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Sonrai RFID-Enables Its Trash Compacters

Retailers can use the RFID tag reads as a final data point indicating goods have been received and put out on the sales floor.
By Beth Bacheldor
Oct 17, 2007Sonrai Systems has a legacy of trash. For more than 40 years, the company's trash compactors have helped retailers around the country control and dispose of waste, as well as separate trash, recyclables and hazardous materials. But Sonrai Systems doesn't provide simple compactors—it equips them with sensors to monitor specific conditions, such as how full a compactor is and when service is needed. Now, the firm has added RFID capability so retailers and other companies can track tagged goods at the end of the supply chain.

Sonrai Systems, based in Lombard, Ill., worked with the University of Arkansas' RFID Research Center to develop and test an RFID interrogator antenna. The compactor leverages an EPC Gen 2 RFID interrogator integrated with Sonrai's Trash Tracker, a patented monitoring control panel. Interrogator antennas mounted inside the compactor can now read a box's tag the moment it is thrown into a compactor, and each tag read can be used as a final data point indicating goods have been received and put out on the sales floor.

The tag reads are passed along to Trash Tracker, which incorporates a programmable logic controller (PLC) program that aggregates them so companies can maintain a record of any RFID-tagged boxes that have been discarded. That data can then be integrated into a back-end inventory system, if needed.

Trash Tracker can collect data from a variety of sensors that monitor volume, weight, a compactor's electrical systems and other operations. Logic and rules coded into Trash Tracker generate actions, such as triggering an e-mail alert if waste in the compactor has exceeded the device's capacity. That could indicate a retailer's recycling service provider has not conducted a scheduled pickup, says Anthony Romano, Sonrai Systems' VP of marketing and sales. "We [Romano and Chris Flood, the company's owner and COO] both drove trash trucks, so we know the shortcuts that can be taken. Sometimes the driver will just skip a pickup and plan to get it next time."

Trash Tracker communicates the RFID data to a server via a wireless, Ethernet or analog connection, depending on a customer's requirements. This information can also be accessed via a Web-based interface, enabling companies to view the data and the status of any compactor, as well as determine fullness, the most recent service date, the next service date (based on usage) and the current operating effectiveness.

A national retailer—which Romano says he is unable to identify, as per the company's request—is currently testing Sonrai's RFID-enabled compactors. The retailer is in the process of implementing RFID to track incoming goods and inventory, and would use the RFID data collected as boxes are discarded as a data point indicating goods have been received into inventory and stocked in its stores.
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