoT is the mechanism that can deliver that.”
Besides increasing Totally Green’s service efficiency, this also opened up a new revenue stream by allowing the company to offer an ongoing managed solution to their customers. “You quickly start thinking about the benefits these technologies can offer the customer,” says Shawn Dym, CEO of Totally Green.
“The IoT technology makes our service as seamless as possible for the customer. The other aspect is that, because we are dealing with food waste and many customers have multiple sites, the technology allows our customers to look at the metrics and see which stores are generating the most waste or the least waste. They can then use that information to change their processes and maximize efficiency.”
A custom end-to-end solution
When Totally Green first realized the advantages of bringing IoT technology to the Orca, they started looking into various ways to go about implementing it, from off-the-shelf technology to a homegrown solution to an end-to-end partnership with a company like Rogers.
“The complexity of the specific solution for the Orca meant that it had to be a custom solution,” says Simmons. “There was nothing on the market to enable them to do what they needed. Rogers has a network of more than 250 partners it works with to develop and deploy IoT solutions for its customers. When it came to Totally Green’s IoT solution for Orca, for example, BlueRover was instrumental from conception through development and deployment.”
As for the possibility of building a custom solution in-house, Dym says they quickly decided it was not the best way forward. “Our skill set and our R&D efforts are all focused around the diversion and recycling of organic waste. Our strengths lie in those areas, not in software development. So, rather than try to bring on those resources, it just made sense to use credible third party experts.”
This partnership between Totally Green and Rogers, who were recently awarded the 2015 Market Leadership Award in IoT from global analyst firm Frost & Sullivan, is showing us that there really is no domain that lies outside the reach of the Internet of Things. And Dym is confident that this is just the beginning for IoT in waste management. “The waste industry can benefit from greater transparency,” Dym says, “and IoT is the mechanism that can deliver that.” This technology is one that has the ability to transform every industry in unforeseen ways.