Hackaday Prize Entry: The Internet Of Garbage

The Internet of Things is garbage. While the most visible implementations of the Internet of Things are smart lights that stop working because the company responsible for them folded, or smart thermostats that stop working because providing lifetime support wasn’t profitable, IoT could actually be useful, albeit in devices less glamorous than a smart toaster. Smart meters are a great idea, and so is smart trash. That’s what [mikrotron] and company are entering into the Hackaday Prize – smart trash cans – and it’s not as dumb as spending $40 on a light bulb.

The idea behind the Internet of Trash is to collect data on how full a trashcan is, and publish that data to the Internet. This information will be used by a city’s trash collectors and recycling agencies to know when it’s time to collect the garbage.

The hardware for the Internet of Garbage needs to know how full a can is, and for that the team has turned to an ultrasonic sensor pointed down into the garbage. The amount of trash in a can is pinged once a day, and the information is sent over the Internet via a GSM network. Additionally, the GPS coordinates and a unique ID are delivered to the server, with everything ultimately powered by a solar panel.

The future of the Internet of Things isn’t putting Twitter in a coffee maker, it’s all about infrastructure, whether that’s power, solar freakin’ roadways, or the trash. We’re glad to see a useful application of a billion smart things, and the Internet of Trash makes for a great Hackaday Prize entry.

32 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: The Internet Of Garbage

  1. It has also been recently claimed that “Smart Lights” are really very dumb because due to all of the add-on circuitry they can be as inefficient as an incandescent bulb.

    As for smart trash cans, I expect that soon we will have self driving Tesla trashcans that take themselves to the dump when they are full, and can use the methane coming off the decomposing trash to power themselves. Then again I could be talking garbage.

    1. You got a source for that? Not disputing it, just failing to find anything when searching. [seems smart lights can refer to low energy lights, when I suspect you are talking about IoT color change/dimming/timer lights]

      1. I’m pretty sure ‘smart lights’ means the IOT junk. He’s not talking about normal LEDs.

        Remember, the WIFI enabled LEDs are using energy just polling your router for commands. I’ll keep the old fashioned switch on the wall.

        1. The actual current draw is not that much higher in practice; those chips are really efficient.

          However, if you use your lights for 2 hours a day, and switch them off by remote; they are still drawing half a watt (complete guess, I don’t have accurate or precise enough power meters to test.) for the remaining 22 hours.

          If you keep them off by mains most of the time, and just use the color features when they’re on – they’re not significantly more power hungry than ‘normal’ LED bulbs. As for the other situation… efficiency goes down with number-of-on-hours-per-day. And I may be grossly wrong about the idle power consumption (in either direction.)

          More facts required.

        2. According to wikipedia Smart Lighting is energy saving lighting (eg. using sensors to turn it off when nobody is present).

          Phillips describe their Hue as a “wireless lighting system”.

          So naming is a complete mess – everyone here probably assumes Smart X = X with microcontroller/wifi/whatever, but naming ambiguity is always a plus for new technology.

          Philips Hue (ZigBee powered) uses 0.5W in standby. So compared to the 9.5W active power consumption that is high, though compared to a 100W incandescent it looks better.

  2. Humm, it’s a good idea and a bad one. Good because it can save fuel in the garbage trucks by not having to stop to pick them up but bad for a few other reasons. If you have multiple bins for the same rubbish, they would need to be load balanced. People tend to just keep sticking stuff in an already full bin and not think to use the empty one next to it. Also you would need to have some sort of sensor to detect decomposing matter. One dead fish in a bin that doesn’t get used much could sit around for a long time and really stink up the place. However, in times of increased activity this system could be handy to alert the depo to send out additional trucks.

    1. What about a temperature sensor, on a cold day even fish won’t stink much, but on a hot day any garbage is nasty, have a ratio between temp and load, the higher the temp the lower the load threshold for emptying.

  3. I agree that commercially available IoT is garbage because, at its very core, the only motivation is profit. If people would stop buying things like “smart” light bulbs and thermostats that aren’t completely open source, we wouldn’t have that problem. It is my opinion that we, as consumers, need to let the manufacturers know that it’s their job to manufacture the physical products and ours to provide the software that runs it.

    1. Doesn’t work. The software embedded into the hardware is a fundamental part of the hardware. Even if you manufactured blank bulbs with a jtag port, those are never going to be useful to 99.999% of customers. And a manufacturer would never do it, because the first person who sets their bulbs on fire due to exceeding part tolerance – will sue the manufacturer for negligence.

      The problem with the Zigbee bulbs is that the stock software has bad failure-mode assumptions. In the case of a brown/black out, the bulbs come back up to default brightness – bad at 3am. When someone forgets and turns off the mains, most of the bulbs have no way to inform the controller they’ve gone down and come up, so there’s no status-update and resync. And the lag time is enough that the whole thing is pretty unwieldy even in cases where it does work.

      Needs: Stateful bulbs. Two way communications. And highly efficient controller chips.

      OR, we just fit sensible LED lighting to our houses with real wired controllers, thereby getting rid of the interference problem, increasing efficiency, etc etc. But there’s no good standard for that. Zigbee bulbs are a solution for the case of retrofitting, but frankly we should be designing houses with better lighting and power solutions anyway. If only we had some sensible standards and legal obligations to enable that.

      1. No good standard for that?
        Might I suggest taking a look down the electrical aisle at your local hardware store or home center? Look for anything made by Leviton. There are all kinds of power outlets ans switches that work perfectly for controlling LED lighting. The standard has been established has been in place already for the better part of a century. It’s just too low tech for most folks in this crowd to appreciate. :D

        1. No.

          Leviton is a company, not a standard. All their smart home stuff is ‘Zigbee and Z-Wave’, the wireless retrofit junk that doesn’t work right.

          Putting in a light switch and a bulb, is not ‘better lighting and power’. I’m talking about increasing efficiency throughout the home with a cohesive set of new technologies. I’m talking about centrally controlled, WIRED lighting that is designed to maximize light across a room. Effective insulation and efficient heat pump designs. Low-power electronics. Integrated wired networks between appliances and computers; and wireless networking that is designed based on the layout of the house and how if impacts on the relevant parts of the wireless spectrum. Local energy storage to enable an intelligent power grid and off-grid operation.

          There are bits of all of these technologies around, but there are few standards, and they’re only ever applied to the houses of the rich. I.E. The people who can afford not to be efficient anyway because they have the resource control.

      2. I see your point but I don’t agree. All the manufacturer would have to do is throw the source up on GitHub with a disclaimer and term acceptance during the build process that absolves them of any responsibility relating to damages.

  4. Another company already doing this in 25 countries:
    You might think of using a waterproof ultrasonic sensor!

    Smart waste collection works best for specialized waste, such a clothing banks, glass, waste oil etc. where lorries travel long distances between each ‘trash’ can. Dollar savings to the companies is what drives this technology.

  5. How quickly HaD goes from “this is the future of everything” to “dumb old colored lightbulbs”. Reminds me of my weather app that is convinced it is going to rain every hour of the day…until it doesn’t.

  6. HP would be king! HP printers are packed with goodies. None of which are printing related. If I hit print page, nothing will happen. But if I go to the printer, I can check the ink, and even get it to print me a report saying the ink is low! I can get it to give me print outs of comics! Even Forbes! But my initial document? Print status? Even acknowledging my computer? Nothing.
    I noticed that if the print head goes you have to ship it back to HP to get it fixed.
    Riddled with software issues, bad hardware design, but loaded with touch screen stuff, and stuff that might be worth building off. If someone could take an HP printer and make it a good printer, that would be something.

    HP doesn’t think printers should work for the user anymore. But they will do anything but!

  7. I sense a false economy with this device.
    In my neighbourhood, the garbage is collected on one day a week. in another community it is collected on another day.
    Sending a truck out whenever a bin is full would require trucks in every community everyday.

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