A Smart Autonomous Waste Collection System! - By : Louis Coté, Mario Dubois,

A Smart Autonomous Waste Collection System!

Louis Coté
Louis Coté Author profile
Louis Côté is a strategical adviser at ÉTS


In the context of its first edition of the International Summer School on Innovation and Technological Design held at École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) in Montreal during July 2015, a team of eight international students proposed an autonomous on-demand waste collection system adapted to an automated local transport system called “Serpentine”. This article will introduce you to the ÉTS Summer School and present their solution to the challenge of on request waste collection.

The École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) in Montreal organized and conducted the first edition of its International Summer School on Innovation and Technological Design, in July 2015. The 23  students (16 women, 7 men) came from partner universities and ÉTS. They were from the following 10 countries: Algeria, China (Hong Kong), Costa Rica, France, Germany, Mexico, Russia, Senegal, Singapore and Tunisia.

etudiants SS2015

The group’s first day in Montreal was hosted by a support team from ÉTS [Img 1].

The Summer School started officially with the “24 hours of innovation” international competition in which some challenges offered (6 out of 20 in the 2015 edition) were identified as eligible for the Summer School. Students who chose these challenges and had been selected for the Summer School then came to Montreal during the whole month of July for a crash course in which they tried to improve their project by learning the methods related to innovation and technological design. From the creative process in which the best ideas are brought to maturity, to rapid prototyping and 3D, up to the innovation process, the students have evolved in a multidisciplinary and intercultural context. In other words, the Summer School has allowed them to structure their approach to go as far as possible in the innovation process. This training was part of a three credit university course in engineering. In addition to the training program, many social and cultural activities were organized in the evenings and on weekends to allow students to get to know each other better while discovering the cities of Montreal, Quebec and Ottawa.

The students had the opportunity to learn from a team of eight teachers that included NASA’s chief scientist on human-centered design. Several lectures were given by companies such as UbisoftNexalogy Environics, GranTuned, Centech, Communautique and échoFab on the challenges of prototyping, Big Data analytics, innovation and entrepreneurship. They had the opportunity to experiment and implement, as early as the first week, their newly acquired knowledge in creativity by rising up to a real challenge proposed by the Mouvement Desjardins (a Cooperative Financial Group).

Design Desjardins1

The first ideation session held at Desjardins [Img 1].

 In response to this challenge, three teams of participants were formed and in a period of two days (about 12 hours), six solutions were presented! Three of them were selected by the Desjardins’ expert panel for possible implementation. Thank you Desjardins for this experience on innovation in the financial sector!

Design Desjardins2

The students’ projects were reviewed, discussed and assessed by a panel of experts from Desjardins, simulating the television show “The Dragon’s Den” [Img 1].

In addition to the Desjardins challenge, three significant challenges were proposed by the Office of Montreal Smart and Digital City, Stationnement de Montréal (Montreal Parking) and ÉTS professors Mohamed CherietVincent DuchaineRobert Hausler and Mathias Glaus. The professors were supported by ÉTS researchers. These three challenges have led students to design:

  1. a warehouse of products for a business similar to where robots are used to replace workers for repetitive and less attractive tasks (Vincent Duchaine);
  2. a mobile application to allow a motorist to easily find a parking space in a downtown area of a major city such as Montreal (Mohamed Cheriet, The Office of Montreal Smart and Digital City and Stationnement de Montréal);
  3. an on-demand waste collection system adapted to an autonomous vehicle named « Serpentine » (Robert Hausler et Mathias Glaus).


The Serpen-Bin team has contributed in improving and optimizing an “on demand” waste collection system. The challenge for this multicultural team (Algeria, Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Russia and Senegal) was to design an autonomous system that could also take into account waste selection and different types of recyclables. Instead of paying an annual fee for this service, customers would pay according to usage.


[Img 2]


[Img 3]

ÉTS professors Robert Hausler and Mathias Glaus have been promoting an automated local transport system called “Serpentine”. Small autonomous vehicles of 3.20 meters (10.5 feet) long and 1.40 meter (4.6 feet) wide can be grouped into train cars or used individually according to the users’ needs. They move at a speed of 18 km/h (11 mph) and can support a load of 350 kg (772 pounds).

A power system under the running surface allows data sharing, contactless energy supply and vehicle guidance. A management system handles requests and assigns the number of vehicles to the required task.


[Img 3]

The Serpen-Bin team project had to design a waste collection system suitable for the serpentine platform so that customers can dispose of their waste on request.

Students designed a six-step management process, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Serpen-bin process

[Img 2]

The customer calls the “Serpen-Bin” waste collection system (1) and specifies the type and the quantity of waste to be picked up.

waste disposal3

[Img 4]

The Serpen-Bin system sets the required number of vehicles and selects the ones located near the client (2). Two minutes after the call, (3) the vehicle stops at the customer’s location for the pick- up (4). The customer registers on an interactive screen using a membership card (5) and opens the vehicle’s door for waste disposal (6).

The system is simple to use and economical.


[Img 2]

The trap door unlocks when the customer registers on the interactive screen (step 5 of the process). After the customer drops the waste into the vehicle, the trap door closes automatically. A compacting system within the waste compartment ensures efficient use of space. A scale weighs the client’s waste for billing purposes. Sensors located inside the compartment will bring the compactor to a stop if an animal or a child, for instance, has entered the compartment.

waste disposal2

[Img 4]


Following the success of the first edition, the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) will provide another opportunity for Canadian and international students to join in the second edition of its International Summer School on Innovation and Technological Design in the summer of 2016!


[Img 1]

Louis Coté

Author's profile

Louis Côté is a strategical adviser at ÉTS

Author profile

Mario Dubois

Author's profile

Author profile

Field(s) of expertise :

Innovation Management 

Get the latest scientific news from ÉTS