E-Waste, the 'smart' clinical waste management system
Institutional Communication Service
27 September 2021
Almost two years after the project was launched, the E-Waste hospital waste tracking system developed by USI in collaboration with Ente Cantonale Ospedaliero (EOC) and Valbenne SA, and supported by Innosuisse, is ready to roll. In recent weeks, the system has in fact passed its first testing phase at the Ospedale Italiano in Lugano, and the system is planned to be deployed at all public hospitals in Ticino from autumn 2021.
How it works
The E-Waste system - a first in Switzerland - tracks clinical waste in real time, provides greater assurance that it is disposed of correctly, and optimises the disposal process and administration through information gathering. The tracking of the containers used for the collection of this particular type of waste is based on Internet of Things (IoT) technology, in particular by equipping them with RFID (radio frequency identification system) antennas. The process begins when the clean containers are delivered to the hospital. When they are subsequently picked up for delivery to different departments in the hospital, an automated system keeps track of the destination department. The filled and sealed bins are then taken to the hospital storage room where the operator weighs and records them, using a special weighing station. Finally, the bins are picked up by a specialised waste management firm and transported to the disposal facility. The transport vans are also equipped with the tracking system and are able to automatically register the bins once they have been loaded, thus making it possible to track their position during the journey, their arrival and deposit at the waste management firm's storage site, and finally to the cantonal waste disposal plant.
Initial testing phase
In recent weeks, the first testing phase of the system was successfully completed at the Lugano Regional Hospital (Ospedale Italiano). "The feedback we have received from the hospital operators is very positive", says Gianmarco Beti, head of Valbenne SA. "In particular, this first phase of testing has shown how a system of this type can optimise our work, with the clear prospect of automating the various administrative processes involved and better planning the various stages of waste transport". The subsequent testing phases will continue until the end of the project, scheduled for the end of November 2021.
Technology and expertise "Made in USI"
The E-Waste project is led and developed at the USI Faculty of Informatics by Alberto Ferrante, a researcher at the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence (IDSIA USI-SUPSI), and Marco D'Ambros, director of CodeLounge, the R&D group of the Software Institute at the USI Faculty of Informatics. "Automated waste tracking allows not only to make operations more efficient and less subject to error, but also to build a data history that can support decision-making," explains D'Ambros. "The 'raw' data describing the history of each container is aggregated against different criteria (department, type of container, type of waste, etc.) providing an overview of the process and allowing trends, patterns and optimisation possibilities to be identified". Ferrante adds, "the technologies used allow operators to keep all phases of waste management under control, without a major impact on previously adopted working methods. During the testing phase, great attention was paid to the comments of the operators in order to improve their experience in using the system and to provide them with tools that would make their job easier rather than make it more difficult. Given their final comments, we believe we have succeeded. Now, building on the experience gained over the past few months, we are working on a second phase of testing, which will be extended to other EOC facilities".
Providing secure and real-time tracking
For the facilities where the new technology has already been introduced, the Ente Ospedaliero Cantonale can now guarantee real-time and complete tracking of its hospital waste, starting from the delivery of the sterile containers, to their distribution among its hospitals in the region, and finally to the monitoring of the exact location of its waste delivered to Valbenne SA. Fabio Scardino, head of the EOC safety service, says "this new management system will allow us to be reactive and precise about the collection and disposal of medical waste at all times. The system will also allow us to make targeted and precise statistics on quantities, comparisons between institutions and locations, and to keep a check on quantities and costs".
In the coming months, operational testing will be progressively extended to the other EOC sites. This will allow the collection of further data and feedback to further refine the system. At the end of the project, Valbenne SA will be ready to industrialise the product and bring it to market, based on the advanced prototype developed during the project. The EOC, as a project partner, will continue to benefit from the technology developed within the project and supported by Valbenne SA.