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Trash pickup takes a quantum spin in Myanmar's biggest city

Nippon Koei and big-data startup will crunch combinations for shortest truck routes

Sanitation workers pick up garbage in Yangon, Myanmar. The nation's crowded commercial capital is looking for the most efficient way to collect trash. (Photo by Yuichi Nitta)

YANGON -- What is the fastest way to figure out the best routes for garbage trucks to take while collecting trash on the bustling streets of Myanmar's largest city? Two Japanese partner companies say quantum computing, and they plan to put it to the test.

Quantum computing will map out the best routes for sanitation trucks in Yangon via a joint venture announced Tuesday by Nippon Koei, Japan's largest construction consultancy, and big-data startup Groovenauts.

Groovenauts brings to the table a quantum cloud computing offering called Magellan Blocks. The solutions it generates are expected to reduce garbage trucks in circulation as they visit collection points on the shortest itineraries.

Groovenauts and Mitsubishi Estate ran a simulation in 2019 to optimize trash collection at 26 office buildings in Tokyo's Marunouchi area. Driving distance and truck fleet size were slashed by more than half.

The simulation plowed through combinations of factors, including routes and fleet sizes, that numbered 10 to the power of 740. Quantum computers can zero in on the optimum mix fast, according to Groovenauts.

Myanmar's economic growth has accompanied a surge in the urban population. Yangon's waste collection increased about 70% over the five years from 2011, according to Nippon Koei. Improving collection efficiency has become a hot topic for policymakers.

Nippon Koei provides consulting services for official development assistance projects. The use of quantum computing and other cutting-edge technology developed by Japanese companies will generate business in resolving environmental issues. This approach will be applied in cities across emerging Asian countries.

The Nippon Koei collaboration with Groovenauts here is just the start. Nippon Koei looks to expand to other partnerships, such as in optimizing urban transportation.

The Japanese city of Fukuoka, where Groovenauts is headquartered, is also participating in the startup's Myanmar venture. That operation is part of an initiative by Japan's environment ministry to promote city-to-city partnerships that reduce carbon footprints. As Yangon's sister city, Fukuoka is providing Yangon officials with waste management expertise.

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