It Takes More Than a Smart Sensor

Evaluation EngineeringBins are used to collect many different materials, ranging from waste oil and yellow grease to textiles in the form of used clothing deposited at local charity locations. SmartBin, a Dublin, Ireland-based intelligent remote monitoring solutions company, has combined the rugged UBi wireless ultrasonic sensor with the full-featured supporting SmartBin Live software platform. The result has been greatly improved efficiency for a large number of businesses with fixed or patterned operations, for example, companies that manage a large number of collection bins.

The UBi is mounted inside the bin under the lid and reports the container fill-level up to a depth of 3 meters, temperature, geo positioning, and tilt-level to the SmartBin Live platform. The sensor can be remotely configured to report these measurements once per day or more frequently as required.

As explained by the company’s Brendan Walsh, sales and marketing director, “It is predominantly the fill-level data that is offering companies huge collection cost savings by doing away with the traditional ‘milk run’ way of servicing containers.  Thanks to the SmartBin integrated route optimization capability, clients in 25 countries have optimized servicing of their container assets by only dealing with those containers that are full.”

Figure 3 is a typical SmartBin Live display with consolidated, color-coded bar graphs on the left showing the status of container groups at various sites. Using the Dublin North and Dublin South rows as examples, about half of the 25 containers at the north site are full and the remainder empty. However, of the 11 at the south site, two are part full, about half completely full, and the rest empty. The map on the right indicates locations with color-coded markers corresponding to sites that must be visited for collection, those that could be, and those that do not need to be.

SmartBin Live

Figure 3

Users can drill down to examine sensor performance data as well as greater detail about the statistics related to a particular site or bin. Walsh said, “Clients log in to the SmartBin Live online interface to view the fill-level of all container assets, generate their drivers’ routes for the day, and manage all container assets with a war-room style overview.” SmartBin Live includes a Plan My Route tab that calculates the most efficient collection route.

The UBi itself is a wireless cellular sensor powered by a 3.6-V C-Cell lithium thionyl chloride battery giving up to 10 years reporting life. Although only about 0.5 lb in weight, the UBi is protected by an IP66 weatherproof, noncorrosive HDPE shell ensuring it operates in the harshest of container environments. Fitted with an internal antenna, the UBi uses GPRS to report to the SmartBin Live platform over both 2G and 3G GSM. The data payload from the UBi is delivered to the SmartBin cloud via cellular towers in the vicinity of the container asset fitted with the UBi.

Walsh concluded, “SmartBin is not simply a sensor but rather a comprehensive solution that has been built around the capabilities of the UBi sensor. It is the SmartBin Live web portal that processes and presents the measurement data clearly for SmartBin clients, using precise algorithms. A dashboard providing an at-a-glance real-time view of how a client’s sensor portfolio is performing, a detailed collection route planning, KPI data, and both SMS [text] and email alert notifications are all part of a complete remote-monitoring solution.” 


Basic sensor technology exists for most physical phenomena. But by itself, a sensor can only determine a change in value. Appropriate compensation generally is required to ensure that the parameter being measured has caused an output variation rather than drift or noise in the sensor itself. Nevertheless, even if the sensor and its associated signal processing provide high accuracy, the information isn’t in a useful form.

A complete application solution begins with the user’s requirements expressed in his terms: Does he need to know how many servings of beer remain? Or, does he need to know when a bin is about to overflow? Or, is an innovative approach needed to avoid bed-sore formation? The sensor is a fundamental but small part of the overall system developed to address the application. The improved performance the solution provides is directly linked to how well the raw sensor output has been converted to actionable information.

Read the full article by Evaluation Engineering here.