UK study takes the Internet of Things to the sticks

Fri, 2014-12-19 06:00 -- SCC Staff

A professor at Lancaster University in the UK has won £171,495 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to lead a study of how the Internet of Things (IoT) can benefit problems from flooding and agricultural pollution to animal movements and drought in rural areas. Using an IoT approach in the countryside not only results in efficiencies and cost savings – it could also spur innovation and economic development, thus encouraging rural populations to stay put. A recent article in the Financial Times (Exodus to cities creates rural ghost towns) points out that Spain has probably the largest unpopulated region in Europe (called ‘Celtiberian Highlands, east of Madrid) because people have been leaving for better education and jobs. An IoT approach may have worked to keep populations in place inviting innovation and economic development. There is hope as long as there is at least one person (and one sheep to put a collar on!). – Philip Bane

Professor Gordon Blair, the Lancaster University computer scientist who is heading up the 18-month study that started Dec. 1 will work with partners at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, The British Geological Survey and Bangor University.

“Cities have been the focus of much of the boom in this type of technology," Blair notes. "It has been used to keep traffic flowing on our roads, monitor air pollution and even help us find a parking spot on a busy Saturday afternoon."

But the professor says the countryside faces challenges of its own, from subtle environmental changes to catastrophic events such as flooding. He believes the possibilities of bringing the IoT to the countryside are limitless -- sheep with digital collars, sensors on riverbanks, rainfall and river flow monitors could all soon form part of the project.

Apparently not everyone is convinced the study has merit. A headline in The Register reads: "Govt spaffs £170k to develop the INTERNET OF SHEEP" and "Forget the networked fridge, it's time for the IPv6 addressable ovine."

What do you think?  Do sheep need digital collars? Are there problems in rural areas that IoT can solve? Use the Comment form below to share your thoughts. (Note: You must be logged in to post a comment.)


Philip Bane is Executive Director of the Smart Cities Council, leading our international efforts. He has worked globally, owning businesses in Russia and India and leading teams that delivered innovative, multi-million dollar data solutions on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.

More on the Internet of Things…
Internet of Things in action: 3 real-world examples from Europe
Connected Chicago catches crooks, controls rats
Microsoft video: Bringing the Internet of Things to the London Underground


Submitted by Fernando Presa on
 Recently finished an european program "Agripir" between Spain, Andorra and France. They have developed five projects for the introduction of new technologies in agriculture mountain. 
 - Power Box: develop an integrated by various sources of supply and to ensure energy independence of farmers in mountain areas inaccessible to perform daily tasks energy kit.
 - Mastech: development based on nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, thermography, proteomics (the study of proteins) and measures based on behavior and physiology for early detection in sheep, goats and cattle mastitis process (one of the most common diseases technologies of affecting the global dairy industry).
 - Live-Pre Life: improving the coexistence of large predators and livestock in mountain areas by developing smart pens, methods for early detection of attacks and active systems to ward off wolves or other potentially dangerous animals.
 - Cowmon: development of an open system and low cost with unlimited autonomy to continuously monitor the activity of livestock in large areas and provide new services related to animal welfare or farm productivity services.
 Also has already developed a pilot called e-Pasto, project consisting of a "virtual shepherd" to control livestock remote devices via geolocation latest generation collars placed on cattle.
 Fernando Presa