How to Choose Fullness Monitoring Sensors in 7 Steps

23 April 2019 Admin Leave a comment Blog

A fullness monitoring sensor can help you optimize your business or municipality’s waste management program, but choosing the right sensor can get confusing. Industrial sensors come in many shapes, sizes, and styles. When you compare quotes from different manufacturers, you may be comparing apples to oranges.

Should you go with the most affordable option or select a platform with hyper-advanced technology? Do you know how to eliminate the worst choices so you can narrow things down to the viable options?

Here are seven criteria for finding and choosing the right fullness sensors for your waste bins.

1. Reliability and Durability

Industrial-grade sensors operate under harsh conditions. Powerful storms can fill up rubbish containers with water. Snow, ice, and sleet can coat the sensor. Corrosive chemicals can splash onto it from items tossed into the dumpster. You need a rugged sensor that won’t blink out when exposed to less-than-ideal conditions.  An IP67 rating or above is a good choice because it means a sensor is protected from dust ingress and can stand water up to one meter in depth.

Sivan Cohen, a civil engineer and business development professional working in the Internet of Things, wrote in Sensors Mag, “To ensure that the instrumentation is appropriate for its intended purpose, look for proof of compliance with quality standards such as IP68 / NEMA 6P for waterproofing and independent certifications such as HazLoc for explosive environments.”

Not only should a sensor be durable, it should also be reliable. While random failures due to age or general wear-and-tear can happen with any product, the most reliable sensors come from manufacturing facilities that maintain strict testing and quality control systems. Established companies usually have a good track record. As with any technology product, waste management sensors that come with a solid warranty tend to outperform their less expensive counterparts.

Communication Technology

Traditionally, Internet of Things sensors used 2G or 3G cellular networks for data transfers, but these are getting phased out now in favor of more modern options.

Unlicensed LPWANs such as LoRa and Sigfox can communicate over long distances and do so at very low costs, with low rates of power consumption. Licensed LPWANs like NB-IoT are more expensive but operate at higher data rates and at about the same communication distances. Cellular technologies like 4G and 5G operate at even higher rates, but cost considerably more.

The best choice depends on how much data you want to send and how quickly. Need it in real time? You want 4G or 5G cellular. If it’s not urgent, you can go with a low-cost unlicensed LPWAN. In general, we recommend sticking with 4G cellular or a licensed LPWAN.

Power Optimization

Since A/C power supplies are not always handy near industrial rubbish bins, most sensors operate on batteries. The rule of thumb is that a sensor’s battery should last for 10 years. That’s dependent, however, on local network quality and the number of transmissions the device makes every day.

Batteries are easy and inexpensive to replace. Most sensors just use AA or AAA batteries you can pick up at the local department store. As industrial Internet of Things devices, waste management fullness sensors make use of ultra-low power consumption technology have short wake-up times that maximize their battery life and minimize the need for maintenance.

Installation Options

Most sensors attach to the disposal bin’s lid. In many situations, however, an industrial container will have no lid, the lid will be flipped open, or it will have been removed. In these cases, the sensors need to attach to the side and still be able to provide accurate measurements from that angle.

Sometimes, this approach requires an external mounting bracket, which is not ideal because it means the sensor will take additional hardware and time to install, which increases overall costs. That’s what makes overall flexibility so important when choosing waste management IoT technology. The best sensors have full compatibility with a wide range of compactors and machines. They have in-built and external panel installation options, the capability for customized programming, and the ability to scale deployments up or down as needed.

Additional Hardware

Having the option to add additional hardware is helpful. Sensors typically work by emitting and receiving a sonar pulse that determines the distance between two objects—in this case, the lid and the top of the trash inside the container.

Edin Golubovic, an IoT and smart cities expert, delineates the problem with the current situation: “Trash is non-uniformly distributed inside the container. Simple distance measurement leads to false fill level measurement.” Additional hardware such as a tilt sensor or a device that can determine if the lid has blown open can help reduce the chances of a false data report. 

Control Interface

Dr. Sabrie Soloman, Founder, Chairman and CEO of American SensoRx, Inc., defines industrial sensor controllers as “computers of some type that receive information from sensors and from internal programming, and use this information.”

Purchasers need to know what kind of controller interface and switching logic they require. Do you need PNP (sensors that source positive power to the output) or NPN sensors (sinking sensors that sink ground to the output)? Do you need NO or NC or dark or light switching state? These are good questions to ask your account manager or sales representative when you are looking into purchasing waste management fullness sensors. 

Price Options

Finally, choose a sensor that comes at the right price for your needs and budget. According to researchers at ennomotive, “The cost of sensors is drastically reducing. In 2004 the average cost of sensors was $1.30 and in the year 2020, it is expected to come down to $0.38. With the decrease in the cost of sensors, now we can collect more data and can make more intelligent decisions at a lower cost.”

Of course, the right sensor for you may or may not come at that price, but you should think through your budget, needs, and the benefits of each option before you buy.

Sensa Networks provides one of the best fullness monitoring solutions on the market. Their sensors offer remote monitoring control and diagnostic information. All this is managed through an innovative web-based remote monitoring platform that can be accessed by multiple stakeholders throughout your organization. All data is provided in real time and is accessible 24/7. Sensa Networks’ products are trusted by brands such as Wal-Mart, Target, Lowe’s, and WasteManagement. Learn more about how Sensa Networks can help you today.


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