Published on January 30, 2017

A technological beacon for a more sustainable world

By Massimo Getto, Vice President and CFO Viasat Group

Can waste become a profitable activity rather than an expensive burden and create new, unexpected opportunities for environmentally friendly economic development and “green”, quality job opportunities in the process? Is it possible to curb improper or illegal practices, making legal alternatives attractive and affordable? Datamove, a Viasat Group company, was born with one objective in mind: to build a bridge between waste management and green economy. We have observed the status quo and identified innovative, unconventional solutions combining growth, employment and environmental sustainability, to help create a more usable ecosystem. In our world, the cost of inefficiency in this sector is going to grow higher and higher, both in economic terms and in terms of sanctions, one of the constant objectives of our work is to offer simple and user-friendly tools to make virtuous behaviors more convenient, thus favoring them. By using the IoT (Internet of Things), a network of devices and sensors that communicate with each other and all together with a Central Operations Center, it is possible to help municipalized companies to increase their efficiency and reduce costs, thus helping cities become greener by reducing carbon dioxide emissions, among other things. Let us imagine a situation in which each garbage bin destined to receive our waste is equipped with a sensor, capable of transmitting data such as position and percentage of filling. And there is more. What if, by gathering enough data about the habits of citizens who leave their waste in a specific bin, a predictive model could be developed allowing to plan vehicle missions in advance? That being the case, these simple data, turned into information, would allow the waste disposal company to plan its activities, choose the most suitable vehicle for each mission and organize routes and itineraries rationally, saving time and reducing atmospheric pollution at the same time. In addition, by consciously and thoroughly using these technologies, municipalized companies can reduce their operating costs by up to 40%. This efficiency is reflected in the collection costs and consequently in a lower expenditure for citizens. But once again, there is more. Through a simple App, citizens can monitor and verify the level of service of the waste collection company. This allows them to know when garbage bins have been or will be unloaded and check the activities of street and urban park cleaners. By using their smartphone, they can inform municipalized companies regarding the disposal of bulky waste, take and send a picture to the company employees in a matter of seconds. It will then be possible to send a suitable vehicle, keeping the time spent by bulky waste on our roads to a minimum. The IoT even allows garbage bags to transmit useful data. If every citizen had garbage bags personalized with an RFID tag, whenever a bag is placed in the collection bins or loaded onto the garbage truck, we would be able to read the tag and associate it with the citizen’s personal data. This technology would allow for an accurate, verified pricing of the collection service. We could pay according to what we consume and not based on parameters which are not directly related to the production of urban waste, such as the size of the house in which we live or the number of people who live there. As a CFO, I have been in charge of evaluating corporate investments for many years now. In my experience, no other investment has ever had returns so fast, consistent and able to bring significant positive externalities to everyone involved, as those of the companies that have chosen to invest in the IoT and in the analysis of large amounts of data with the right technology. 170 billion dollars: in the years to come, this will be the cost of the growing (70%) urban waste generation on a global scale, the World Bank calculates. This cost is destined to increase, with a potential impact on society in Italy and Europe as well. However, risks can often turn into opportunities. This is the case of what we have described above, in which positive externalities are created for all the subjects involved.

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