This blog was written by GreenQ and IBM Alpha Zone Accelerator team

The Internet of Garbage

Even though smart city technologies address various verticals and use different platforms to gather, analyze, and transfer data, they all have one thing in common — heavy duty data volume. A dynamic habitat such as a modern city generates a substantial amount of data on a daily basis.

GreenQ is a company engaging in smart residential waste collection, by installing hardware on waste collection trucks without installing sensors on the bins. With every lift of a waste bin, the sensors on the truck measure the amount of garbage inside the container (bin capacity) and monitor the time and location of the pick-up.

Data is analyzed and transformed, in real-time, into recommendations for process optimization simply based on what has been “learned” from the collection procedure. You might call it IoT waste management, GreenQ calls it IoG — Internet of Garbage, bringing sensors and big data analytics to residential garbage routes so municipalities can reduce expenses, reduce emissions, and provide better services to their citizens.

While the young, smart waste management company started serving more and more clients, the volume of the data increased and the computing power they needed grew. It grew up to the point where they needed to maintain the servers frequently to make sure their customers were getting current valuable information based on the most current local waste production status.

The question GreenQ’s developers had to answer was about the most efficient way to use their platform, especially during the drastic increase in data volume, as well as maintaining the same, or an even better level of service for their clients.

Since their smart city waste management technology is set to send information to the server on different timings, only when the truck lifts a trash can, it seemed reasonable to use a service that can handle temporary high data rates while also not costing too much during idle times. To help solve this issue, GreenQ applied to the IBM Alpha Zone Accelerator with the mission to build a robust waste management solution. During the Alpha Zone program they realized that the answer for scalability and variable computing power demands can be found in IBM Cloud Functions, an on-demand serverless platform. Instead of spending valuable time on designing and maintaining a multi-server scalable architecture, IBM Cloud Functions will handle it all for them. IBM Cloud Functions provides GreenQ with the best due to the application execution logic, developer tools, and modulation.

For example, each lift of a waste bin by the truck is considered as an event, or trigger, sending data to the core of the system. In response this data is being analyzed and inserted into the database which is known as the action. IBM Cloud Functions provides a programming environment supported by a REST API-based Command Line Interface (CLI), along with tools to support packaging and handful catalog services.

The following illustrates the entire architecture of GreenQ’s solution leveraging IBM Cloud Functions:

The entire solution is based on a device which collects information regarding every waste bin pickup. The information which is being collected includes: time, location, and bin capacity. The raw data regarding every pickup is encapsulated in a file which is transmitted via sFTP to the IBM Cloud while the truck’s location and status is transmitted using MQTT to the Watson IoT platform. Every file and every MQTT message being uploaded to IBM Cloud triggers an IBM Cloud Functions action. For instance to insert information into a MySQL database and to start ongoing monitoring algorithms that create alerts. The analyzed information regarding the waste collection is stored in the database, while every API call or UI access triggers an action fetching the relevant data from the database, analyzing it, and making the information available via an API or UI.

To conclude, smart city solutions that must maintain a high level of service to their clients profit more from the unique approach of IBM Cloud Functions. A smart waste collection provider such as GreenQ can now be sure that they are working in a smarter and more efficient way without having to handle scalability and computing power issues.

Why did we choose this architecture?

  • Choosing IBM Cloud Functions released GreenQ form the need to take care of high availability and scaling in order to be ready for peak performance.
  • Another major benefit that is especially important for young startups is the fact that with IBM Cloud Functions you need to pay only for actual usage. You do not pay anything for idle time or for the time the system is not being used.
  • Another major benefit that is especially important for young startups is the fact that with IBM Cloud Functions you need to pay only for actual usage. You do not pay anything for idle time or for the time the system is not being used.
  • Using IBM Cloud functions enabled GreenQ to focus on the proactive engine logic and benefit from all the IBM Cloud Functions built in capabilities like events and periodic execution
  • Using Watson IoT provided GreenQ with a built-in support of MQTT standard protocol for IoT data transfer. Watson IoT comes with a built-in support for rules, so the data could analyzed during its transfer and only exceptional measurements could trigger actions in IBM Cloud Functions.
  • IBM Cloud Object Storage was chosen as a repository for images of the bins, and with Watson Visual Recognition these images could be analyzed and trigger actions on IBM Cloud Functions when an exception is detected – for example when a wrong colored bin was collected.

When building this architecture we referred to Serverless Code Patterns, this is a great source of information that helps you quickly start developing and coding your solution.

About GreenQ

GreenQ, a young innovative company, established in 2015 has a clear goal of bringing efficient technology to the waste management space. Their strategy is to create sustainable and efficient cities, we enable a better quality of life. GreenQ platform collects real-time data on the waste pickup process, without any need of manual activation, Hardware is installed solely on the garbage truck and eliminates the need for adding sensors to the bins. They design an advanced technology to meet the needs of municipalities, collection vendors, and system integrators.

About IBM Alpha Zone Accelerator

IBM Alpha Zone Accelerator is a 20-week program, helping startups to build leading solutions for the enterprise market. The program focuses on post Seed & Round A funded startups with aim to create long term technology and business partnership with IBM worldwide.

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