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Preventing Extra Waste at the Gate

Westminster, Massachusetts uses RFID to manage gate access to waste transfer station

Opportunity: better access control to waste transfer station at lower cost

As federal and state environmental regulations have closed small landfills and recycling rates have climbed, waste transfer stations have become important to hauling trash economically by consolidating loads before hauling to regional landfills and other facilities. While this approach saves communities money on the labor and operating costs of transporting the waste to a distant disposal site, the Town of Westminster, Mass. wanted to further their efficiency by automating resident access to their transfer station. The principal challenge for Westminster was confirming the identity – and, thus, the municipal residency – of individuals entering the station. Specifically, controlling the expense of non-resident access was important. While Westminster knew they wanted to track usage and were interested in RFID technology, they were less certain about how to automate gate access and link gate activity to the Town's records. Westminster turned to Pss for help in reducing facility gate staff with an automated system. Pss, as an integrator of hardware and software for hospitality, retail, warehousing and other industries, had an application suite called MOBILeTY, which was a strong foundation for the job.

Solution: custom, RFID-enabled gate control tied to existing municipal database

MOBILeTY applications enable data collection and management in mobile environments. The configurable and easily-interfaced products allowed Pss to develop a custom interface to control the gates, but the development of the whole solution – which would become known as MOBILeACCESS – took some time. Previous work in portable data collection gave Pss a solid understanding of RFID. They were able to move quickly on Westminster's requirements, but sourcing RFID tags was a bit more involved. In addition to some RFID tag sources PSS had in place, Westminster added Metalcraft to the list of tag providers to consider. Metalcraft, an Iowa-based provider of durable RFID labels offers standardized, passive RFID labels for vehicle windshields. "We had a 'tag-off'," said Pss owner Jeff Swann. "We set up a reader and a gate, and we gathered different tag technologies from a few providers to see what would work best for the 12 to 20-foot read range we were seeking." Also, Pss expected Westminster to print tags as needed, but the Town saw a different approach – using the flexibility of the MOBILeTY product and referencing existing Town data to grant access. The RFID labels would need serial data pre-programmed on the tag and readable on the surface. The Town would simply add a field to their database to accommodate the tag number. "This was what put the tags from Metalcraft over the top," said Swann. "Metalcraft's windshield tag had the best performance and appearance, and their pre-commissioned tags were really perfect for this environment." With the decision made on RFID tags, Pss assembled the production components for installation – the electronic gate control, an RFID reader, and loop hardware for vehicle detection. They even added a red-yellow-green light array to give users feedback on their authentication at the gate. Then, they waited for the ground to thaw so they could install the solution.

Result: successful rollout and a repeatable solution for a market need

The Town rolled out the system in the spring, offering the RFID windshield labels to residents on April 1, 2010. The Town does not charge a fee for a label, but residents are required to present a valid driver's license and vehicle registration as well as a utility bill, tax bill, or rental agreement. These strong controls affirm residency when acquiring the label from the public works office. The gate opened to residents May 11, 2010 delivering what was promised – automated access control at lower cost, enabled by durable, attractive RFID labels on vehicle windshields. Today, Pss offers all of the required hardware and software as MOBILeACCESS – a complete access control solution for automotive environments. Parking garages, gated communities and other properties can leverage RFID efficiency using standard technologies for managing data. "We've proven that waste transfer stations can lower cost and strengthen access control using RFID," said Swann. "As towns increasingly outsource to waste management contractors, we're ready to help these partners increase efficiency in Massachusetts and beyond."