Internet of Things Expertise

dot.rural is the RCUK Digital Economy Hub focusing on the rural digital economy. Rural areas have specific characteristics that create challenges around issues such as quality of life and wealth creation. These include: small, often dispersed populations; narrow and uneven channels of information flow; rapid change in population structures and economic activity bases; and restricted access to digital infrastructure. Since 2009, the Hub has worked closely with a range of user partners to explore digital innovations in a rural context. Many of these have focussed on the use of mobile devices, sensing, data integration and analytics to deliver solutions. Others have addressed underpinning issues including rural networking/communications, trust and privacy, and sensor metadata.

Key challenges running through our work related to the Internet of  Things are:

  • Trust issues pervade our work involving mobile devices, sensing and data. Recurring questions include: Is my data safe on this device? Who can access it? What controls do I have over my data?
  • Standards to ensure interoperability of devices, sensors and datasets. IoT devices are often just one of many data streams in an application setting- need consideration to wider integration.
  • Do consumers understand what the IoT is/will mean for them as individuals, citizens, wider society? Our experience is that many have no awareness/understanding and have never been asked what they want from this ‘revolution’. Too much top-down thinking.

Particularly relevant projects and work within the dot.rural Hub are detailed below.

MIME – Managing Information in Medical Emergencies
Partner: Scottish Ambulance Service
Contact: Dr Alasdair Mort
Studied the potential for mobile devices combined with physiological sensors to gather casualty data and aid rural first responders in managing a patient before paramedic (ambulance) services arrive on scene. In addition to guiding the first responder, the MIME solution also provides handover information to paramedics. The initial prototype solution is now at early stage commercialisation, and a spin-out company has been created.

ASICA – Achieving Self-Directed Integrated Cancer Aftercare
Partner: NHS Grampian
Contact: Dr Peter Murchie
How can low-cost mobile devices improve the experience of aftercare for those diagnosed with melanoma, especially those living in remote and rural communities? Patients monitor their own skin using an app which reminds them how and when to do it, and how to react if a concern arises. This includes telephone advice from a nurse specialist; the transmission of high quality photographs for assessment by a consultant; or a three-way web enabled consultation between a remote specialist and a co-located GP and patient. The project is now progressing to a clinical trial.

TRUMP – Trusted Mobile Platform for Self-Management of Chronic Illness in Rural Areas
Contact: Prof Pete Edwards
The rapid growth in mobile devices as personal healthcare appliances raises a host of issues concerning trust, privacy and security. The TRUMP UK-India project, a collaboration between several UK and Indian institutions, has explored a range of these issues including citizen attitudes to personal health data, user-centred design issues, lightweight encryption of personal data on the device, mechanisms for trust and risk-based access control.

Intelligent Mobility
Informed Rural Passenger
Partners: First Group (SE Scotland), Borders Council, Borders College
Contact: Dr David Corsar
Passengers planning and making journeys in urban areas are used to the availability of real-time information on vehicle locations and transport disruptions. In contrast, rural travellers are often information poor. This project explored how the sensing and location-tracking capabilities of smartphones could be used to provide a crowd-sourced solution to track rural bus services. The resulting system integrated a range of transport open data sets with data from the bus operator and the crowd; a mechanism for real-time automated assessment of data veracity was also developed.

Social Journeys
Partner: FirstGroup (Aberdeen)
Contact: Dr David Corsar
More and more passengers are turning to social media to access information about public transport services, and to provide updates on delays and disruptions. How can such data contribute to the wider transport data ecosystem? This project has built a software infrastructure able to extract meaningful content from social media posts, before integrating this information with a range of other transport data (including real-time bus locations) to provide a ‘whole system’ view of a public transport system. The data are then used to generate personalised social media messages for public transport users, based on their previously registered journeys. How operators communicate the status of this complex system to their passengers is another feature of the work.

Digital Conservation
Partners: RSPB
Contact: Dr Advaith Siddharthan
Working with the RSPB this project explored how data from location tracking sensors attached to a group of red kites could be (a) enriched by linking to other related data sources, and (b) used to generate natural language summaries from the data to tell ‘stories’ about the birds and their behaviour. The Blogging Birds website was created to showcase the prototype which integrated location data with weather, land-use, and animal behavioural characteristics to create blog posts that were seemingly written by the birds themselves.

SIRA – Satellite Internet for Rural Access & DART – Digital Advanced Rural Testbed
Partner: Avanti, Scottish Sculpture Workshop, TinHut
Contact: Prof Gorry Fairhurst
The continuing challenge of providing low-cost, effective broadband solutions for domestic and business subscribers in rural areas has been the focus of these projects. Working with a range of partners, the team have explored various solutions including a short-term network ‘boost’ capability, and novel video compression methods. Consideration of pricing structures and business models has been another feature of this work.

WISE – Wireless Internet Sensing Environment
Partner: James Hutton Institute
Contact: Prof Gorry Fairhurst
This project investigated the challenges associated with remote wildlife monitoring in the Cairngorms. An autonomous sensor array was constructed that could be left on a Scottish hillside, using wind and solar for power generation, and satellite communications (employing novel video compression algorithms) for data transmission. The platform also incorporated intelligent sensor management, using low power devices to detect likely events of interest, which then triggered other (higher-cost) sensors.

Consumer Trust and the Internet of Things
Trusted Tiny Things (T3)
Partners: Aberdeenshire Council, Swirrl
Contact: Prof Pete Edwards
How transparent will IoT devices be to the public? What might their attitudes be to such technology? This project explored these questions through a series of focus groups with members of the public, leading to the development of a prototype able to characterise IoT devices and their behaviours (using linked data technologies). The system also gave users control over those behaviours via an Android app.

Tillyzone Smart District Pilot
Partners: Station House Media Unit, Aberdeen City Council
Contact: Dr Paul Gault
We are currently establishing a testbed in a socially deprived area of Aberdeen – Tillydrone. This consists of a public access wifi roll-out coupled with a range of community engagement activities to introduce citizens to the IoT concept. These include community ownership of a number of smart citizen boards, and school pupil sessions using Electro Dough. The aim is to stimulate interest and understanding around the Internet of Things, as a pre-cursor to identifying community priorities for such solutions. The wifi roll-out is using existing street furniture (lamp-posts) and many of the access points will also include an outdoor sending node.

Sensor Metadata, Sensor Standards
Contact: Dr David Corsar
Over the past 5 years we have done a great deal of work across a range of projects that has involved describing sensors and sensor observations. These have made use of a number of existing metadata standards and/or ontologies. Most notable among these is the W3C Semantic Sensor Network (SSN) ontology – the most complete such model for describing sensor characteristics. We have also done work to align SSN with other emerging standards, including PROV – the W3C provenance recommendation.

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