Wireless sensors will use gaps in the TV spectrum to connect to an early-warning system for flood-prone areas in Oxfordshire.
Hundreds of homes were evacuated in Oxfordshire last winter due to flooding, which caused widespread disruption to road, rail and power networks, but the new scheme – one of a number of trials run by UK telecoms regulator Ofcom using so-called TV white space – could prevent residents being caught out in the future.
While the Environment Agency uses a small number of expensive, professional sensors, the higher density of sensors the new system will allow should provide more detailed data that could improve predictions.
The flood sensors installed by wireless consultancy Love Hz will use ultrasonic distance measuring to monitor the changing water surface level, with readings wirelessly transmitted over the white space to Internet registry company Nominet via an antenna in central Oxford.
Adam Leach, director of research and development at Nominet, said: “Oxford has already had major issues with flooding this year, and it’s great to be able to apply the emerging technologies that we are working on in Nominet R&D, like TV white space, to offer wireless connectivity over large distances to tackle old problems.
“The sensors will measure the water levels in the local area in real-time and send the data instantly over the Internet allowing users to get the most up-to-date picture of the affected areas.
“This partnership between us and Love Hz illustrates the exciting possibilities of the Internet of Things (IoT); it’s a really practical way to use it to help communities prepare for and effectively manage emergencies.”
The white space network has been made free to use by Ofcom, but the available set of frequencies varies, so the database that Nominet has developed performs complex calculations to tell each device what frequencies it can use in that area and for how long.
Initially, 30 sensors will monitor water levels in the streams, groundwater and basin of the Thames and Cherwell rivers and over time this project hopes to incorporate even more sensors installed by the local community.
Ben Ward, director of Love Hz, said: “The IoT is often seen as a far-off technology of the future. The Oxford Flood Network shows it’s happening right now, here in Oxford, and anyone can be a part of it. People are solving real-world problems with cutting-edge technology.
“We encourage local individuals, groups and businesses to join in by finding the locations – streams, wells and flood cellars are all good examples – or adopting a sensor. The technology lets us understand our environment and share that information to make better decisions and responses as a community.”
Another TV white space trial announced last week will transmit 24-hour video coverage of animals at London Zoo live to YouTube over the network, using Google's 'spectrum database' to make sure it does not interfere with existing channels.