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Fighting COVID-19: Meet Ally, A Smart Dustbin That Enables Handsfree Collection Of Hospital Waste

Fighting COVID-19: Meet Ally, A Smart Dustbin That Enables Handsfree Collection Of Hospital Waste
WHO recommends best practices for safe management of health care waste
New Delhi: 

Ally, an interactive dustbin which follows voice commands and moves along predefined paths autonomously in a controlled environment to collect waste. It has been developed by the researchers at Punjab's Lovely Professional University (LPU). The smart dustbin can be installed in hospitals and medical centres dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and is likely to help in contactless waste collection and disposal, say researchers. This innovation is particularly helpful for the frontline-healthcare workers as it creates A safer environment for them, owing to the highly contagious nature of the COVID-19 virus.

The research team, including B. Tech. third year students Prabin Kumar Das, Vanka Vinaya Kumar, and KM Vaishnavi Gupta, along with Professors Rajesh Singh and Anita Gehlot, have informed that their prototype has successfully conducted its trials within the university.

We have included a sensory system in the dustbin that checks the current level of garbage in the dustbin, and initiates the disposal procedure once it is filled up to a predefined threshold, one of the researchers, Professors Rajesh Singh said.

Ally the dustbin, stands tall at three feet and is 1.5-feet-wide. It performs contact-less waste collection by opening its container's flap automatically, Mr. Singh said. It can move to the disposal centre on its own, dispose the waste and get ready for reuse, he added.

He said that the researchers have used Raspberry Pi, which is a credit-card sized small computer and Atmega 2560, a low-power micro-controller, in the dustbin. 

After performing the collection of garbage, the dustbin returns to the predefined home position on it own, Mr Singh says. 

Lovi Raj Gupta, Executive Dean of Science and Technology, LPU said, 

In the current situation, we believe that a smart dustbin can play a crucial role in collecting waste and leftovers, especially from sensitive areas. Quarantined rooms for instance, where appointing a human worker for waste collection and disposal may expose them to a deadly infection.

Mr. Gupta also says that Ally can be easily activated thanks to voice command. 

If the medical staff wants some garbage to be collected, they just need to say, 'Ally, come to bed number 18' and the dustbin responds immediately. Using its indoor mapping algorithm, Ally will follow the voice command and move to the respective place, he claimed.

Ally has been conceptualised and developed under the aegis of the USD one million fund set up by LPU to help combat the outbreak of COVID-19, the researchers said. When it comes to the costing of the smart dustbin, the researchers said,

The prototype costs Rs. 20,000, but the team is now looking for industrial partners for its commercialisation and expects the price to drop by almost 25 per cent.

The final product is expected to be ready for deployment within two months, after getting industrial partners.

According to WHO, there is no evidence that direct, unprotected human contact during the handling of health care waste has led to the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. But it recommends that best practices for safe management of health care waste should be followed. This includes assigning responsibility and sufficient human and material resources to dispose of such contagious waste safely, the researchers said. 

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