Punjab's Lovely Professional University students create smart bin to help doctors fight COVID-19

Updated: 26 July, 2020 07:59 IST | Anju Maskeri | Mumbai

Professors and students at a Punjab university have created a smart bin that can travel through a hospital to assist in socially-distanced trash collection

It's three feet tall and weighs five kg
It's three feet tall and weighs five kg

Inside the incubation lab at Punjab's Lovely Professional University (LPU), a research team of students and professors have been spending countless hours converting the idea of a smart bin into a workable prototype. The news of frontliners and sanitation workers getting infected during the handling of contaminated COVID-19 biomedical waste, prompted students Prabin Kumar Das, Vanka Vinay Kumar and KM Vaishanvi Gupta, to create a bin robot called Ally. The interactive smart bin follows voice commands and moves on predefined paths autonomously inside a controlled environment. The students, who are currently studying electronics and engineering at the university in Jalandhar, were mentored by professors Dr Lovi Raj Gupta, Dr Rajesh Singh and Dr Anita Gehlot in the exercise.

The prototype, which costs R20,000, is three feet tall, 1.5 feet wide and weighs five kilos. "With shortage of labour and the necessity of timely cleaning of bins, we thought Ally would be a valuable addition to our overburdened healthcare system," says Das. As of now, it has the capability to move on the predefined paths independently inside a controlled environment. So it can work at a hospital, but not on public street. "Let's say, you want to call the bin to room number 30, bed number 206. You call out the name [Ally] and it arrives. A combination of artificial intelligence and path learning makes this possible," he adds about the contactless collection that occurs when it flips open its cover automatically. Its sensory system senses the current level of waste and initiates the disposal process by moving to the disposal centre before it is ready for re-use.

The bin has been developed by the students under the aegis of the USD 1 million fund set up by LPU to combat the outbreak of Coronavirus
The bin has been developed by the students under the aegis of the USD 1 million fund set up by LPU to combat the outbreak of Coronavirus

The machine has been conceptualised and developed under the aegis of the USD one million fund set up by LPU to combat the outbreak of the Coronavirus. Presently, the team has designed the robot using sunboard sheets, a strong, light, cut sheet material used for mounting of vinyl prints. "We want to use durable material, but also keep costs down. While steel may be a better option, it can be considered only when we start mass production," says professor Dr Singh, who mentored the students. Considering the robot may not always be within earshot (two feet distance), the team has created a handheld wearable gadget to call the bin to the desired location. Singh says it's possible to also alter the upper body features and add trays to make it a food distribution trolly.

The greatest challenge was power management. After toying with several batteries, they zeroed in on Lithium-ion, a low maintenance battery, commonly used for portable electronics and electric vehicles for military and aerospace applications. The battery can be replaced after a year or two, depending on the usage. "We toyed with multiple battery cells and combinations to ascertain which would give us a better performance," explains Singh. As of now, it can run for eight hours with two hours of charge. They are also trying to incorporate wireless charging, so that Ally can charge itself while going about the job, ensuring there are no halts during functioning.

Dr Rajesh Singh and Prabin Das
Dr Rajesh Singh and Prabin Das

The task force is now looking for industrial partners and expect the price to drop by almost 25 per cent with commercial production.

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First Published: 26 July, 2020 07:30 IST

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