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Taking The First Steps Towards Creating a SMART Rural Environment.

DigiFlec are working with Forestry and Land, Scotland (FLS) using IoT sensors to monitor FLS’ extensive road system, with the aim of creating a live digital interface where information about road condition can be accessed. Having won a place on the CivTech 6.0 program, DigiFLec successfully completed the CivTech accelerator and went on to enter into a pre-commercial agreement with FLS.

The initial CivTech challenge highlighted the problems of gathering data in remote and rural areas due to limited connectivity, and, since Scotland has a working countryside, we decided to take on the challenge. Currently, SMART technologies are heavily associated with the urban environment, but at DigiFlec we believe that the rural environment could benefit just as much, if not more, from these technologies. A countryside where agriculture, industry and tourism intersect needs to function smoothly to support a robust economy, and one of the first challenges in creating a SMART rural environment is developing the capability to gather data in remote areas.

FLS has a 10,000 kilometre road network covering some of the most remote areas in Scotland, largely made up of unsealed roads which become weaker when wet and are therefore be easily damaged by flooding. Having accurate real-time information about conditions will allow better informed decisions about road use at particular times. IoT sensors have so far been deployed in test locations on FLS to gather and transmit information about road surfaces.

The data will be integrated into a digital interface that displays the data in real time, and allows access to previously gathered data. This will enable better maintenance scheduling and, ultimately, provide greater knowledge of the factors that impact a road’s deterioration, allowing decisions to be made to prevent excessive damage and better allocate resources for repair and upgrade work.

Reliable data gathering and the capability to deploy sensors in remote and rural areas could have wider applications for public road network management. Roads currently need to be checked manually, racking up potentially hundreds of miles of travel. While motorways and A roads are inspected annually for defects, B and C class roads are only examined every 4-20 years. Recent reports suggested that the backlog of repairs required for Scotland’s road network could cost as much as £1.7 billion1.

Josh Roberts, an Innovation Manager at FLS who works closely with DigiFlec explains

Trips to check the condition of roads sometimes involving hundreds of miles of travel, taking up a good deal of time and resources. These sensors will mean we have invaluable, up-to-date information at our fingertips regarding the condition of our road network and forewarning us of any developing issues.”

“This technology will give us the ability to allocate the right resources to the right place and at the right time, and transform how we make best use of our assets and deliver the best value for the public purse.”

DigiFlec are excited to be involved at this pioneering stage in creating a SMART Scottish Countryside, and enjoying working with FLS to create new, innovative ways of gathering data.