A sustainable business
is “any organization that participates in
environmentally friendly or green activities to ensure that all
processes, products, and manufacturing activities adequately address
current environmental concerns while maintaining a profit.” As
businesses search for ways to integrate green practices through their
processes and supply chains, we’re seeing a growing interest in using
artificial intelligence as a value driver.
ecoATM: Green Recycling of Electronic Products
ecoATM in Mission Viejo (Photo credit: G A R N E T)
The green impact is described as follows:
Almost all consumer electronics (mobile phones, computers, monitors, printers, etc.) contain toxic materials such as lead, mercury, arsenic and a broad variety of other materials that pose a threat to the environment and our health. The first and best thing we can do is to extend the life of existing devices as long as possible so that there is no need to build new devices to take their place. To this end, ecoATM is able to find a second life for approximately 75% of the devices we collect. The next best thing we can do is to responsibly reclaim materials from devices that are truly end-of-life. For the 25% of devices that ecoATM collects which we cannot find a second life, we partner with the best eWaste reclamation facilities in the world to ensure those materials, particularly the precious metals, are reclaimed and reused in place of mining new materials and precious metals from the Earth.
Most consumer electronics and mobile phones are retired when they still have about three quarters of their useful life remaining. Many of these products have been designed to last, but have been upgraded by consumers looking for newer features, performance or size. These used devices generally have value in another part of the market. However, the majority rarely find a second life because the reverse supply chains are not yet efficient enough to serve the market well. This value opportunity is precisely what ecoATM is working hard to serve. ecoATM encourages vendors and consumers to heed three basic principles of sustainability:
- OEM’s must consider the environment when selecting manufacturing materials and design the products for re-use.
- Devices must be used to the end of their functional lives.
- All end-of-life consumer electronics must be mined to extract any toxic materials and reclaim and reuse the precious metals.
The engineers designing ecoATM were faced with the challenge of creating an exceptional customer experience when implementing their Artificial Intelligence (AI) strategy to recognize consumer devices. Starting with cell phones as the first “device type” with the ability to expand to other consumer devices in the future, the goal of the AI strategy from ecoATM was two-fold: build up a database to recognize cell phones that exist in the marketplace today (an estimated billion recyclable devices are in existence), and have an efficient methodology in place to keep up with the onslaught of new cell phones brought to market by handset manufactures (a daily occurrence).
After evaluating both off-the-shelf and in-house approaches, ecoATM selected Neural ID’s machine learning capabilities as the core of this system.
Here’s what Mark Bowles says about Neural ID: “The real difference that Neural ID brought was a system that could almost infinitely expand to handle a huge database of objects, something that can’t be done with traditional machine vision, and the ability for the system to continuously learn and improve the more we use it.”
The rest, as they say, is history.