19 Apr 2017
Guest Blog By Dr Mark Begbie, Business Development Director, CENSIS
Just over 200 years ago, Glasgow was on the cusp of becoming one of the world’s leading industrial centres, as the wave of innovation carried by the first industrial revolution hit the Clyde. Fast forward to today, the city, and the river that runs through it, is at the heart of another historic change in the way the world works.
For nearly nine months, a consortium of organisations, comprising the city’s three universities; Stream Technologies; Semtech Inc.; Boston Networks; and CENSIS, the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems, have been developing the UK’s most advanced Internet of Things (IoT) network.
While there are similar IT infrastructures set up in other parts of the country, Glasgow’s network has something unique: using gateways spread across the city centre, it can determine the location of devices. In an age of ubiquitous GPS-enabled mobile phones and Sat Nav technology, that might not sound terribly exciting. But it could be transformative for many of the city’s businesses.
Glasgow’s Low Power Wide Area Networking (LoRaWAN), also known as a LoRa network, does exactly what it says on the tin. GPS requires a tremendous amount of power, while Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networks only cover very small areas. LoRa, by comparison, can be used by devices with a battery life of five to ten years and can offer a range of three kilometres, or more, in urban environments.
In practice, determining geo-location makes a huge difference to the potential impact of the sensors, devices, and machines you can connect – demonstrated ably by what is already being done in Glasgow; for future use across the UK, and beyond.
In waste management, for example, the consortium is exploring the impact of monitoring which municipal bins are full across Glasgow, where exactly they are in the city, and when they need emptied. The result could be much more efficient services and cleaner streets – local companies could take this technology and apply it to other areas.
Another application is tracking the location of important equipment. The owner may have a particularly valuable item they need to locate, or want to know whether a piece of equipment is at the depot or in use. Developing services in this area could cut risk and improve planning for all sorts of businesses.
Moreover, with the weather becoming an increasingly unpredictable force, efforts are also being made to monitor river levels. Deploying sensors along the Clyde, the project hopes to help the authorities observe and react to rising water, ultimately preventing flooding from taking the worst of its toll.
Between a plethora of environmental monitors, pollution sensors, and social care devices designed to support independent living, there are plenty more trial applications underway in Glasgow. The city has proven to be the ideal place to test new IoT-related products and services, not only because of its geographical and topographical characteristics, but the nature of the LoRa network that has been established too.
As an open standard and backed by a large number of companies that are invested in the city, the network is accessible for anyone with a business or service to develop, with the lowest-possible barrier to entry. It can be used by start-ups and more-established enterprises for trial purposes or to accelerate the maturation of products and services, very quickly and at low cost.
With further LoRa networks under development and plans to scale Glasgow up to city-wide coverage, significant progress is being made towards bringing IoT to the UK. Two centuries after the city’s location and maritime prowess made it a key component of the first wave of industrialisation, Glasgow is leading the way by transforming how we use technology once again.
In association with CENSIS, the Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems, we are hosting a business breakfast on 25 May, which will explore The Internet of Things (IoT).
To book, please click here.