Digital Playground in Wales

The Welsh Government has some really switched on people who understand IoT technology and are excited at the potential benefits of LPWAN for businesses and people in the many rural areas of Wales. They have been raising awareness across the country and Thingitude has delivered workshops and spoken at meetings to help de-mystify technology like LoRaWAN and get businesses excited about how it could benefit them.

One of our bigger projects this year has been in North Wales. Funded by Menter Mon and working with Gwynedd Council and Glynllifon Agricultural College, we have been helping to turn the Glynllifon estate into a “Digital Playground” where local businesses (and individuals) can see a range of sensors connected to an engaging and interactive web application via The Things Network. They can also experiment with, build and install their own sensors and add them into the web application.

Our role has been to provide all the technology – network, sensors, design and build the web application, and to run workshops for the farming and engineering students and local businesses, giving them the skills to configure and connect their own sensors to the Things Network and have data appearing on the internet in a variety of applications.

In the workshops back in February the students came up with the idea of a sensor to measure the height of the slurry in the slurry pit. When Mike and I returned to install the sensors I was hoping the students might lend a hand with the installation, but instead we provided their end of the week entertainment…

The slurry sensor securely fitted onto the floor plate. Look at me, happy as a pig in shit!

The pigs and incredibly cute piglets live on a floor of slatted tiles and the slurry tank sits underneath and collects all the poo that drops through the slats – it’s a very tidy operation given the users and their poor manners. Now there is a technique to lifting up the interlocking tiles so one of the farmers unlocked a tile with two metal hooks and handed it to me. Installing the sensor wasn’t as simple as I’d hoped, but then it hadn’t been designed with this particular use case in mind – I was repurposing a smart bin sensor.

Eventually we got the sensor secured to the floorplate, so we went to find the farmer to fit it back into the floor. “Oh, you can do that” he said cheerfully, “Just stamp on it really hard to make sure it clicks in place and doesn’t fall through.”
The idea of stamping really hard on a wonky tile on a false floor above a swimming pool of slurry takes a bit of getting used to, especially as you have to prise up the 4 surrounding tiles, creating what looks like an increasingly unstable area to walk on, let alone stamp on. Even the pigs paused eating and winced as I raised my foot and crossed my fingers…!

“Just stamp really hard” – what could possibly go wrong?!

Sometimes the work isn’t so glamorous, but it is always fun!

Many thanks to Rhian Hughes and Dafydd Gruffydd from Menter Mon for trusting us with their amazing project. The launch day was brilliant and it was great to hear the interest from local businesses, the active support and trials from Gwynedd Council and the offer of technical assistance from North Wales Tech, which sounds like a really valuable and thriving community group.

If you want to raise awareness of the opportunities of IoT in your region, please get in touch.

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