How Bigbelly Evolved from a Waste-Management Firm to an IoT Company

The fast-growing business hopes to leverage a piece of vital urban infrastructure—the public waste bin—into a tool for deploying smart-city applications.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

Bigbelly has seen significant growth in recent years, and now has more than 1,500 customers, including municipalities, colleges and universities, transit systems, parks, beaches, health-care facilities, corporate campuses, retail and mixed-use companies, ports and government facilities worldwide. It sells a subscription service by which trash-collection agencies (either third parties or municipal collectors) can lease bins and subscribe to the CLEAN software through a software-as-a-service model. Alternatively, the bins can be purchased outright and be bundled with a software contract.

Smart-City Bins?
Because Bigbelly and Smartbelly bins are self-powered and extremely energy-efficient, the company is pitching them to city planners as ubiquitous, distributed, small power plants that could be used to operate additional sensors, which would enable a wide variety of smart-city applications. These sensors could be employed for such applications as tracking footfalls (information that can help planners understand traffic flow and thus design more pedestrian-friendly infrastructure), monitoring air quality or noise pollution, and installing wireless modems for offering free Wi-Fi.

Jack Kutner
"We are unique because we occupy a place on the street where you already need trash collection," Kutner states. Hence, additional applications could be built on additional sensors added to and powered by a bin, without the need for new infrastructure or, thanks to the solar power, tapping into the electrical grid.

According to Kutner, Bigbelly is currently in discussions with several cities regarding how they could leverage the bins for a number of applications. To date, however, none have yet been announced.

"Our perception of the IoT or smart cities means having real applications solving real problems," Kutner says. "The connectivity that Bigbelly offers is an accelerator to that. We feel it roughly doubles our value proposition [to cities]."

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