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Municipalities Use RFID-based WISTAR to Take Out the Trash

The passive UHF RFID system, from SSI Schaefer and SeedSpark, is enabling several million carts to be tracked each time they are emptied or repaired.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 08, 2015

Several years ago, waste management container company SSI Schaefer Systems Int. Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of the Schaefer Group, introduced its RFID-based Wireless ID Scanning, Tracking and Recovery (WISTAR) system to enable its customers to track their waste containers more easily after they were distributed to homes and businesses. WISTAR consists of embedding RFID tags in the Schaefer containers, as well as offering a Web portal where customers could access and manage information regarding their assets, based on the collected RFID data. The solution was co-developed by SeedSpark, which provided the RFID technology and cloud-based software to manage the read data.

Since that time, more than two and a half million of Schaefer's RFID-tagged carts have been put into service throughout the United States and Canada. Customers are now looking at ways in which they might expand the solution's functionality, such as automatically determining when each vehicle's route needs to be readjusted to make it more efficient.

SSI Schaefer Systems embeds a UHF RFID tag in each container's left handle during manufacturing. When the company receives an order from a city for a specific number of RFID-tagged carts, it encodes the city's name to the memory of each cart's tag, along with the date and other details.
The first deployment was a small pilot project launched in 2007 in Las Vegas, says Maria Frizzell, the sales and operations VP of Schaefer's waste technology division. Since then, WISTAR—a full solution with hosted software—has expanded into several major cities, including Dallas, Texas, as well as Tampa/Hillsborough County and St. Petersburg, Fla. In fact, St. Petersburg has the largest deployment, with more than 550,000 RFID-tagged containers.

As municipalities, counties and other customers adjust to the system's functionality, they are beginning to identify ways in which they could do more with it. "Customers are asking for more granular search abilities," Frizzell says, "as well as tools to manage their work-order requirements post-deployment of the carts." That includes not only identifying what is being picked up daily, but also determining ways to make routes more efficient.

The initial challenge for using RFID, according to Chad Jenkins, SeedSpark's president and CEO, was to find a way for data to be captured and viewed in the field (in other words, in front of a consumer's home), with or without an Internet connection. The result is a system in which data is both written to the tag and stored on the server.

With the WISTAR system, Jenkins explains, a SeedSpark UHF RFID tag made with an Alien Technology Higgs4 chip is embedded under each container's left handle during manufacturing, where a cavity in that space protects it from the weather, as well as tampering.

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