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Firms Want to Take Out the Garbage With RFID

Routeware and Texas Instruments partnered to integrate RFID reading capabilities into waste removal systems. Garbage cans and dumpsters receive low frequency passive RFID tags that are read by antennas integrated into garbage truck arm lifts to record the pickup in an on-board computer.
May 05, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

May 5, 2008—Texas Instruments (TI) and Routeware are using RFID to add value to garbage. More specifically, the companies partnered to integrate RFID capabilities in Routeware's systems for the waste management industry to provide data to improve route operations, billing accuracy, and to encourage more recycling.

The new system includes low frequency RFID readers from Texas Instruments that are integrated into the automated arms on waste removal trucks. Passive RFID tags encoded with unique ID numbers are placed on garbage cans and dumpsters, which are read when the arm lifts the container to dump it in the truck. The data is sent to an on-board computer running Routeware's software, which can provide a variety of reports. (See Athens Garbage Collection Cleans Up with RFID for a profile of how a similar system works in Greece.) The RFID tags can also enable asset management applications for waste containers, which can cost up to $20,000 each.

"Recycling is a driving force for RFID in the waste management industry in the US market. In some areas, waste removal services offer consumers a credit based on how much they recycle," Rafael Mena, RFID business development and applications engineering manager at Texas Instruments, told RFID Update.

Incentive-based systems add accurate record keeping to route drivers' responsibilities. For example, when waste management companies offer customers discounts or credits based on how much material is recycled, the hauler must accurately record the number of recycling and waste containers collected from each stop on the route.

"Waste industry managers, operators, dispatchers, and drivers have told us that RFID is their number-one priority, and now they've got it. Looking ahead, we believe this technology will help transform the industry from utility provider to value creator," Routeware CEO Robert DeKoning said in the company's announcement.

In Europe, businesses and citizens are commonly billed for waste removal based on the amount of weight collected, according to Mena. RFID-enabled waste management systems are common in Europe and are one of TI's largest markets for RFID there, he said. TI has served the waste management market for more than 10 years and maintains a web page that details RFID applications for the waste management industry.

"The US market is starting to take off, but the penetration rate is still very low," Mena said. "There are a number of municipal pilots going on here, with maybe 10,000 households. We see strong growth potential."
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