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E-Waste, smart medical waste management "made in USI"

Institutional Communication Service

The USI Advanced Learning and Research Institute (ALaRI) and CodeLounge (USI Software Institute) has started a collaboration with Valbenne SA and the Ente Ospedaliero Cantonale (EOC) to create and test an innovative medical waste tracking system. This system will enable the real-time tracking of clinical waste, to ensure a correct disposal and allowing the optimisation of the disposal process and administrative management through the collection of information. The project is funded by Innosuisse, the Swiss Innovation Agency, and will unfold over two years. 

According to Dr. Alberto Ferrante, head of the project at ALaRI, "although in Ticino this category of waste is already managed in full compliance with current regulations, with the introduction of automated tracking, further guarantees can be obtained which will drastically reduce the possibility of mismanagement. Real-time monitoring, together with the guarantee of correct disposal, is particularly interesting in the case of waste generated as a result of infectious diseases". 

According to Dr. Marco D'Ambros, co-head for the project at the USI Software Institute (SI), "from an administrative point of view, such a system will also automate the management process, which includes delivery bills and reporting to the authorities, whilst reducing the possibility of error and increasing efficiency. Finally, data collection will produce statistics and forecasts to optimise the process, introducing potential savings for hospitals and waste disposal companies”. 

The project involves the EOC as the end-user of the tracking system. In fact, a large part of the hospital waste generated in Ticino comes from the activities of the leading healthcare provider in the region. The special waste is generated in the various wards of the EOC hospitals, for example, all the disposable material used during clinical activities. This waste is placed in special disposable bins which are then sealed and, through the carrier (Valbenne SA, a company specialising in the management of hospital waste in Switzerland), delivered to the incinerator on predetermined days and in compliance with special rules and strict regulation, for instance, the correct temperature. 

"The system we will develop at USI falls within the realm of the Internet of Things (IoT)", explains Dr. Ferrante. "The individual bins will be equipped with special labels (tags) and, during the various steps, will be constantly checked by special hardware devices that, in addition to checking their position, will provide other useful information to verify the correct management (weight, temperature, any level of radioactivity, etc.). All the data will finally flow into a centralised computer system that will allow both real-time monitoring and the display of statistics and the generation of administrative documents". 

“E-Waste: Cheap and Smart Boxes for Medical Waste Management” is the name of the project, which is funded by Innosuisse within its science-based innovation program. The projects in this program involve a network of collaboration between scientific/academic institutions and private enterprises, especially SMEs, with the aim to enable innovation in our Country. “These projects underline the commitment of USI towards of the community through the collaboration with local companies", says Mauro Prevostini, Program manager at the USI Faculty of Informatics. 

For the project that will be developed at USI there are four actors involved: (1) ALaRI, which will deal with both the monitoring and data collection part (tags, sensors, monitoring devices), and the part related to forecasting and optimisation through machine learning techniques; (2) CodeLounge, the software research and development unit of the USI Software Institute, which will deal with the whole infrastructure of data management, statistics, and visualisation; (3) Valbenne SA, the main operations partner, will provide guidance on the usability of the system during the project design phase and the possibility to test the technologies in the field; and (4) the EOC, which will also provide project design guidance, but above all will be the end-user in the field testing phase, with the extended trials involving several hospitals in the region. 

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