Spring is here! Over winter we’ve been testing out the Oxford Flood Network technology at Hogacre Eco Park and other locations around Oxford. Winter is important for two reasons 1) Cold, frosts and dampness tend to kill equipment 2) Flooding is more likely to happen in Oxford during this period.
We’re glad to say that apart from a few minor niggles the equipment was remarkably winter-proof. Flooding wise, rivers rose to very high levels on January 18th (see image below) but there was no large-scale field flooding.
It’s been an extremely useful period for us all and in particular we’ve learnt a great deal about deploying devices in real conditions.
There are the hardware considerations: dull but important issues such as fixings become all important; how exactly do you fix a sensor to a disused 60cm cast iron pipe? (see photo below for the answer)
There are the radio considerations: how do you realistically achieve a 250m connection across wooded areas?
There are system deployment considerations: how do you remotely reboot a Raspberry PI gateway that is held securely in someone else’s property?
And there are some basic user interface considerations: how big do the buttons on a mobile app need to be when your fingers have gone numb from standing in a wet muddy field in December?
The key thing to remember about the Internet of Things is that it is where the physical world meets the digital world. The physical world is complex and messy. A warm, protected office (where applications are inevitably built) can hide that messy world.
Happily, we feel we now have a useful end-to-end solution for the Oxford Flood Network to utilise. There’s still much more to do, but our driving factor is now to scale-up the number of sensors around the city. In partnership with the city authorities and local residents associations we hope to deploy around 100 sensors by this coming winter. Ben Ward and Andrew Lindsay of the OFN are currently redesigning the sensor, making it smaller, easier to manufacture and deploy, – ready for a warmer phase of the project.