Integrating RFID technology into Waste Management operations

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Courtesy of Waste Advantage Magazine

What would you do if you knew of an innovative technology that could be implemented throughout many waste management processes? One that could improve the efficiency of your hauling fleet and staff, help reduce pollution and return higher profits? Well, it’s here and if you haven’t already considered it, now is the time. With significant advancements realized over the last several years, radio frequency identification (RFID) is finding its way into a greater number of transportation and logistics operations, including many in the waste management market.

While the early hype about how RFID would transform the supply chain and make out-of-stock problems a thing of the past has been quieted, many industries and markets are now adopting RFID-enabled solutions to create a competitive advantage. Over the past few years, it has been recognized that organizations wanting to improve efficiencies, enhance customer service and decrease operating costs can benefit from implementing autoidentification and sensing technologies like RFID.

Most of us are familiar with RFID being used for the identification and tracking of assets. RFID technology is deployed throughout many industries for just that— identifying valuable assets and reporting their last “seen” location. Of course there are many practical uses of RFID for tracking assets within the waste management market including locating missing or stolen containers, but the value offered by the combination of ruggedized ultra high-frequency (UHF) RFID tags and in-vehicle RFID readers doesn’t end there. By RFID-enabling hauling vehicles, trash and recycling bins, and their facilities, waste management companies can automate customer billing data entry, streamline recycling programs, and provide many new and enhanced services to customers. Further, the integration of RFID with complementary technologies like GPS, cellular and telematics systems can, among other things, improve route planning and real-time vehicle efficiency monitoring.

A Technology Evolved
So what’s different now versus the years of the Wal- Mart RFID mandate? Of all RFID and sensing technologies available, the performance of UHF Passive RFID (the same technology mandated by Wal-Mart in 2003 and now rolled out to support their retail floor inventory management) is advancing phenomenally. Consider the following: the read range of passive UHF RFID tags has quadrupled in past few years, read rates have increased from 200 to 1,200 tags per second, and read accuracy is near 100 percent. The cost of Passive RFID tags has also decreased by a factor of five over this same period.

As the market evolves from the use of one-size-fits-all RFID readers toward highly integrated solutions, diverse RFID reader form factors becomes more important. Today, small UHF RFID modules are being embedded into mobile devices and a variety of stationary RFID readers are available for enterprise, commercial and industrial environments where high-performance in a wide range of operating conditions is required.

More interesting than any standalone technology, is the integration of multiple identification and sensing technologies into a single device or solution. Combining RFID, GPS, GPRS, cellular, Wi-Fi and other technologies will allow everyday objects to deliver valuable data that can be used for a myriad of new applications. Similar to the widespread integration of GPS into today’s commercial and consumer positioning solutions, RFID can transform markets and is a natural extension to many waste management operations. Consider the following examples.

Automation of Time-Sensitive Processes
One of the most significant benefits that can be realized by RFID-enabling a waste management operation is process automation. For example, with RFID readers integrated into trash hauling vehicles and RFID tags applied to trash bins, many data collection processes can be automated. This process results in reduced data entry and reporting costs as well as more timely and accurate customer billing. By providing real-time data, RFID systems can also be used to enhance vehicle efficiency monitoring and improve route planning.

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