Dorset Jurassic Coast cliffs

Jurassic Coast gets 5G landslide detection monitoring

Image credit: 5G RuralDorset

The British Geological Survey and 5G RuralDorset have partnered to develop a new coastal landslide monitoring system.

5G RuralDorset - a project exploring how next-generation connectivity can benefit rural communities - has announced a new programme expansion to monitor land stability and cliff movement at key points along Dorset's famous Jurassic Coast.

The extension to this project, backed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), takes total funding to £8m and sees the British Geological Survey (BGS) join the project to work in this research area.

Coastal landslides and cliff failures represent a significant hazard to local residents, workers and the 12 million people who visit Dorset’s coast each year. Cliff falls are a hazard worthy of research and development trials, as they can be expensive and time-consuming to monitor using traditional methods.

The interdisciplinary work will bring together key 5G industry players Vodafone and Neutral Networks, experts in computer science from Bournemouth University and geological expertise from the British Geological Survey and Dorset Council.

The research will develop and trial a landslide and cliff monitoring system incorporating 5G-enabled IoT, edge computing, machine learning and artificial intelligence. The system will comprise an array of autonomous IoT sensing devices equipped with a suite of sensors monitoring modalities such as ground movement, water content and temperature. The sensors will collect data such as ground movement, temperature and rainfall, which will then be processed using big data analytics and machine learning.

Vodafone’s 5G/NB-IoT network will be used to transmit sensory readings to a cloud-based data management platform, where sophisticated algorithms will process the data to provide valuable insights on cliff stability, eventually enabling the 'nowcasting' of landslides.

It will also look at how such monitoring services can be deployed closer to the end-devices by using edge computing and embedded machine learning; two technologies that will enable localised data management and decision making, thus leading to greatly reduced latency and response times.

It is hoped that the research can prove that by using 5G connected sensors, the process of data collection can be made safer; more cost effective; responsive, and efficient and contribute to coastal resilience in the face of climate change and sea level rise.

The system will be trialled at Lyme Regis and Burton Bradstock: coastal sites with active landslides posing public safety risks for the local community and visitors using the beach. The current management and monitoring systems at Lyme Regis represent a significant cost to Dorset Council.

Digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman said: “5G is about more than just having a faster mobile phone and this project in Dorset is one of the innovative trials the government is funding to find new ways it can improve people’s lives. I look forward to seeing how it can boost public safety in our coastal communities and position the UK as a true world leader in 5G.”

The work complements existing studies already being trialled by the project into coastal public safety and agritech, which also use connected sensors and edge computing for processing. It also demonstrates how 5G connectivity can benefit rural communities in a wide variety of use cases, including coastal safety and for local councils in reducing costs for managing the natural environment.

Catherine Pennington, an engineering geologist and landslide specialist at the British Geological Survey, said: “Due to climate change our sea levels are rising, which means we will see an increase in erosion and landslide activity at the coast. Understanding these processes is important in building resilience for the future so we can adapt to these changes. This project is an opportunity to combine expertise to explore a different, cost-effective and efficient way of collecting landslide data. We hope the resulting system will help us understand the processes that drive coastal landslides as they happen in real-time.”

Dr. Marios Angelopoulos, principal academic at Bournemouth University, commented: “We are excited to work on this collaborative and multidisciplinary project as it gives us the opportunity to apply our 5G and IoT research to the benefit of our region with clear social and economic impact. 5G networks are usually perceived to refer only to urban environments. With this work, we will demonstrate the great added value that 5G networks can bring in a variety of use cases also to rural areas.”

This new research area also feeds into the AssetHUB work, delivered by NGIS. The primary focus of this is to build a comprehensive picture of the existing infrastructure in the area. By examining what assets already exist and which can be exploited, 5G RuralDorset hopes to make the project more efficient as a whole and improve the success of planning applications and reduce costs and delivery timescales.

The 5G RuralDorset project aims to show how 5G can be used to address specific challenges – e.g. public safety, economic growth, food production and the environment – as well as create new opportunities in Dorset and rural communities across the UK. 5G RuralDorset is a consortium led by Dorset Council and includes local, national and international partners. It is part of the DCMS' '5G Rural Testbed & Trials' programme.

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