Vodafone and Defra launch 5G-ready NB-IoT forest sensors

11 September 2020

Vodafone has partnered with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Forest Research - Britain’s foremost forestry and tree research organisation – to use a narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) network to monitor forests the in the north and south of England.

Both networking technologies that will power the industrial Internet of Things over the next five years are narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and Cat-M (officially known as LTE Cat-M1). In addition, it is predicted that industrial IoT use cases will overtake the likes of wearables, home security and digital home products, by 2025.

The pilot, which is being carried out in Surrey and Northumberland, will use NB-IoT technology, future-proofed to work on 5G networks when available, to monitor how trees respond to environmental changes within the UK’s forests. 

“Tackling climate change requires radical thinking and our forests will be vital to this,” said Anne Sheehan, director at Vodafone Business UK. “Our IoT technology enables us to connect trees and monitor performance, which is a perfect example of how technology can be used in new ways to help create a more sustainable future.”

Data is collected from IoT sensors which are attached to the trunks of a number of trees, with data then being transmitted to Defra and Forest Research where the effects of temperature, humidity and soil moisture on tree growth and function will be monitored.

“Trees are a unique natural resource that play a crucial role in combating the biodiversity and climate crises we face,” added Malcolm McKee, chief technology officer at Defra. “This exciting partnership uses newly-emerging IoT technologies to improve our understanding of the impacts of environmental change on our nation’s forests, which will help inform our policy making. The new technology provides better quality data and importantly, allows us to monitor places that current technologies cannot reach.”

The three month trial is now underway in Forestry England’s Alice Holt forest, near Farnham in Surrey, along with Harwood forest, near Rothbury in Northumberland.

Meanwhile, Vodafone partnered with Aurrigo, which develops and manufactures autonomous vehicles, to create a driverless transport service from the clubhouse to the opening tee at this year’s ISPS Handa Wales Open. Vodafone will provide 4G network connectivity to the shuttles.