How Vodafone is helping to detect coastal landslides with NB-IoT


Vodafone technology is now being used with small, powerful sensors to detect landslides along the UK’s world heritage coastline, as well as give local farmers more relevant data on cows, soil, and tractors.

Large stretches of the EU’s 68,000km coastline, which is three times longer than that of the United States, also stand to benefit from the technology because the sensors can connect to Vodafone’s extensive Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network across 21 European countries.

Developed by Vodafone, the prototype universal device can house different types of sensors. This will allow academics, businesses, and local authorities to adopt smarter approaches to monitoring environmental and public safety issues.

The technology is being used initially in two pioneering trials – coastal cliff monitoring and smart farming – as part of a UK Government and Dorset Council-backed initiative, called 5G RuralDorset. The initiative aims to understand how next generation connectivity can help people live better, safer, and more prosperous lives in rural communities.

Cliff Monitoring

5G RuralDorset has partnered with the British Geological Survey (BGS) to work alongside Vodafone, Bournemouth University, Neutral Networks and Dorset Council. The partnership is working to produce a monitoring system using authoritative geoscientific data to help decision-makers manage coastal hazards and improve resilience. Using the Vodafone universal device, data collected by sensors developed by Bournemouth University include ground movement, groundwater changes and other environmental factors such as ground temperature. The data will be processed and analysed in the cloud using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning methods developed by Bournemouth University, for interpretation by BGS experts.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary as a UNESCO-designated World Heritage site, the Dorset and East Devon Coastline – known as the Jurassic Coast – is one of only four natural sites across the UK to hold world heritage status. The 155km stretch of British coastline has seen five cliff movements this year alone, including a major landslide in April which saw more than 4,000 tonnes of rubble slip from the cliff face. Ongoing erosion represents a significant danger to people and buildings as well as threatening the devastation of one of the country’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty.

Vodafone’s technology will help experts develop solutions for monitoring and managing erosion, keeping people safe and limiting damage to the UK’s coastline.

Smart Farms

The Vodafone IoT technology is also changing the face of farming today. Vodafone is partnering with Wessex Internet to trial the devices on local Dorset farms. Sensors developed by Wessex Internet, and installed within the Vodafone device, receive live alerts, data, and insights from around the farm, monitoring real-time agricultural information. This includes the health of the soil, water quality of nearby streams and rivers, and the tracking of cattle and high value machinery. The new technology will allow local Dorset farms to monitor and manage productivity via a single platform, developed by Wessex Internet, while reducing their environmental impact more effectively.

Johan Wibergh, Chief Technology Officer at Vodafone, said: “The global reach of our digital networks and technologies has a key role in addressing climate change, from monitoring the health of forests to re-establishing connectivity following flash floods. Now, we are turning our attention to the very real threat of coastal erosion. We are freeing up our engineers to work with scientists on this and other pressing matters across Europe and Africa.”

Dorset Council Deputy Leader Peter Wharf added: “The announcement of this new device represents a big milestone in the research work we’re conducting into coastal cliff monitoring and we’re proud to be working alongside Vodafone to make this important work a reality. Cliff failures are a very dangerous problem not only in Dorset but other coastal regions which see huge numbers of visitors every year. This research, along with the coastal public safety trials, is critical to people’s safety and the long-term prosperity of the area. Current monitoring methodologies are also very costly for the council and this new technology will hopefully provide significant savings in future.”