Snooping Binmen Given iPads


A council in the north of England will soon arm its binmen with iPads despite pressure to cut costs

Binmen in Bury will soon be given iPads by the local council to help keep track of which residents are not recycling or are putting out overweight bins.

The council, which is targeting savings of £18m over three years, will reportedly buy 22 iPads and dashboard-mount one in each of its collection trucks in time for service changes in October.

The council is tight-lipped over the cost, citing “commercial sensitivities”, but the tablet retails at £399 each, which would total nearly £9,000. Money will also have to be spent on training staff in their use, as well as the dashboard-mounting.

The devices will be used to guide drivers around new routes and compile lists of who needs assistance in putting bins out.

Drop-down lists of every house on each street also allow drivers to log houses that do not leave bins out, or those that are damaged or overweight. The iPad will then relay this information straight to the council’s customer service call centre.

This means anyone contacting the council can be told immediately why their bins have not been collected, rather than having to wait until routes are finished.

The council says the scheme’s intention is to improve collection rates and customer service, and boost recycling but it has predictably met with criticism.

A dirty business

Robert Oxley, campaign manager of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, told the Press Association: “It beggars belief that a council making huge savings can find this money to splash out on iPads.

“Residents want bin services that are reliable and efficient, not council staff monitoring what they’re throwing out with expensive gimmicks.”

But Glenn Stuart, Bury Council’s head of waste management defended the scheme, telling local newspaper the Prestwich Advertiser it would replace paperwork which is often lost or damaged.

He said: “Waste collection is a dirty operation. Nothing will be lost. It is captured and retained for future benefit.

“The iPads will be pre-loaded with all round information and streets and houses can be seen on the screen.”

Giving new technology to refuse collectors has previously proved a mixed PR benefit for the companies involved. When Biffa gave Blackberrys to its staff last year, the company attempted to remove the word “binmen” from the resulting blitz of media stories, saying it gave the wrong image.

Runaway success

Apple’s iPad has run away with the consumer market for tablets and continues to make inroads in to all kinds of commercial and educational applications.

A school in Kent is set to kit out its 1,400 pupils with iPads in time for the next academic year and British Airways is trialling the iPad among flight attendants to assist with customer service functions.

The third iteration of the iPad is expected to be launched early 2012, as Apple gets used to life without the day-to-day input of the talismanic Steve Jobs.

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