5.26.2005

 

Business opportunity: The Vienna dog dropping problem

Austria Lawmaker Wants to ID Dog Droppings

This article is fascinating on several different levels. But let's take it at the business level. Here in the U.S. we are doing things like the Grand Challenge. In Vienna, however, the challenge is much smaller, and it seems like it is solvable with today's technology. The article states:Here is the interesting part from a business perspective:If there are 50,000 dogs, and each leaves one pile per day, and it costs about 5 bucks to clean up one pile, that's $250,000 per day. Eight days of poop-scooping equals the total prize package for the Grand Challenge.

Surely Vienna would be willing to pay, what, $50,000, for a robot that can sniff out and clean up this mess. The city would probably need to buy 20 of them to handle the whole city, but that is still a bargain.

Perhaps what Vienna needs to do is have a Grand Challenge of its own and see if robotic creativity can solve this problem.

Comments:
Interesting idea, but you assume that the city of Venice Wants to clean up in the most efficient manner available.
I'd bet you could do this with biotech more cheaply than with robotics, possibly by releasing some RFID'd GM moth or wasp which was attracted to feces instead of the appropriate pheromone or plant scent.
For that matter, you could do it cheaply with cell phones, traditional logistics IT, and a lack of moralistic attitudes. Set up a cell phone number which dog-walkers can call when their dog leaves droppings. The call is automatically refundable and anonymous, and transmits the coordinates of the caller at the time of call (determined by triangulating from local towers) to a local professional cleaner, who adds this dropping to thier automated "traveling salesman" program for eliminating local droppings. When the worker cleans up a dropping, it is removed from the local list. Workers clean overlapping areas and are credited for each clean-up (but penalized for alleged cleanups which don't occur, which can be recognized by complaints from citizens) So long as the workers work efficiently, which competition should seem to promote, simple heuristics should keep their traveling salesman problems managable AND lead to rapid clean-up, which is much better than slow cleanup for everyone.
This should bring prices well below $5.
 
I'd favor not cleaning it up at all -- until the more civilized inhabitants press for statutory penalties sufficiently severe to cause the culpable pet owners to behave responsibly ... or move to a kennel, themselves, where they arguably belong. - blzbob
 
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