Garbage in, data out: Enevo gets funding for its smart waste services

The internet of things — the scenario where everyday items are equipped with sensors and pumping out data — still feels largely theoretical. However, it’s bleeding into reality, often in rather prosaic ways. And you don’t get much more prosaic than garbage collection.

One interesting company dabbling in this field, Helsinki-based Enevo, just picked up €2 million ($2.6 million) in funding from Finnish Industry Investment and Lifeline Ventures. The money will be used to help Enevo push its cleantech services across Europe and into North America.

Enevo CEO Fredrik KekalainenEnevo isn’t the only company working on smarter waste management, but rivals (such as BigBelly) are largely trying to sell more intelligent bins. Enevo, on the other hand, is a services firm that provides sensor units to waste management companies for free. The unit (pictured in the hands of CEO Fredrik Kekäläinen) measures variables such as volume and temperature within the bin, then sends the data back to Enevo via GPRS. The company then uses that data to dynamically optimize collection intervals and routes for its customers.

The intended result? Fewer overflowing bins and fewer pointless journeys to empty bins that are barely full. In the trillion-dollar industry that is waste management (according to Lifeline), that adds up to a pretty big deal. According to Kekäläinen, Enevo’s existing 10-or-so customers are already saving 30 percent on direct waste logistics costs.

Kekäläinen told me on Wednesday that Enevo has started mass production of its sensor units (using a Finnish manufacturer “to make sure it’s really high quality”) and is recruiting salespeople across Europe. The company has deals with municipalities across Scandinavia and is setting up a pilot project in Canada. It’s also in talks with the big bin manufacturers to try get the sensor units integrated into their products.

All in all, it’s a simple idea that can produce tangible results – cost savings for firms and greater efficiency and environment-friendliness for communities. As such, it’s a pretty good example of what we’re hoping to see come out of the much-hyped internet of things.