You may have heard of the Internet of Things – the idea that all physical objects communicate data over the internet to other connected devices. Now ‘smart sheep’ are being used as roaming wireless routers to expand networks in rural areas, bringing the Internet of Things to the countryside in Conwy, North Wales.
Professor Gordon Blair, a scientist at Lancaster University who specialises in distributed systems, is equipping the animals with collars containing lightweight wireless sensors. These digital collars communicate with other connectivity points, placed on riverbanks or trees, to create rural networks, which could be used to monitor conditions such as rainfall and flooding.
“This technology is huge for agriculture,” Blair says. On a local scale, the technology could be used by farmers to monitor livestock and environmental conditions over large areas, and by environmental organisations and councils to keep a check on water levels or pollution. More widely, these linked sensor networks could enhance digital connectivity, boosting rural economies: “Cities have been the focus of much of the boom in this type of technology – 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,” he adds. “‘The possibilities of bringing the Internet of Things to the countryside are limitless.”
Gordon Blair, Professor at Lancaster University