Help fight rural crime with internet of things

A Science Park on Anglesey is fighting rural crime, using a specially developed Internet of Things (Iot) device. Bringing innovation together with existing IoT technology, a matchbox sized device has been created which can help fight sheep rustling, sheep worrying by dogs, and track ram mating patterns!

In rural areas like north Wales, where M-SParc is located, in Gwynedd alone, at least six incidents of sheep stealing were reported over a one year period, as well as 14 incidents of dog worrying. This created thousands of pounds worth of losses and damages, and so this new device is answering a very real problem.

The Internet of Things, for those not in the know, is a way of connecting smart devices, which can be a car, a fridge, a lightbulb, or your prize Rams!

Pryderi ap Rhisiart, Managing Director of M-SParc, explained: “The Internet of Things is a way of connecting specific devices together, in this instance through a LoRaWAN network, and giving them tasks to do! It doesn’t require Wi-Fi or mobile signal, and so for a rural area is the perfect solution to many problems.

“One such problem, brought to our attention through discussions with farmers, is sheep rustling. This can cost farmers up to £50,000 and valuable time, not to mention the police and public resources spent on investigating the crime. Of the thousands of cases of rustling in the UK last year, only 1 was resolved. We collaborated with Bangor University to appoint a graduate to see what could be developed. Jack Sherdian, from the school of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, began working right away.

“The device he created can be used on a standard ram’s mating harness, so we know already that it’s safe to use on an animal. It works by tracking sheep to see if they begin moving at a certain speed, for a certain length of time. When activated by movement, the farmer is notified via SMS alert and can take action to prevent a crime from being committed. The device will also ultimately collect data from nearby mobile phones, so that there is a higher chance of identifying and persecuting criminals if the crime goes ahead. All the information is fed back in real time to the farmer, who has the opportunity to monitor the flock and prevent the crime taking place or alert authorities in good time.”

During development, the device also identified another unexpected use for itself. As it is already attached to a sheep mating harness, and monitors movements of that particular sheep or ram, the intention is that it will actually be efficient at identifying those rams who, during mating season, are most productive. By tracking movement, the IoT device identifies which rams are getting about at an efficient rate, and can even use chips in the ear tags to take information on which sheep the rams have been courting. These randy rams are the most useful to farmers, the ramification of this being that those less lively can be taken to pastures new rather than use up valuable farm resources.

Pryderi continues: “Jack is now employed by us full time to work on this and similar concepts. Bringing the community, industry, academia and expertise all together to do things like this highlights just what a Science Park can do for a region. We are becoming a hub for innovation, and more importantly, innovation that can be commercialised. It’s all about economic growth, and we’re really seeing this come to life.”

Rhodri Owen, Farm and Forest Manager at Coleg Glynllifon, who is helping to trial the device, noted: “This device is welcomed in the farming community – not just because of how common sheep rustling of high value animals is, but because of how innovative and forward thinking our farmers are. They are much more open to using technology in farming than people may think, and have been very open in sharing issues they’d like IoT to tackle. Some have already been using off-the-shelf devices on their own farms. We’re very excited about this.”

M-SParc, a Science Park owned by Bangor University, based in north Wales was set up to diversify and stimulate the region’s economy. This is done by giving dedicated business support to help grow companies; stimulating the economy by increasing the availability of well-paid careers available; holding events for networking and creating collaborations; bringing academia and business together; housing those companies in the science and technology sector by providing them with office and laboratory space; and fighting crime. Thanks to the Internet of Things, anything is possible.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is being celebrated in the region thanks to a project in collaboration with Menter Môn; a not for profit company providing solutions to challenges in rural Wales, and North Wales Tech, a group of like-minded people in the Tech Sector. The ‘year of IoT’ encourages people to focus on IoT problems and solutions. One of the issues identified is sheep rustling, but the partners are looking at solutions to problems from elderly care to bin emptying. Follow #YoIoT on Twitter to share your thoughts with us.


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About The Author

John Swire - Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.