I spend most of my time in a small town in rural Morelos, Mexico. It's a place full of history: General Zapata from the Mexican revolution and inspirer of the Zapatista movement was born here and killed a few kilometres away. Nowadays it's just a normal village, with convenience stores, good 4G coverage, everyone has a smartphone in their pocket... only that quite a few neighbors carry a machete and ride a horse into their crops.

Anyway. As a city dweller, past the usual infatuation with the countryside, you start to find small nagging habits that are not in line with yours. My pet peeve is burning trash. And it's something I just don't understand.

I don't understand it because garbage trucks have a door to door service. Granted, in a small town they can't hit each home every single day, but to me, keeping my trash in a tightly closed bin, and waiting a couple of days to get rid of it, is way less cumbersome than lighting a fire, the smell of molten plastic, the ashes that you need to clean up afterwards, etc.

And for the authorities, a hard problem is created: pollution goes up, air quality levels go down. And it's much easier to kill this dragon when it's an egg than when it's spitting fire and kidnapping princesses!

So, what if - what if the Townhall only had to motivate its citizens to deliver to the truck instead of burning trash?

What it does

In Gamification, and in psychology, motivation is broken into

  • Intrinsic Motivation
  • Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation happens when the person is sure of the goodness of their actions and do them without friction and with gusto.

Extrinsic motivation takes place when some kind of prize is involved. It could be monetary or it could just be a praise.

The theory is that the person who creates a habit through extrinsic motivation eventually will see the goodness of it and will start to embrace the new practice. Some good information and the right amount of peer pressure helps with this.

So - back to our small town and the bad habit.

What if the Townhall starts a scheme like this: every time a person delivers their trash to the garbage truck, they receive a small payment. Proof of trash delivery is required (we will see how). And here's the magic: if you already bothered to open the door and interact with the dustmen to get the payment, you will probably give them the trash too.

Simple, right?

How I built it

The solution has three parts:

  1. generation of unique QR codes (stickers on the trash can, or generated in the neighbor's smartphone)

  2. Simple app used by the dustmen, or any authorized person, to scan the QR codes of the bins they empty, that will trigger a payment to the neighbor of a fee. These will normally be small, but every route will have a big prize. The neighbor will spin a wheel to try their luck!

  3. To avoid fraud, a simple anomaly detector trained algorithm that would spot neighbors (and dustmen) who trigger payments outside of working hours, away from the truck's established route, etc.

And of course, Finastra is used for the payments. The Payment Initiation Request API, to be more precise.

Challenges I ran into

Time. I found out about this hackaton a mere week ago, and bringing forward a working prototype is a lot of fun, but also a lot of work.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

"Frankensteinizing" a solution that looks okay! From QR code reading, handling the camera from the browser, encryption, passing JSON objects around, spinning a fortune wheel (!) and of course consuming the Finestra API.

What I learned

Besides the obvious, something I have thoroughly enjoyed is how well the Finestra developer portal is organized. It's a joy to work with. From UX, to the quality of the documentation, to how robust everything is, I am definitely bringing home a lot of ideas.

What's next for #DoGood, #FeelGood. Episode 1: from burned trash to hot cash

Building the permanent storage (NoSQL database) and build the Fraud Detection module on top of it by using an Anomaly Detection ML tool.

White labeling it so that it can be applied to other problems. It's really not about garbage collection, it's about any citizen behavior that is geolocated that needs a little nudge towards #DoGood #Feel Good

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