Nominet and Love Hz use the Internet of Things for flood detection

10th October 2014

A pioneering, Oxford-based trial, led by Nominet and Love Hz, will explore the potential for the Internet of Things to help create an extensive, localised, early warning system for flood-prone areas for the first time in the UK.

Hundreds of homes were evacuated in Oxfordshire last winter along with widespread travel disruption to road, rail and power supplies. Although the Environment Agency provides blanket warnings, it has limited resources and uses just a few, expensive, professional sensors. A higher density of sensors with more detailed data would make a real difference to monitoring water levels in flood-prone areas, particularly in small waterways.

The Internet of Things is set to connect 30 billion devices by 2020* and this trial will use Nominet’s new TV white space network (TVWS) to provide wireless connectivity for sensors which will be installed by Love Hz. Initially, thirty 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 planted by the local community. Work on the new white space network begins this week with the installation of a link in between Oxford City Centre and the floodplain.

TVWS uses the wireless spectrum freed up by the switch to digital TV broadcasting. The available set of frequencies varies, so the database that Nominet has developed performs complex calculations based on a number of factors and tells the devices which frequencies they can use in that area and for how long.

The flood sensors use ultrasonic distance measuring and will be secured above water, for example under a bridge, and pointed down at the changing water surface level. The readings are wirelessly transmitted to the white space network, which will send information back to Nominet via an antenna in central Oxford.

Nominet and Love Hz are looking for more volunteers who can install sensors in flood risk areas to take part in gathering data. In future, a crowdsourced map of the flood levels will give local residents a much better idea of imminent flooding in their area. It will also show whether flood protection schemes actually work and where bottlenecks occur. Flooding is a complex science and providing more data on the behaviour of local flood waters will help long-term models for flood prevention.

The information collected will be open data, available for anyone to use so that it can be linked to, shared and published on various websites.

Nominet is part of a pilot of innovative white space technology which is among the first of its kind in Europe. Adam Leach, Director of Research and Development at Nominet comments: “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, it’s a really practical way to use it to help communities prepare for and effectively manage emergencies.”

Ben Ward, Director of Love Hz said: “The Internet of Things 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.”

If you are interested in taking part in this project, please contact Ben Ward at Love Hz:

Notes to Editors

* Source: Gartner (November 2013)

About Nominet Research and Development

Nominet is best-known as the organisation responsible for the smooth and secure running of the .UK internet infrastructure. We are building on our roots as the .UK domain name registry and have invested in an R&D team to explore a wide range of technologies based on understanding our data and the future internet. As part of our public purpose agenda, we are committed to developing a secure internet space that supports a thriving digital economy.

About Love Hz and the Oxford Flood Network

Love Hz is a consultancy specialising in wireless networks and the Internet of Things. We provide technical consultancy services whilst developing creative new ways to combine these technologies in a valuable and easily understandable way.

Director Ben Ward is a veteran of the UK Internet industry and a relentless innovator. He’s often found speaking at industry conferences and recruiting volunteers to help improve the flood network’s technology. As a resident of Oxford and active member of the local technical community he wants to see Oxford thrive and develop a talent hub.

Oxford Flood Network is a spin-out project with developer Andrew Lindsay (ThingInnovation) which aims to provide low-cost, high-density sensors which are funded, maintained and used by local communities. Citizens are making their cities smarter.