Intuitive’s Garbage Sorting Smart Bin Wins NextAI Award

A garbage bin that’s powered by artificial intelligence earned top honours at the inaugural NextAI 2017.

Intuitive won NextAI’s Outstanding Venture Award today after wrapping up the nearly five-month long Toronto-based accelerator and receiving $150,000 in seed funding to develop the startup’s intelligent sorting bin.

Co-founders Hassan Murad and Vivek Vyas are the pair behind the smart bin that blends robotics and machine learning to identify and divert trash into the appropriate spot: recycling, organics or garbage.

“Landfills are hiding garbage under a rug, and expecting it to disappear. We decided to do solve the problem at its source,” said Murad, who’s a mechatronics engineering graduate from Simon Fraser University. He met Vyas in Burnaby, B.C. while the pair were both completing the program.

At NextAI’s venture day, Intuitive presented numbers from the World Bank’s global waste management review that showed while nearly 2.6 trillion pounds of waste is produced annually and 82 per cent is deemed recyclable, only 2 per cent actually ends up in a blue bin.

The now Toronto-based company’s goal is to divert recyclables and organics away from landfills.

“Garbage bins that are very unintuitive; that causes a lot of waste,” said Murad. “Our bins detects what item someone is throwing away—both the material and item type—and routes it into the correct bin. It also collects data and generates waste audits that give important insights about what’s being thrown away.”

Murad and Vyas harnessed machine learning for the bin’s image-recognition system and trained the system by showing it thousands of photos of what could be thrown away. The bin also adjusts by municipality too as cities often have different waste categories and rules.

Intuitive is now ready to pilot their standard-sized sorting bin in select universities and have also signed contracts with cities and airports in British Columbia and Ontario.

“We live on a finite planet with an exponential population increase. It’s not going to be sustainable anymore with our current practices,” said Vyas.

The Intuitive team entered the program with a rough proof of concept, but developed their technology at NextAI by learning from AI experts and professors from the University of Toronto, Harvard and MIT.

“When we launched NextAI, it was to fill a gap in the Canadian AI ecosystem. In Canada, we have been experts at research and education, but these 15 companies are working to actually commercialize AI and build successful businesses,” said Anthony Lacavera, co-chair of NEXT Canada.

Their smart bin isn’t the only trash sorting product on the market. Two competitor companies are working on intelligent sorting bins in the U.S. and Poland.

Being crowned the top venture at NextAI, Intuitive was awarded free submission into the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE to win $5 million.

The first NextAI cohort saw participation from 15 startups. Online applications for NextAI’s 2018 program are now open.