An Increasingly Connected World

Richard Garfield, associate director for waste management at Amec Foster Wheeler, looks at service efficiencies and future-proofing when it comes to development in an increasingly connected world.

The internet of things. It’s all around us in an increasingly digital world where I could enter my house without a key, turn on the heating, monitor the fridge and turn on the washing machine all with an app, enabled by the development of superfast, reliable wifi and smart phones.

As consumers, we are becoming increasingly empowered by technology, but one service area that is so far lagging behind in this digital age is the environmental services industry.

In designing future urban environments, consideration should be made to both current service delivery and the ways in which services may evolve in future in response to technological advances.

When involved in concept work for a new garden town development I started to think about how the design and deployment of physical and digital infrastructure needed to be flexible to aid in future proofing, whilst still ensuring the delivery of existing service requirements. For waste collection we know that services have changed, for example the introduction of multiple containers for our recyclables and waste.

However, currently, planning for accommodating and servicing storage containers for waste and recyclables is only guidance and not mandatory. For such an essential service which protects public health and the environment this should be taken into greater account when designing for the future in mind, and with clear requirements incorporated into planning policy.

In designing future urban environments, consideration should be made to both current service delivery and the ways in which services may evolve in future in response to technological advances.

Following “dieselgate” and the recent UK announcement regarding the phasing out of petrol and diesel cars, electric vehicles will rapidly become commonplace, but while available now, we rarely see the deployment of electric environmental services vehicles.

Is it trust in this emerging technology or cost that is the barrier? It is a matter of time before electric powered RCVs emerge as a viable option, and as buy in increases costs will drop. Therefore the incorporation of vehicle charge points into new developments is one simple way in which forward thinking developers can be ahead of the curve.

The “Uber” Model

Development design should aim to support customer engagement and enable service providers to coordinate service delivery. Wifi enabled street furniture, connected to an extended wifi network, can allow services to be delivered effectively to an output specification, maximising efficiencies and cost savings.

Live access to service availability keeps consumers informed and empowered, and ultimately more satisfied. We are starting to see this in the form of apps which benefit both existing and new customers by enabling convenient access to service information.

The ‘Uber’ model of services on demand is becoming viable for examples such as commercial waste collections, supported by wifi enabled bin sensors taking the responsibility away from customers to report when a service is required.

Smart city principles need to be considered in service delivery developments, and the associated technology will slowly make its way out of the city environment and become common place in all areas, regardless of current communication blackspots

And we are starting to see service collaborations which are only possible thanks to digital technology. For example, smart energy and water meters are being read by equipment deployed on passing RCVs, and potholes are being recorded in a similar fashion.

These take advantage of the regular rounds of collection vehicles, and demonstrate how efficiencies can be gained by working together across services.

Smart city principles need to be considered in service delivery developments, and the associated technology will slowly make its way out of the city environment and become common place in all areas, regardless of current communication blackspots.

Sustainable best practices, linking community engagement and communications with streetscene enhancements using connectivity, all need to be delivered in coordination and with technology at the forefront if efficiencies are going to be achieved.

By providing infrastructure that embraces the internet of things, developments can start to support, and not hinder, service delivery.

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