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Vodafone and partners helping to detect coastal landslides and support smart farms

14 Oct 2021Digital Society
6 minute read
  • Vodafone and partners’ technology to detect landslides on the Jurassic Coast with potential to extend the service across Europe
  • Also supports Wessex Internet to create smart, environmental conscious farms
  • Both part of the UK Government & Dorset Council 5G RuralDorset initiative

Vodafone technology is now being used with small, powerful sensors to detect landslides along the UK’s world heritage coastline, as well as give local farmers more relevant data on cows, soil, and tractors.

Large stretches of the EU’s 68,000km coastline, which is three times longer than that of the United States, also stand to benefit from the technology because the sensors can connect to Vodafone’s extensive Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network across 21 European countries.

Developed by Vodafone, the prototype universal device can house different types of sensors. This will allow academics, businesses, and local authorities to adopt smarter approaches to monitoring environmental and public safety issues.

The technology is being used initially in two pioneering trials - coastal cliff monitoring and smart farming - as part of a UK Government and Dorset Council-backed initiative, called 5G RuralDorset. The initiative aims to understand how next generation connectivity can help people live better, safer, and more prosperous lives in rural communities.

Cliff Monitoring

5G RuralDorset has partnered with the British Geological Survey (BGS) to work alongside Vodafone, Bournemouth University, Neutral Networks and Dorset Council. The partnership is working to produce a monitoring system using authoritative geoscientific data to help decision-makers manage coastal hazards and improve resilience. Using the Vodafone universal device, data collected by sensors developed by Bournemouth University include ground movement, groundwater changes and other environmental factors such as ground temperature. The data will be processed and analysed in the cloud using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning methods developed by Bournemouth University, for interpretation by BGS experts.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary as a UNESCO-designated World Heritage site, the Dorset and East Devon Coastline - known as the Jurassic Coast - is one of only four natural sites across the UK to hold world heritage status. The 155km stretch of British coastline has seen five cliff movements this year alone, including a major landslide in April which saw more than 4,000 tonnes of rubble slip from the cliff face. Ongoing erosion represents a significant danger to people and buildings as well as threatening the devastation of one of the country’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty.

Vodafone’s technology will help experts develop solutions for monitoring and managing erosion, keeping people safe and limiting damage to the UK’s coastline.

Smart Farms

The Vodafone IoT technology is also changing the face of farming today. Vodafone is partnering with Wessex Internet to trial the devices on local Dorset farms. Sensors developed by Wessex Internet, and installed within the Vodafone device, receive live alerts, data, and insights from around the farm, monitoring real-time agricultural information. This includes the health of the soil, water quality of nearby streams and rivers, and the tracking of cattle and high value machinery. The new technology will allow local Dorset farms to monitor and manage productivity via a single platform, developed by Wessex Internet, while reducing their environmental impact more effectively.

Johan Wibergh, Chief Technology Officer at Vodafone, said: “The global reach of our digital networks and technologies has a key role in addressing climate change, from monitoring the health of forests to re-establishing connectivity following flash floods. Now, we are turning our attention to the very real threat of coastal erosion. We are freeing up our engineers to work with scientists on this and other pressing matters across Europe and Africa.”

Dorset Council Deputy Leader Peter Wharf added: “The announcement of this new device represents a big milestone in the research work we’re conducting into coastal cliff monitoring and we’re proud to be working alongside Vodafone to make this important work a reality. Cliff failures are a very dangerous problem not only in Dorset but other coastal regions which see huge numbers of visitors every year. This research, along with the coastal public safety trials, is critical to people’s safety and the long-term prosperity of the area. Current monitoring methodologies are also very costly for the council and this new technology will hopefully provide significant savings in future.”

Note to Editors

Vodafone universal device

Engineers at Vodafone have written the software, built and patented the universal NB-IoT device. The design is based on a printable smart label developed to track goods throughout the supply chain worldwide.

Measuring 4 centimetres by 5 centimetres – with longer-term plans to make it just 1 cm square – the Vodafone device collects and sends valuable data from the remotest locations. It is transmitted using an integrated SIM and modem connected to Vodafone’s low-powered, long-range Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network using 2G, 4G and 5G or via GPS satellite.

In addition, Vodafone is providing the data through common API’s so the recipient can easily interpret it and apply it to their own systems. A direct power source or recharging is not required as it can operate independently for between 15 and 20 years using either a LiPo battery or a solar charger.

Partner quotes

Engineering Geologist and Landslide Specialist, Catherine Pennington of the British Geological Survey, said: “As sea levels rise, we are likely to see an increase in landslide activity at the coast. We are excited to work on this multi-disciplinary project which will enable us to develop and trial new technologies in order to better understand the driving processes, helping rural areas to build resilience so that we can adapt to these changes.”

Dr. Marios Angelopoulos, Associate Professor at Bournemouth University, commented: “We are excited to work on this multi-disciplinary project as it gives our University the opportunity to synergise with industry in developing and trialling innovative 5G technologies to the benefit of our region with positive social and economic impact.”

Hector Gibson Fleming, Managing Director Wessex Internet, said: “As lead partner of the 5G RuralDorset agriculture and aquaculture trials we have worked closely with Vodafone and 5G RuralDorset to develop something that will support the farming sector not only today – but which will be sustainable in future years. Farmers rely heavily on remote sensing to monitor, detect, and measure characteristics of their land. Their livelihood depends on accurate, easily accessible, and cost-effective data. With the new device, farmers and agricultural workers will not only save time and money - but will have accurate information in one place, as well as reducing their environmental footprint.”

For further information

Vodafone Group

Media Relations

Investor Relations

5G RuralDorset

James Pryce, Communications Lead

About 5G RuralDorset

5G RuralDorset is a ground-breaking project aimed at understanding how next generation connectivity can help people live better, safer and more prosperous lives in rural communities, even in environments as sensitive as Dorset’s UNESCO heritage coastline. We aim to show how 5G can make Dorset a better place to live, work and visit.

The research and development project will contribute to the understanding of how 5G can be used to address some specific challenges – public safety, economic growth, food production, and the environment – as well as create new opportunities in Dorset and rural communities across the UK.

5G RuralDorset is a consortium led by Dorset Council and includes local, national and international partners. The project is part-funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and is part of its 5G Rural Testbed & Trials programme.

For up to date news and information about the 5G RuralDorset project, please subscribe to our mailing list here.

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