Lancaster University is about to take the concept of smart cities out of town. Computer scientists at Lancaster University are investigating how the Internet of Things could work in the countryside.
The Internet of Things – which enables object-to-object communication over the internet and real time data monitoring – has typically been associated with urban environments and until now the countryside has been left out in the cold.
Computer scientist Professor Gordon Blair of Lancaster University has won £171,495 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to lead a new project in Conwy, North Wales, which will investigate how the Internet of Things could work in the countryside.
Working with partners at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, The British Geological Survey and Bangor University, the project launched on December 1 and will run for 18 months.
Problems from flooding and agricultural pollution to animal movements and drought could all potentially benefit from smart technology in the sticks.
The Internet of Things, which takes everyday objects and hooks them up to the internet, represents a shift in the way we gather and engage with information. Applying this booming technology to the countryside presents challenges – for example how to build a network when there are mountains and trees in the way – but researchers believe the benefits could be huge.
Sheep with digital collars, sensors on riverbanks, rainfall and river flow monitors could all soon form part of the project.
Take me to the story: Move over smart cities – the Internet of Things is off to the country
A major new survey of the seafloor has found that even in the deepest ocean depths you can find bottles, plastic bags, fishing nets and other types of human litter.
The litter was found throughout the Mediterranean, and all the way from the continental shelf of Europe to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge 2,000 kilometres from land. Litter is a problem in the marine environment as it can be mistaken for food and eaten by some animals or can entangle coral and fish – a process known as “ghost fishing”.
The international study involving 15 organisations across Europe was led by the University of the Azores, and is a collaboration between the Mapping the Deep Project led by Plymouth University and the European Union-funded HERMIONE Project, coordinated by the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. Other UK project partners that contributed to the study are the University of Southampton and the British Geological Survey.
Scientists took nearly 600 samples from across the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans and in the Mediterranean Sea, from depths ranging from 35 metres to 4.5 kilometres.
Mr Christopher Pham, from the University of the Azores, said: “We found that plastic was the most common litter item found on the seafloor, while trash associated with fishing activities (discarded fishing lines and nets) was particularly common on seamounts, banks, mounds and ocean ridges. The most dense accumulations of litter were found in deep underwater canyons.”
Dr Kerry Howell, Associate Professor at Plymouth University’s Marine Institute, said: “This survey has shown that human litter is present in all marine habitats, from beaches to the most remote and deepest parts of the oceans. Most of the deep sea remains unexplored by humans and these are our first visits to many of these sites, but we were shocked to find that our rubbish has got there before us.”
Litter was located at each site surveyed, with plastic accounting for 41% and derelict fishing gear 34%. Glass and metal, wood, paper/cardboard, clothing, pottery, and unidentified materials were also observed.
Dr Eva Ramirez-Llodra, Marine Biologist from the HERMIONE project, said: “An interesting discovery was relating to deposits of clinker on the sea floor – this is the residue of burnt coal that had been dumped by steam ships from the late 18th century onwards. We have known that clinker occurs on the deep-sea bed for some time, but what we found was the accumulation of clinker is closely related with modern shipping routes, indicating that the main shipping corridors have not been altered in the last two centuries.”
The report outlines the path that plastics in particular can take, originating from coastal and land sources and being carried along continental shelves and slopes into deep water.
Dr Veerle Huvenne, Seafloor and Habitat Mapping Team Leader at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, explains: “Submarine canyons form the main connection between shallow coastal waters and the deep sea. Canyons that are located close to major coastal towns and cities, such as the Lisbon Canyon offshore Portugal, or the Blanes Canyon offshore Barcelona, can funnel litter straight to water depths of 4,500m or more.”
Dr Howell added: “The large quantity of litter reaching the deep ocean floor is a major issue worldwide. Our results highlight the extent of the problem and the need for action to prevent increasing accumulation of litter in marine environments.”