By 2025, the world’s urban areas will be producing 2.2 billion tons of waste per year. By 2050, nearly 70% of the world’s residents will live in urban areas. Our waste challenge is increasingly an urban challenge, meaning that we can have the greatest chance to create lasting, positive change by working with our partners in city government to end waste, in all of its forms.
This all means that we will see major demands on infrastructure, not to mention the natural environment, in the coming years. Cities need more efficient and circular practices to meet these demands — and we are ready to put our technology into action to help meet these challenges. That begins with our work outfitting the cities of the future with sanitation and recycling systems that are responsive, in real-time, and enabled with smart technologies that help to drive proactive government service.
The term “smart city” has become synonymous with visions of an urban environment redesigned and reimagined with a vast network of interconnected systems of roads embedded with traffic sensors to reduce jams; power grids that both feed electric vehicles and are fed by the portable batteries of those same vehicles when not in use; and systems to track public health indicators in real-time. In the face of the COVID-19 public health pandemic, the need for smarter cities has only become more and more clear to leaders and citizens alike.
Rubicon, a software company that provides smart waste and recycling solutions for businesses and governments worldwide, has a vision of a smart city that includes advanced technology to deliver city services proactively, rather than reactively, and now — in the face of this global health pandemic — remotely. Every mayor is ultimately judged at the ballot box on his or her ability to deliver basic necessities to citizens — necessities such as public safety and education, clean streets and, most importantly for us, getting the trash picked up on time. Yet most cities are always behind, caught in an endless loop of reacting to citizen complaints instead of proactively addressing broader quality of life concerns before they become crises. Rubicon sees a better way.
Rubicon’s mission is to end waste, in all of its forms, by helping our partners find economic value in their waste streams and confidently execute on their sustainability goals. Cities need more efficient and circular practices to meet these demands, which is why we customized our technology to create an action-oriented data collection platform for municipal governments and city leaders to better run their operations.
RUBICONSmartCity™ transforms city-owned sanitation and recycling fleets into roaming data collection centers, enabling municipal solid waste fleets to collect valuable data to improve core operations and monitor city quality of life conditions. This “two for one” approach means greater efficiency, taxpayer savings and better community outcomes.
The results speak for themselves. After the city of Montgomery, Ala., installed the RUBICONSmartCity technology suite in 80 sanitation vehicles servicing 67,500 residential and commercial customers, Rubicon uncovered potential savings of $375,000 each year — recurring savings that represent tangible taxpayer dollars. Rubicon’s data showed that while the city’s current routes were well organized and efficient, the city might be able to reduce the number of routes that it runs overall.
Similarly, Rubicon’s data showed that just 10 trucks were responsible for 75% of critical fault codes. In addition, a single truck was responsible for 23% of all critical fault codes fleetwide. These truck fault code insights can be used to improve the city’s truck maintenance program by providing diagnostic information that was previously unavailable, again leading to significant potential taxpayer savings over a longer time horizon.
Through its partnership with Rubicon, the city of Montgomery earned a coveted Smart 50 Award, a program that annually recognizes the 50 most transformative smart city projects across the world.
Or consider the city of Norfolk, Va. After implementing the RUBICONSmartCity software to reduce missed garbage collections, the city saw a 58% reduction in citizen calls relating to missed garbage collection compared to the prior year. This reduction translates into cost savings of up to $17,000 per year, solely in 311 operator costs.
Once installed, municipal drivers use the RUBICONSmartCity suite as they drive their routes. The technology tracks data points, such as vehicle location, route completion and service confirmations for waste and recycling vehicles, without the need for radio-frequency identification devices. Additionally, the technology enables drivers to complete a fully electronic pre- and post-trip inspection for every trip they make.
The technology empowers drivers to relay issues along a given route, simply by tapping a button on the in-cab interface’s app. The list of potential issues includes blocked or overflowing containers, contaminated recycling bins and illegal bulk waste, among many other possibilities. RUBICONSmartCity also monitors key metrics related to truck condition and driving behavior, including tracking thousands of fault codes, as well as idle time, hard braking and speeding instances.
In the city of Spokane, Wash., the solid waste collections team was struggling under the weight of running a large, complex operation of more than 100 heavy-duty vehicles and 150 people almost entirely on paper. City staff filled two full boxes of paper records each week, requiring them to store these records in a separate storage facility, adding another line item to the budget. In all, the city was spending a staggering $25,000 a year in printing and paper costs to print paper route sheets.
“A great deal of time was spent on manual processes, which was creating a strain on our resources,” said Erica Jacobo, senior continuous improvement analyst for the city of Spokane.
Rubicon helped to transform Spokane’s Solid Waste Collection operation from a paper-based solution to an entirely digital one. “The savings in printing and paper costs alone are in the thousands of dollars per year, plus we’re reducing our environmental footprint,” explained Jacobo. The city’s operation is leaner and more efficient, while also providing improved customer service to its residents.
Rubicon is currently looking for local government partners to pilot its next-generation technology for improving public works departments and their municipal waste and recycling collection fleets, street sweepers, snowplows and other vehicles. For more information, visit www.rubicon.com/smart-city/.