South West Internet of Things Network (SWIN) has officially launched in Cornwall with guests celebrating at the Tremough Innovation Centre to find out more. Sponsored by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) project, Acceleration Through Innovation (ATI), the event welcomed over 80 businesses and partners.
According to experts, using Internet of Things (IoT) networks, such as SWIN, could provide local communities with countless opportunities. But what does the introduction of SWIN actually mean for those that live and work in the South West? Currently, Wi-Fi connectivity is severely restricted in rural areas due to a lack of 5G infrastructure and coverage.
SWIN is a free open data network with planned regional coverage which creates a test-bed for new software applications and developers across the region to solve problems faced by rural communities. It represents an opportunity for remote locations to benefit from IoT through a cost-effective network with relatively low data requirements. This permits local businesses and communities to come together with their specific issues and source solutions over a shared network throughout the rural communities. SWIN will be looking to commercialise this venture at a later stage.
Dr Katharine Willis, Associate Professor in Smart Cities and Communities at the University of Plymouth explains: “Internet of Things networks can enable a joined-up approach to transport, energy, environment and health services and this has the potential to be transformational for rural communities.
“SWIN is an exciting opportunity to show how smart sensors and connected devices can connect and empower rural villages and towns in Cornwall and Devon. Our Digital Neighbourhoods research project has shown the potential for digital connectivity to overcome some of the challenges facing remote and under resourced rural communities”.
The launch of SWIN is thanks to the tenacity of Wo and Josh King, founders of Hi9, a Cornish tech business specialising in creating voice user interfaces with smart speakers and chat bots, such as an Amazon Alexa or Google Home Hubs. “Our initial investigations demonstrated how, by collecting real-world data, Machine Learning could then make working and living in remote locations more efficient and responsive, whilst at the same time reducing negative impacts on our broader ecosystem. These ideas could be applied to a broad spectrum of sectors including Agri-tech, Marine, Environmental Monitoring & Conservation along with Health & Wellbeing in the community” remarks Wo King.
Cornwall is already leading the way with the Superfast Broadband and the introduction of SWIN could now make a similar step change in the understanding and prototyping of innovative ways to use digital connectivity in rural settings. With SWIN, the South West has the opportunity to supply ground-breaking data, research and explore new ways of using this exciting technology – all of which could impact the future of digital connectivity in the UK.
In comparison, 5G networks use a high frequency of data, requiring extensive network coverage, which in turn are expensive to implement in rural areas. Whereas SWIN uses LoRaWan, a type of frequency is suitable for communicating with low data sensors and is perfect for low intensity usages to track all manner of things. From alerting farmers when livestock have ventured onto roads; to monitoring water sensors and identifying leaks before they have been reported, this network could supply local communities with all sorts of invaluable data.