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Pursuing a major advance in environmental sensing

Published: 
29 January 2015
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Academics at the University of Southampton are collaborating on a multidisciplinary project that could see a major advance in environmental sensing.

Dr Kirk Martinez, from Electronics and Computer Science, and Professor Jane Hart, from Geography and Environment, will be using innovative combinations of technologies from the Internet of Things (IoT) – smart Internet connected devices – in a sensor network system to develop a concept for environmental sensing in remote mountain settings.

The project is being funded through a £174,000 technology proof of concept grant from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Kirk and Jane will be working with colleagues at the University of Dundee on the two year project set in the Cairngorm Mountains and aims to use cutting-edge technology to observe hydrological, peatland and frozen ground processes.

Mountain environments are among the most sensitive to climate change and the Cairngorm Mountains contain some of Britain’s most vulnerable habitats.

The trials will be carried out in an area that is already being monitored by researchers from the University of Dundee and provides an ideal combination of scientists and challenges to test the new technology.

Kirk said: “IoT inspired sensor networks offer a revolutionary new way of investigating the environment. By embedding sensors into the landscape, many remote or hazardous environments can be measured live for the first time throughout the whole year.”

Wireless sensor networks have already been used for environmental science and over the last few years a number of small-scale sensor network projects have focused on a range of environments. These have shown that systems tailored specifically to earth and environmental sciences needs generate the most useful data. However, traditionally these have been very research based and difficult to manage.

Jane said: “The next phase in sensor network research is to revolutionise their user-friendliness to increase their use by environmental scientists. We will be carrying out research into turning this new technology into a sensor network that is robust and reliable enough to be used in environmental monitoring.”

This latest projects builds on a ten-year history of wireless sensor networking that has been carried out by the University of Southampton.

Previous projects have seen researchers from ECS and Geography and Environment exploring the use of these sensor networks in Norway and Iceland. For more information see the http://mountainsensing.org website.

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