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  • Writer's pictureSarah Ruivivar

AI-Powered Litter Detection: A Cleaner Future

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

In the bustling city of San Francisco, litter is a significant issue. But thanks to the power of artificial intelligence, we're now seeing innovative solutions to this age-old problem. Enter Rubbish, a company founded by Emin Israfil, which has been making strides in litter detection since 2017.

Recently, Rubbish introduced LitterBug at the Cerebral Valley: AI in Climate Tech Hackathon. This AI-powered tool uses real-time vision models to detect, map, and highlight litter hotspots in urban areas. The tool was a hit, earning the team second place overall, the community vote winner, and the transportation prize winner.

But why is litter data so important? Well, it's all about improvement. You can't improve what you don't measure. Litter data helps track progress, inform funding allocation, optimise infrastructure placement, and highlight the struggles of underserved communities. It's even used by federal agencies like the EPA and NOAA to implement national clean water policies.

Rubbish's work with the SOMA West Community District in San Francisco is a perfect example of the power of litter data. In just two weeks, residents and staff mapped over 27,000 street issues they wanted to see addressed. The result? A significant reduction in litter and related hazards, leading to a cleaner, safer neighbourhood.

LitterBug, powered by dash camera footage and real-time AI, doesn't just detect litter. It creates a comprehensive heat map, spotlighting litter hotspots. This data isn't just informative; it's a tool for understanding and addressing the most affected areas.

Rubbish used Roboflow to quickly preprocess and augment image datasets and train vision models. This allowed them to focus on optimising LitterBug's capabilities without getting bogged down by the complexities of model training.

The impact of AI in creating cleaner cities is immense. Since the hackathon, Rubbish has been refining the litter detection models and preparing for a production-ready launch. And it's not just San Francisco that can benefit. With the power of AI and edge computing, tools like LitterBug can be deployed globally, turning the tide in the fight against urban litter.

So, how can you get involved? You can contribute datasets, join engineering projects, or support open data initiatives. Every contribution helps in the fight for a cleaner, greener future. After all, every line of code can be a step towards a cleaner, greener future.

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