Smart Cities need a Bigbelly!

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For those of you who don’t understand the title, Bigbelly is a solution for smart cities and smart campuses. It started as a waste management solution for cities and has grown into so much more. I was attracted to Bigbelly because of the way they took the common trash can and made it a critical part of smart city infrastructure. Are you wondering how this company has revolutionized waste management for municipalities? Then listen to the podcast and read on.

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I was fortunate enough to have Leila Dillon and Joe Ryan of Bigbelly on the show and ask them how the company evolved. While the smart city seems like a revolution, it is because of companies like Bigbelly that it’s become an evolution of what was once possible to what is not possible.

I became aware of Bigbelly when reading about street furniture for small cells. You may not know this, but the Bigbelly solution started as a common trash can that had value add capabilities like trash compactors that were powered by solar panels. It has grown from a garbage can to something that can compact trash to hold more than 5 times what a normal trash can could hold. But wait…… there’s more!

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How did they become an essential part of the smart city evolution? They have taken the trash can and made it a valuable part of the smart city ecosystem. Wondering how? They had the solar panels and the trash compactors which is one way. Then they evolved it into the IOT realm and monitored the trash levels in the cans so that the city knew when to empty them, keeping the streets clean and not going to that trash can any sooner than they had to. This saves time and money and allows the trash cans to be emptied before they overflow keep the street clean and beautiful.

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How did they evolve into a small cell solution? Well, when they found out they could do all of the above, then they evolved again. This company is run by smart and innovative people. They added room for a small cell, offered advertising on the sides and could even put digital signage on the boxes. They are cool!

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That’s where Leila and Joe come in. Leila is the VP of North American Distribution and Global Marketing, and Joe Ryan is the VP of Advanced Technology. Both were very pleasant to talk to, and I learned so much about how Bigbelly kept innovating its business, products, and solutions into a critical part of the smart city solution. In fact, I would add that it’s an important element of the infrastructure and should be considered when laying the groundwork for city improvements. Any new smart city planning should include this solution.

I reached out to Leila because I was so interested in new ways to deploy small cells in the city. When I reached out to Joe and Leila, I learned that Bigbelly offers so many solutions for so many departments in a city.

Joe went into detail about how the Bigbelly solution has been evolving. They can not only monitor all their units, but they offer a solution to waste management for real-time monitoring as well as holding 5 times the trash than a normal waste solution. It expanded to adding value add solutions like hosting a small cell. This is a great piece of furniture for the smart city.

Let’s answer some questions!

  • What is a Bigbelly station?
    • It’s piece of street furniture that is a waste management solution as well as a host of Wi-Fi, beacon products, sensor products, and even small cells.
  • How does it handle the waste?
    • It’s a trash solution that offers a compactor feature to hold 5 times the trash of a normally sized waste solution.
  • How does it add to the smart city solution?
    • Lots of ways! It will offer real-time monitoring of waste in each
    • It has a solar option that will power the unit without adding power.
    • It offers a host for small cells, Wi-Fi, beacons, and sensors.
    • It has a GPS solution so that you know each unit’s location.
  • Where is the value?
    • It’s more than just a piece of street furniture. They are in areas where the people are, the foot traffic, any public area. This is always going to be where the people are, and the people will want more, like Wi-Fi, they need that as well.
    • The real-time monitoring of data around waste offers a solution to track what is happening in that part of the city. It’s another data analytics solution so that you can optimize the efficiency of trash collection.
  • How is it a smart city solution?
    • It plays into the infrastructure that is needed for a smart city not only in waste and data around waste but the shelter for getting broadband to where the people are, and it looks good all at the same time. Attractive and valuable for any smart city.
  • Can they add anything else to this solution?
    • Of course, location beacons, small cell solutions, and as new technology comes out, we have a place to put it where the people are.
  • What about zoning and permitting?
    • It helps to streamline the permitting process because this is something that the city puts in, the city wants this, and the city wants to get as much out of this as possible.
    • Understand that the city is paying for this solution, they want It’s not like the carriers who are fighting to deploy small cells, the city may or may not want the carriers to mount them around the city. Cities need waste management, and they want to use this as a solution for more than just waste.
  • Any other notes?
  • Are there any out there being used?
    • Of course, over 40,000 are deployed! The chances are good that you have used one if you ever spent time in a city or university.
  • How would this benefit a smart campus?
    • The school can use the data collected to study and research what is happening right there on their campus. It’s a great solution where they could add IOT immediately to collect the data in real-time. It creates a learning solution for colleges.

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I enjoy hearing smart people talk, and this is one of those interviews where I could sit back and learn so much about how creative people think and where they take their ideas. This company is a lesson in evolution. Taking waste management, which every city needs, to a point where they can compact trash to fit 5 times the amount of garbage in one box, then make it solar-powered Then add in Wi-Fi. Then collect the data using the backhaul and uploading to the cloud using an IOT solution, then adding in small cells and more radios as well as offering to advertise on the box itself. WOW! What’s next? I would not be surprised if they had plans to build a teleporter to add to the box so they can remove the garbage remotely. I know it’s not real, but I would bet they are already thinking about how to add it if it were.

Leila Dillon is the VP of Global Marketing and North America Distribution for Bigbelly and has been since 2014. She does a great job explaining how Bigbelly can help the cities go beyond waste removal to collect data analytics and provide solutions that go beyond waste into small cell and Wi-Fi and advertising to provide the city with revenue streams. The street furniture is more than a solution for the city but a solution for all the residents and companies that want to do business with the city as well.

Joe Ryan is the VP of Advanced Technology for Bigbelly. He’s been there since 2015. He has found ways to house high-tech solutions and to use IOT as a conduit for the data analytics that Bigbelly can provide with its waste management solutions. Joe is a brilliant guy that provided cloud solutions for the data and included Wi-Fi in their solutions. It only makes sense because the Bigbelly are where the people are and today people want Wi-Fi everywhere.

Bigbelly was found in 2003 with the intent to transform the waste collection industry into something efficient for cities. Their mission statement is at, and they understand that smart city solutions are critical for every aspect of the city, not just the IOT department. They know that IOT solutions should be included. They know that evolution of their industry is critical for the smart city. So, to quote their site, “Today, we are a multi-purpose platform for building smarter cities. We are uniquely positioned as a public right-of-way platform that delivers Smart City solutions and hosts communications infrastructure. The Bigbelly solution is deployed in communities, campuses, and organizations in over 50 countries. We transform operations, drive efficiencies, increase productivity, and improve quality of life.” Really, what more do you need to know?

I hope you learned that we need to think outside of the box. The Smart City evolution is happening in more ways than anyone imagined, opening up new possibilities to improve our lives. I think it’s great!

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