1. Smart systems according to plan: Intelligent containers

Smart systems according to plan: Intelligent containers

Not only software but also hardware is available as open source: The Open Logistics Repository contains the blueprints for an intelligent fill-level sensor for recycling containers and an autonomous transport robot used in palette handling. Closing loops, improving environmental footprints, setting standards: Smart waste management with the ITCPRO fill level sensor, the blueprint of which has now been published as open source.
© Open Logistics Foundation

Hardware is also published as open source in the Open Logistics Repository – from the sensor to the robot.

When companies launch innovative products on the market, they usually protect them with patents, trademarks and copyrights so that other companies, especially competitors, cannot use them. Open source hardware ends this monopoly of utilisation: The blueprints of the products are made available to third parties as open source. “Generally, when designing such products, it is important that they are simple, robust and inexpensive to produce and can therefore be quickly reproduced by other companies”, says Jens Leveling, Head of Technology from the Open Logistics Foundation and Lead Software Architect at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML. “Ultimately, both hardware and software are about creating standards in the industry that benefit all market participants.” In addition, companies can also use the blueprints to create their customised solution based on the standard products, which they can then utilise commercially.

Intelligent containers

The Rhenus Group and the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML, both members of the Innovation Community of the Open Logistics Foundation, have now also taken this step: They have published the components of an intelligent sensor which can recognise the fill level of recycling containers in the Open Logistics Foundation’s Repository. The ITCPRO fill-level sensor has been on the market since 2020. Rhenus Data Office, a subsidiary of the Rhenus Group, developed it together with the Enterprise Lab of the Fraunhofer IML. The company specialises in customised disposal solutions for all types of files and data carriers. The aim was to ensure that files and documents were disposed of per the requirements. Components of the universal hardware platform Sensing Puck were integrated as part of Fraunhofer’s Silicon Economy large-scale research project, funded by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport.

The sensor does not only recognise the current fill status but also reports when a defined mark is reached and automatically triggers the collection process. This ensures the bin is neither overfilled nor collected when only half full. This innovation makes the security risk of overfilled bins a thing of the past, especially important for confidential data, given the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements. Sustainable logistics and economic thinking go hand in hand here: thanks to the ITCPRO, empty runs can be eliminated, and collection runs can be planned more efficiently. The latter are reduced by a total of 30 per cent.

Smart technologies like these also can potentially change waste disposal logistics as a whole. The Rhenus Group now wants other companies to benefit from this as well: By publishing the ITCPRO level sensor source code for reading and processing the sensor information and the reference implementation of compatible hardware, they will also be given the opportunity to become more sustainable. “The ITCPRO sensor represents a valuable contribution to reducing our CO2 footprint; as an innovative developer, we want to make this resource available to other companies too”, says Dr. Stefan Peters, member of the Rhenus Group’s Management Board and Chairman of the Open Logistics Foundation. Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Michael ten Hompel, Managing Director of the Fraunhofer IML, adds: “This technology will change disposal logistics in the long term. By publishing the components as open source and open hardware, we’re increasing its potential effect and, in the end, everybody will benefit from this.” This publication enables any interested company to build on the developments achieved, utilise them and develop them further according to their specifications.

The source code to read and process the information of the ITCPRO level sensor and a reference implementation of the corresponding hardware, the so-called Sensing Puck, are available in the Open Logistics Repository.
Click here for the level meter tour planning software: https://git.openlogisticsfoundation.org/experimental/levelmetertourplanning
The sensor hardware is located here: https://git.openlogisticsfoundation.org/silicon-economy/devices/sensing-puck

This article was published in the third edition of the Open Logistics Magazine. You can read the entire magazine and register for future editions here.

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Jens Leveling

Head of Technology

Open Logistics Foundation

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