23 May 2023
by Dr Andrew Muir

IoT technology could be a game-changer in the fight against climate change (Guest blog by FarrPoint)

Guest blog by Dr Andrew Muir, CEO at FarrPoint #LPSInnovation

When you consider all the ways that technology can help Scotland meet its ambitious 2045 net zero target, monitoring peatland might not be the first thing that comes to mind.

However, Scotland’s peatlands are one of our key natural resources in the fight against rising carbon emissions, so we must make efforts to protect them.

Most people don’t realise how vitally important peatland is to the environment. This is because as well as supporting biodiversity, Scotland’s peatlands in particular, also store 1.6 billion tons of carbon - the equivalent of around 140 years of the country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

So if peatland gets damaged and dries out, it releases a huge amount of CO2 into the atmosphere, making the problem of climate change even worse.

It is estimated that 80% of Scotland’s peatland is damaged. And this isn’t just a Scottish issue – ensuring peatlands are preserved is of paramount importance right across Europe, especially in Scandinavia, where most of Europe’s peatlands are located.

How technology can help

In autumn 2022, in collaboration with NatureScot, Peatland ACTION, the Carloway Estate Trust and Scottish Water with funding from the Scottish Government, we began a year-long trial of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, to see how this could help address the problem of peatland damage.

The trial was designed to capture reliable real-time information around the quality of peatlands before, during and after a restoration project.

As peatland covers a large proportion of the Western Isles, a suitable site was identified for the trial to take place in a remote area surrounding Loch Orasaigh on the Isle of Lewis.

We installed 11 sensors in strategically identified locations to enable us to monitor the water content and condition of the peatland. The Peatlands Monitoring Dashboard displays the information that’s gathered from the sensors, providing an accurate source of data in real time with no need for anyone to physically visit these remote sites.

Until now, monitoring peatland was a time-consuming manual task, requiring regular travel to monitoring stations in often remote locations, which often could only be reached on foot.

The IoT trial could become a game-changer in helping to save peatlands in the UK and beyond, by providing real-time information on the impact of restoration work, and by cutting down on the resource and emissions costs of sending people to the remote peatlands locations to manually collect measurements.

Digital solutions like these will increasingly become central to our ability to limit the damage of climate change and hit our net zero targets. Connecting remote and rural areas with such technologies can be extremely challenging, and whilst benefits have been clearly demonstrated for larger cities, this trial will create key learnings that can be applied to other remote regions of the UK and Europe.

As part of the same project, we also explored the broader use of IoT solutions to benefit the local Western Isles community. Working with the Scottish Government, we consulted with local residents to identify other key social and economic issues that could be solved by using IoT technology.

This included installing sensors at a remote, unmanned historic document storage facility that could detect any changes in humidity or temperature that could be damaging to these important documents. The technology provides alerts to allow the community to take action when environmental conditions aren’t right.

This approach to “stackable” use cases - where multiple uses can be delivered over the same infrastructure - is seen as essential in more remote areas, in order to improve the investment case.  

To find out more about our work examining the use of IoT technology, please visit https://www.farrpoint.com/smart-places

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Dr Andrew Muir

Dr Andrew Muir

CEO, FarrPoint