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As some generators opt to install onsite technology to help manage food waste, tech firms are continuously improving their offerings and expanding services.

For example, Chestnut Ridge, N.Y.-based BioHiTech Global Inc. is creating what it says is the first intelligent “chatbot” in the waste industry. BioHiTech Alto is an interactive industrial communication technology that allows users to communicate with industrial equipment in real-time.

“The most common example is the ability to interact with a smartphone to get information quickly and effortlessly,” says Frank E. Celli, CEO of BioHiTech Global. “The same model exists with Alto and our digesters, and as a result we are making our machines smarter while also making our customers and their businesses smarter.”

The company is no stranger to food waste solutions. The BioHiTech Cloud provides access to real-time waste data through the company’s Cirrus mobile analytics app. Additionally, its Eco-Safe Digester use data and analytics to help drive business decisions and divert food waste from landfills.

BioHiTech Alto will work in conjunction with the Eco-Safe Digester by enabling real-time interactive communication.

Waste360 recently sat down with Celli to discuss this new technology and how it will benefit the waste industry.

Waste360: How does the BioHiTech Alto technology work?

Frank Celli: With Alto our customers can use common English phrases to talk with the digester to request data or manage other aspects of the machinery. Through the use of this artificial intelligence, Alto was designed to enhance the user experience for our customers while simultaneously allowing us to gather information from our more than 400 digester locations—in 39 states and 14 countries—so we can see trends and also better understand customer needs faster.

Alto was designed using Amazon Web Services and Slack communication technology and functions through a secured internet connection on any computer or mobile device. It enables easy to understand, interactive communication that can improve overall performance of the digester, identify customer inefficiencies and provide immediate access to data that is used to initiate changes in parameters or maintenance routines.

Waste360: How will this benefit the waste industry in its quest to eliminate food waste?

Frank Celli: In our case, Alto streamlines communication by connecting our customers or technicians directly with the digester through common chat technology. This communication allows for immediate access to valuable data that can identify, for instance, inefficient behavior, excess waste generation and improper calibration.
Customers are provided with immediate knowledge of a particular location’s performance as it may compare to another time period or possibly other digesters installed in similar environments. Alto eliminates the need for human intervention in the analysis of performance and puts it into the machine’s hands. An example might be one digester communicating to a regional manager that food waste creation in a particular store is 50 percent greater per dollar of revenue than the other 100 stores in a chain. This type of data allows management to quickly take action and resolve the issue, leading to less food waste creation and lower costs.

Lately, there has been a lot of conversation about the costs of providing recycling and even suggestions that perhaps we should abandon our efforts due to the costly nature of processing material. While I agree that collecting recyclables and operating MRFs is an expensive and capital intensive process, and certainly end markets need to evolve, but should we just call it quits? Imagine the possibilities if Alto was installed on every baler or other piece of solid waste equipment around the country. Alto could allow balers to proactively communicate real time performance metrics to corporate executives and analyze inefficiencies in its own performance.

Maybe it’s bales per hour, straps per bale, or Kwh used during downtime. There are hundreds of data points in solid waste operations that could be analyzed and reported by using Alto to drive efficiency. Inefficient behavior—whether it is associated with people or machines—is expensive. If we can use emerging technologies like Alto to identify these inefficiencies in real time and create process improvements maybe we can reduce the costly nature of the capital intensive industry and continue to make the appropriate environmental decisions.

Waste360: Is it compatible with any other waste management technologies?

Frank Celli: While Alto is presently only compatible with the BioHiTech Eco-Safe Digester, what’s particularly exciting is our belief that it can extend far beyond our digesters and become an integral piece of technology for industrial customers both inside and outside of waste management and potentially scalable to millions of industrial devices across industries. We see the potential for this to have a global impact.

Waste360: How does technology impact the waste industry?

Frank Celli: We need to open our minds and embrace the emergence of technology in the waste industry. In order to meet the environmental and financial needs of the consumer, the development and implementation of technology that may not be an obvious application in the waste industry will be crucial.