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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

SeedSpark makes a fixed reader that can be attached above a truck's hopper. The device comes with a GPS unit and a cellular radio. Each week, the tags are read as the bins are lifted to the hopper. The reader captures the data on the tag, including the address and the unique ID, and writes an update to that tag indicating that the cart has been emptied. That data, along with the GPS location information, is then sent to the server via the cellular connection.

The WISTAR reader firmware is programmed to recognize only the unique ID numbers that are part of the WISTAR system. In that way, other EPC UHF tags that might be in an individual's trash—such as RFID price tags removed from merchandise that the person has purchased—will not be captured.

SeedSpark's Chad Jenkins
Initially, the technology was used to simply confirm that containers were distributed properly and (for trucks that have been fitted with RFID readers) emptied each week. However, waste-management companies have been finding other uses for the collected data. For instance, many are interested in using historical data from truck readers to determine when and how quickly containers are being picked up, and where vehicles are being delayed. In that way, dispatchers can better determine each truck's route.

The latest version of WISTAR will offer a route-optimization feature that will identify the route each truck takes, as well as when the containers are picked up and how the trucks should be reassigned for more efficient routes. The system will also enable users to ascertain when an additional vehicle might be needed, or is unnecessary.

In addition, the software can be set up to issue alerts if an address is overlooked, or in the event that a repair has not been made within an expected amount of time.

Approximately 25 percent of Schaefer's container customers are currently employing the WISTAR system, Jenkins says. This includes using the trucks' onboard readers to capture data about each container tip, as well as any other required asset-management information.

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