Digital Catapult to launch three new networks in UK
Digital Catapult to launch three new LPWAN in UK
Bournemouth's famous cliffs are set to be monitored for landslides using IoT sensors.

Digital Catapult to launch three new networks in UK

Digital Catapult has unveiled plans to establish three LPWANs [low-power wide area networks] in the UK with help from local partners. 

Government-funded technology innovation centre Digital Catapult  is working with development organisation Sunderland Software City, Ulster University and IoT device development company Amphy to launch three new networks as part of its Things Connected program, which aims to accelerate IoT take-up by setting up the connectivity infrastructure needed for new projects. 

The three partners will help to establish LPWANs [low-power wide area networks] in the North East & Tees Valley, Northern Ireland and Bournemouth respectively, building on previous work carried out by Digital Catapult in London on a LPWAN for the capital. 

Companies and individuals will be able to use the networks for experimentation and prototyping purposes, and support will also be given through SME innovation programs.

Read more: Digital Catapult expands LPWAN program for councils and enterprises

LPWAN’s importance

LPWAN technology can be used in a wide range of ways, including supporting remote healthcare and wellness monitoring, boosting efficiency in the manufacturing sector and enabling local government to better manage resources. It’s particularly suited to  small IoT sensors that need to send small amounts of data over long distances, using minimal battery power.

With 25 percent of IoT services expected to be delivered over LPWAN by 2025, failure to establish an accessible network based on the technology could “dull the UK’s competitive edge,” warned Dr Jeremy Silver, CEO of Digital Catapult. 

Digital Catapult’s Things Connected programme, he explained, aims to counter this threat by supporting the development of IoT, placing the UK in a better position to grab a sizable chunk of a potentially lucrative market. Businesses that use LPWAN-based IoT, said Silver, “stand to benefit from low-cost connected tracking and monitoring capabilities, driving significant efficiencies.”

Read more: London Zoo turns to IoT to tackle global poaching menace

Local partners, local projects

Sunderland Software City will use the networks in smart water metering for the area, supply chain logistics in the region’s ports and also its rail infrastructure, according to CEO David Dunn. And in anticipation of several high-profile events in the area in 2018, he added, “IoT development will help us manage million-strong crowds and deliver the best possible visitor experience.” 

At Ulster University, meanwhile, researchers are looking to initiate a number of projects, focusing on manufacturing, tourism and transport among other areas, according to Dr Philip Catherwood. “From monitoring crop-growing conditions to optimize growth cycles, to reducing strain on local healthcare systems, the opportunities for both private and public-sector organizations are rich and varied,” he said. 

Finally, Amphy has teamed up with UK Sigfox operator WND UK to create safety systems for monitoring landslides. “Bournemouth’s natural topography presents some unique environment challenges for the council, local businesses and residents that IoT technology can help to address,” explained Doug Mahy, technology consultant at Amphy.

“Basic connected devices can help avoid landslide incidents along Bournemouth’s world heritage coastline, something vitally important for tourism in the area.” The resulting system could in future be exported other regions vulnerable to landslides. 

Other smart city applications in Bournemouth will focus on improving the efficiency of waste collections and monitoring air quality around construction sites. “[Connected sensors will] also help us track new ‘dockless’ bicycles, ensuring that residents benefit from a cheap, healthy alternative form of transport, while removing the risk of hazardous parking,” added Mahy.

Read more: Digital Catapult rolls out ‘UK’s largest IoT LoRaWAN network’