What if rain could talk and tell us where it has fallen? And wouldn’t it be great to know where floods are most likely to happen? Well, CONNECT, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Future Networks at Trinity College Dublin, is hoping to make this a reality. CONNECT researchers are working with Smart Dublin, an initiative of Dublin City Council and the other Dublin Local Authorities, and Intel Corporation to deploy low-cost sensors across the capital as part of an Internet of Things (IoT) project. These sensors will monitor rainfall, weather conditions and river levels. The sensors will communicate data wirelessly to Dublin City Council’s operations team who will analyse water levels and take appropriate action. It’s all part of a plan to make our cities smarter.

The Internet of Things (IoT) involves embedding sensors into ordinary, everyday objects such as lights, fridges, riverbanks, allowing them to send and receive data. This data is carried on a network and CONNECT has developed a new, nationwide IoT testbed called Pervasive Nation for this purpose. Pervasive Nation is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) that now covers a significant portion of Ireland. LPWANs are designed for the specific purpose of gathering small amounts of data at regular intervals from large numbers of sensors. Pervasive Nation uses sensors to achieve bi-directional communication allowing information exchange between the sensors and control centres.

The rainfall sensors use a tipping bucket mechanism that tilts each time a specified rainfall amount has been reached. A message is then communicated, via the Pervasive Nation network, to signify that the tip has occurred and allows a calculation of the rainfall amount. There are currently 24 gauges deployed in eight locations around the capital. The data from these sensors will be very useful to the local authority and will feed into many day-to-day activities such as gully clearance. The data could also be used in the planning processes for new builds. CONNECT is also focusing on the development of low cost gauges which are capable of gathering reliable data.

Flood damage to Dublin’s infrastructure averages at around €8m per annum. This figure is increasing due to sea level rises and more intense rainfall events. Using Dublin as a testbed, Pervasive Nation hopes to demonstrate the benefit of IoT applications in real world conditions. The possibility to scale these and other initiatives throughout the country looks very promising.

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