Editorial Feature

How 5G Sensors are Improving Coastal Safety in the UK

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5G RuralDorset has announced a new project which will use 5G sensors to monitor land stability and cliff movement at key locations along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.

What is the Project?

5G RuralDorest is a project that aims to show how 5G connectivity can be used to improve lives in rural communities. Coastal cliff monitoring will be a new piece of research for the project.

The research and development project is backed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), has a total of £ 8 million funding and is set to run for two years.

The coastal cliff monitoring trial will involve an array of 5G connected Narrowband Internet of Things (NBIoT) sensors which will collect data at Lyme Regis and Burton Bradstock, both of which are coastal sites with active landslides.

The autonomous sensors will collect data such as ground movement, temperature and rainfall. This data will be processed using machine learning and Big Data Analytics.

The 5G network will be able to transmit information from the sensors to a Cloud-based data management platform. From here, algorithms will mine the data to draw conclusions on cliff stability.

Eventually, this data will be able to be used in the nowcasting of landslides. Nowcasting refers to the prediction of changes in the short-term, this can be on a timescale of just a few hours and will decrease the danger associated with landslides considerably.

How 5G Could Transform Rural Dorset | Vodafone Business UK

Video Credit: Vodafone Business UK/YouTube.com

Why is it Important?

Coastal landslides and cliff failures are considerable hazards across Britain’s coastlines, including Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. Active landslides pose a public safety risk for the local community and the 12 million people who visit Dorset’s beaches each year.

Landslides are more common in coastal regions due to the accelerated rate at which erosion and weathering places take place. The Jurassic Coast is particularly susceptible as large stretches are made up of a soft rock called mudstone.

Traditional methods of monitoring coastal cliffs are costly and time-consuming. Dorset council has stated that the current monitoring systems used at Lyme Regis cost them a significant amount. The British Geological Survey uses techniques such as LiDAR to assess susceptibility and risk of landslides.

The existing risk associated with coastal landslides is only set to increase. As sea levels rise due to climate change, erosion and landslide activity along the coast will also increase. Developing an efficient, cost-effective way to collect coastal cliff data will be important to combat these effects.

Why 5G?

The introduction of 5G technology has led to new projects like 5G RuralDorset thanks to its vast capabilities.

5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks. Compared to its predecessors which were mainly designed for phones, 5G networks are much more flexible and can be integrated into a variety of uses.

Previous networks such as 4G offer one standard type of connectivity to users whereas 5G is able to provide the unique connections needed for specific uses, such as long battery life for devices such as smartwatches or lower latency connections for robots or machinery.

The introduction of 5G also sees a jump in the mobile network’s processing power. A 5G network has enough processing power built-in that the device is not required to process intense tasks, thereby improving device performance and battery life. This means small, battery-powered devices can work effectively whilst connected to the 5G networks.

Another standout feature of 5G is its ability to function at multiple networks at the same time. Using a technique called network slicing, a part of the network can be adapted for a specific purpose and act independently as its own network. The slice is optimized for its desired use and does not use resources on features it does not need.

Previous mobile networks often struggled to handle a large number of devices in the same location whereas 5G can handle as many as 1 million devices per square kilometer. This makes 5G ideal for collecting data as thousands of IoT sensors can be connected to the network at one time. The network can manage all of the sensors and the data they collect.

All of these features have led to research into how 5G can be incorporated into more industries, which includes the 5G RuralDorset project.

Future Developments

5G RuralDorset is one of several consortium-based projects which are trialing the use of 5G across the UK. These projects are examples of how universities, local government and industry can work together to develop new innovations. The aim of which is to make the UK a global leader in the adoption of 5G technology and set a precedent for other countries to do the same.

The 5G RuralDorset project is particularly innovative as it focuses on rural communities which can often be left behind with new technology due to lack of research or poor connectivity.

As well as coastal monitoring, 5G RuralDorset is completing trials that look into introducing 5G into agriculture, coastal safety monitoring and local businesses. If these trials are successful this would be a huge step forward for implementing 5G and could lead to further innovations in new industries.

Findings from similar project 5G RuralFirst predicted that with access to good quality 5G services, the UK’s rural economy could grow by an additional £17 billion over a ten-year period.

With the vast capabilities of 5G technology, projects such as these are only the beginning and it is expected that many more applications of 5G will be researched and applied in the future.

References and Further Reading

5G RuralDorset. (2021) Coastal Cliff Monitoring. [Online] 5G RuralDorest. Available at: https://5gruraldorset.org/projects/coastal-cliff-monitoring/ (Accessed on 20 May 2021)

Moller, C. (2021) British Geological Survey & 5G RuralDorset partner to develop new coastal landslide monitoring system. [Online]. UK 5G Innovation Network. Available at: https://uk5g.org/  (Accessed on 21 May 2021)

The Engineer. (2021) 5G sensors to monitor and improve coastal safety in Dorset. [Online] The Engineer. Available at: https://www.theengineer.co.uk/5g-sensors-dorset-jurassic-coast/ (Accessed on 20 May 2021)

Violino, B. (2020) What 5G promises for IoT. [Online] NetworkWorld. Available at: https://www.networkworld.com/article/3584385/what-5g-brings-to-iot-today-and-tomorrow.html (Accessed on 21 May 2021)

Ericsson. 5G vs 4G. [Online] Ericsson. Available at: https://www.ericsson.com/en/5g/what-is-5g/5g-vs-4g (Accessed on 21 May 2021)

Digital Catapult.  Industrial 5G Testbeds and Trials. [Online] Digital Catapult. Available at: https://www.digicatapult.org.uk/for-large-businesses/collaborative-research-and-development/industrial-5g-testbeds-and-trials (Accessed 21 May 2021)

5G RuralFirst. (2019) 5G RuralFirst: New Thinking Applied to Rural Connectivity. [Online] Available at: https://www.5gruralfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/5G-RuralFirst-New-Thinking-Applied-to-Rural-Connectivity-1.pdf (Accessed on 22 May 2021)

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Lara Osborne

Written by

Lara Osborne

Lara has an MA in Chemistry from Keele University, focusing on inorganic chemistry. She has always enjoyed writing, particularly throughout her degree.


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