I’m comparing what I think the future holds in store for waste to what I’m seeing in other industries, most notably construction, where telematics has gone in the space of a decade from a tool for knowing where equipment is, through knowing what it’s done or doing, to today where it’s evolving rapidly into the integrator of technologies that have been emerging in different systems—from initial site conditions; through the engineering stage. Thus we’re able to go from the site plan to equipment, personnel, and consumables staging; and then to the machines; all of them feeding data into office systems that assess them, develop information upon which decisions are made in an OODA Loop scenario.
While ConExpo showed attendees that technology is here to stay, it also showed that the bulk of the manufacturers recognized that their businesses depended not so much on iron as service in which telematics was a (if not the) critical element, and that their future success was increasingly dependent on their IT systems.
Many showed up offering remarkably similar telematics packages—three years free for the basic system—and while their customers will own their own data, the manufacturers will have broader and deeper access than most contractors, and thereby be in a position to offer a significant service.
To some extent, telematics in the waste industry has remained compartmentalized, in most cases involved with routing concerns. Awaiting attention is development of all-encompassing systems yoking data collection, assessment, display, and information management in a manner, mirroring air traffic control, only in this case for the collection, processing, diversion, and disposal of materials—in essence, curbside to diversion or disposal—with all the side features such as route, maintenance, and asset analysis and management, personnel aspects (crew rest and performance), and regulatory compliance.
To me, telematics is the enabling agent here and software the key to the cornucopia of riches that lie in the little 0s and 1s that are out there in the waste business, awaiting their harvesting and use. The big question awaiting answer is whether waste people are willing to pay for this.
My belief is yes. As the amount of materials going to landfills continues to shrink, dragging with it the revenues that have traditionally provided the funds for integrated waste management activities, the public will not likely suffer higher waste costs in silence, laying the burden on local governments to find ways to cut or at least contain those costs. Increased efficiency is crucial in meeting the challenge.