By 2030, almost two thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities. This requires the development of sustainable solutions for urban living. Efficient and energy-saving street lighting and traffic light systems, water and wastewater management, reducing CO2 and vehicle exhaust emissions—these are just a few examples for the demands of future cities. The efficient use and responsible handling of resources becomes much more important, too.
These trends support the development of Smart City concepts, which are intended to improve living in urban areas by using innovative technologies. The “Internet of Things” provides new opportunities for making cities smarter. Parking guidance systems can help reduce gas emissions, as cars are guided directly to free parking spaces. Intelligent and flexible automation solutions are the basis for such approaches.
MOBA Mobile Automation AG, a company based in Limburg, Germany, opted for sensor technology from Pepperl+Fuchs when they developed their Smart Waste Management System. This solution enables garbage containers to report automatically that they are full.
What might sound unrealistic has already become reality within Barcelona's Smart City Project. Garbage containers transmit signals to indicate that they are over 80 percent full and should be emptied. Via the mobile communications network, the signals are sent to a web-based software application used by the waste management company.
In the software, the capacity of the container is visualized in a traffic light system, which is taken as a basis to plan the best route for waste collection—garbage trucks travel only to those containers that actually need to be emptied.
MOBA‘s waste fill level measurement device is based on ultrasonic technology. A robust ultrasonic sensor is installed in the waste container and detects the fill level regardless of what has been deposited inside. MOBA particularly appreciates the reliability and intelligence of Pepperl+Fuchs’ ultrasonic sensor in this solution. It automatically adapts to changing surfaces and different kinds of waste.
Measured data and sensor information are regularly transmitted to the cloud via the mobile communication network. For this, the fill level measurement device is equipped with a SIM card. The advantage: existing telecommunication networks can be used for data transfer.
Maintenance, service and diagnostics are also possible via the cloud, sensor data is monitored online and fewer on-site services are needed. The sensor consumes very little power, and the lithium battery of the measurement device lasts up to ten years, making it an energy-saving, durable solution.
By introducing the Smart Waste Management System, Barcelona has taken a key step towards becoming a Smart City. The targeted waste collection saves time, money, and fuel and also reduces exhaust gas emissions and noise levels for local residents. MOBA assumes that garbage truck tours can be reduced by 30 %. There might be more cities benefitting from this system in future—twenty other countries are currently testing MOBA’s Smart Waste Management System for rollout.
This application is an example of the type of intelligent sensors that are becoming more and more popular. Such sensors deliver a differentiated image of reality and can transmit this image in real time via web-based communication. This is not yet Industry 4.0 but a real piece of Sensor Technology 4.0.