On hearing about self driving vehicles being innovated in USA, I am reminded of the number of jobs that would get lost and the need for drivers to be retrained with other skills. Being in India, the concern for drivers increases more. At these times, I observe a a lot of resentment in my mind to engage with work on automation and AI related stuff.
I started to think the jobs that needs to be automated. While reading article A day in the life of a sanitation worker, I started to look at the initiative “Smart cities” of Indian government and some large IT firms, I found that Smart Cities features had no mention about management of waste, garbage or toilets or sewage.
Prior to listing some potential scenarios, where Indians can leverage automation based innovation to create better life for fellow Indians, I want to start with question on the dependence of robots on power and whether robots are resistant to work with water.
Hearing robots can work with industrial waste made me assume that robots already have capacity to work in sewage water. May we need robots to work on batteries. Already heard of Elon Musk promise to build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery and may be we need to ask Elon whether innovation in batteries would support use cases around sewage, toilets and waste management. Here they are.
Management of Waste Collection: The maid who collects waste from our homes every day. She picks wet waste and dry waste. if resident has failed to separate waste as wet waste and dry waster, maids at times ends up separating the same. Can process of waste collection on daily basis be done by a robot?
Here, a apartment utility robot goes to every apartment floor and collects dry waste and wet waste in large waste drums and then moves the waste drums from all floors to ground level via elevator and dump waste in in waste collection place for apartment.
The moment I started to think of robot to replace the maid, my mind started to ask whether it makes sense to have robot at home that collects waste from human, identify waste as dry or wet and will be responsible to segregate waste at point of waste generation. On daily basis, waste robot would go and drop waste to the common bin in the in morning. The intelligence for waste collection robot can be updated on daily basis based on intelligence available at sites like Zero waste management.
In addition, all cities have major garbage dump where wastes have been collected for years and these needs to be cleared. Can robots be deployed to clear Garbage dumps? We can have large community robots that can be deployed for segregation to enable effective waste management. Let us remind that community robots can work non-stop for hours and days without break. They look at waste materials present in garbage dump, identify waste and segregate waste. The waste that can be sold are disposed of by community robot connecting with appropriate buyers of the same. The garbage robots can be operated and trained by human rag-pickers to segregate waste. May be example of human-machine collaboration to clear garbage dumps for cities.
Maintenance of Common Toilets : Most Indians complain that toilets present in public or private places are not clean or have limited water. I find that cleaning of toilets even in private offices is neglected job. Another good area to introduce robots. Robots can ensure that toilets are cleaned and are present in close to dried state round clock. In addition, robots can ensure that lights function in toilets and track usage of water and take care of replenishing water in tanks. The stretched goals for the robot is to reduce water consumption, while still maintaining cleanliness.
Humans are engaged in two activities related to sewage and it is time that both these activities gets automated by robot. The cleaning of open drains, septic tanks and sewage is activity that is still prevalent in cities and that needs to be automated.
Robots need to be able to read map of underground sewage pipe structure to understand entry and exit points and also turnings. Once, robots has trained in the area, robot should be able to jump in man-hole and clean blockages. Robots should be able to work on battery mode and also is water. as it might not be able to have electricity all around.
On other hand, I observe that research has started, as mentioned in articles below. May be times for Indians to start to leverage robotics and AI to solve local problems.
- Combine robots, big data, &AI to upend the way municipalities water pipes work
- Why an MIT robot is collecting poop from our sewers.
- Pittsburgh’s Little Sewer Robot Will Collect Big Data
- Robotics, AI to come handy in waste management and garbage handling
- This Recycling Robot Uses Artificial Intelligence To Sort Your Recyclables