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Stirling, North and the Internet of Things: Data improving lives and helping business

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is “a system of interrelated, internet-connected objects that are able to collect and transfer data over a wireless network without human intervention” but what does it mean and how can it be used?

In 2018 the Scottish Government partnered with North to launch a £6 million National Internet of Things (IoT) network for Scotland. The new network, named IoT Scotland, provides a wireless sensor network for devices to capture and analyse data without the need for 3G/4G or WI-FI. IoT is already changing our lives by supporting businesses to develop innovative applications which can transform homes and workplaces.

Stirling Council partnered with North, the company appointed to lead this pioneering project, to increase the coverage of the IoT in the council area.

We spoke with Audrey Schaefer, Group Marketing Manager at North to learn more about the company’s projects.  ‘IoT devices are used to capture data that is analysed to allow people to make informed decisions. The insights received through data can help tackle economic and social challenges. From waste management and water monitoring, to smart parking and social housing, IoT infrastructure is turning our cities and towns into smarter places for living. Through IoT, local authorities and businesses can reduce their carbon footprint, increase efficiency and make smarter, more informed decisions.

Through its partnership with North and CENSIS (Centre of Excellence for sensing, imaging and Internet of Things (​IoT) technologies), Stirling Council is driving a number of projects. In December 2020, Gartness became one of the first smart villages in Scotland. As a popular stopping point on the West Highland Way, Gartness was an ideal location to pilot IoT infrastructure to support the community and businesses to provide the right services at the right times. Through the collection of data, businesses monitor footfall and allows them to plan ahead for the busiest times.   

Shaun Marley, Community Broadband Officer commented: ‘Local cafes and businesses have already learned that the hours of 10.30-11.30am and 2-3pm are often busier times than lunchtimes. They can prepare by having extra staff on site and stocking up for busier times. The community is looking for other areas in which they can benefit from the technology. One of the implementations considered is monitoring footfall at camping sites. This will help direct walkers and visitors to these areas when they are not busy, or suggest a different option, when they are fully booked.'

Stirling Council and North are also working on placing sensors in key car parks across the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park to monitor usage of parking spaces. Stirling and LLTNP are keen to welcome visitors to the area, and want to use the information to help anyone keen to enjoy the unique landscapes and first class services in the area to plan their trip, taking the frustration out of searching for a place to park. Not only will the data help visitors it will also inform planning of transport services.

Audrey says that North has recently launched fully-funded IoT accelerator packs which aim to help local authorities create safer and more sustainable communities. ‘The accelerator packs offer free waste management, air quality, social housing, water monitoring, building health and intelligent lighting solutions. We don’t only offer the packs, but also the support and advice that is needed for councils to effectively evaluate and adopt the new technology.’

As an early adopter of this smart technology, Stirling hopes that its continued use will help businesses across the Council area to make informed decisions, improving services, saving resources and continuing to thrive.

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