Fill it or empty it better with cloud feedback
What do vending machines and garbage cans have in common? Â They both are in public places; they both need a regular visit, to fill or to empty them; and there are lots of them. Â There are companies now that will add sensors to them, and use cloud computing services to keep them serviced.
Cantaloupe Systems was founded in 2002 Â to modernize theÂ vendingÂ machine business with communications. Â They provide vending machine operators a device to install inside a vending machine to communicate every transaction the machine performs. Â The data is sent over cell phone data networks to Cantaloupe’s data centers, allowing operators to schedule visits to the replenish the machines exactly when needed. Â The company claims their customers average $35,000 in annual savings per delivery route, Â reducing their fuel use (and their carbon footprint) by 40 percent by eliminating unnecessary truck travel and removing excess product from the trucks. Â The data they gather also allows the vending operators to make better choices about products to stock, based on which are selling best in each location.Â Â Cantaloupe now monitors 40,000 machines nationwide, with thousands more machines coming online each month. Â They raised $12m in venture capital this month to finance more expansion.
BigBelly Solar addresses a mirror-image problem: Â how toÂ efficiently remove what people put into its machines. Â BigBelly makes a garbage can for city streets that contains a motorized compactor, so that it can receive more trash between visits to empty the can. Â It powers the compactor from solar cells, so it doesn’t need an electricity connection. Â It also uses sensors to detect and transmit how frequently it is used, and how full it has become. Â A cloud computing service records the data and schedules trash collections. The combination of compacting and just-in-time collection saves a lot of fuel and labor; Philadelphia estimates a 70% reduction.
A significant upside to both systems is that breakdowns and problems are detected much quicker, leading to better service. Â When a vending machine or garbage can detects a malfunction or stops sending data altogether, the operator is notified immediately and a repair can dispatched at once. Taking corrective action even before a complaint is made can save everyone headaches.
What other containers come next? Â Propane or water tanks for rural homes and businesses? Â Postal drop boxes? Â Porta-johns? Â Feel free to speculate in the comments below.