In our modern, connected lives, we often forget that there are still many people out there without access to the Internet and the convenience and benefits it brings. With more and more information and tasks being moved online, people without easy Internet access are at a major disadvantage.
In New York City, a new project aims to remove this obstacle in underserved neighborhoods by transforming what is typically an unnoticed part of daily life -- the lowly trash can -- into a high-tech machine. Bigbelly, a maker of smart Wi-Fi enabled-trash and recycling bins, will be placing their bins in neighborhoods around the five boroughs to act as free Wi-Fi hot spots.
The smart bins in their original form are already in place in cities around the world. The solar-powered receptacles compact trash as it comes in so that it has to be emptied less often. Sensors detect when the bins reach capacity (or when they're particularly smelly) and then the bins communicate with local waste management organizations to alert them that they need to be emptied.
Two of the smart bins in Manhattan were converted to act as hotspots this winter and they provide Wi-Fi at 50 to 75 megabits per second, which is fast enough to download an HD movie in just nine minutes. Now several hundred of NYC's smart bins will be transformed into hot spots as soon as the Mayor's office signs off on it, but likely this fall.
Trash cans actually act as great hot spots because they're down at ground level and in the open, which lets them provide a strong signal that isn't blocked by obstacles. Plus, their placement on street corners throughout a neighborhood make them extremely accessible.
The smart bins will be able to offer Wi-Fi for free thanks to display advertising.