Low-cost sensors to be used to warn residents of flood risk

People living in flood-prone areas could soon be able to get text alerts about possible flooding.

An initiative to address flooding, using low-cost rain detectors, is currently being rolled out in Dublin.

The sensors will monitor rainfall, weather conditions, and river levels and then communicate its data wirelessly to an operation team in Dublin City Council.

The initiative is a collaboration between the council, the other Dublin local authorities, Intel and the Connect Centre, a Science Foundation Ireland research centre at Trinity College Dublin.

Jamie Cudden is the programme manager for Smart City, an initiative of the four Dublin local authorities that engages with smart technology providers, researchers and citizens to solve city challenges and improve city life.

He told the Irish Examiner that if the data collected from the rain detectors over the coming months is validated and proves to be accurate, the sensors could be deployed nationwide.

“We’ll be looking at the next six months to validate the data (collected for the rain detectors), look at the accuracy and whether the results are good enough that we could deploy them. We’d be delighted to work with other local authorities,” Mr Cudden said.

He explained how residents in flood-prone areas may access the information gathered from the sensors if they were rolled out nationwide.

“The ideal scenario is that you would register (with the service) and get alerts in real time. It’s really exciting what you could do with connecting all the data. There is a lot of potential.

“Crews could get there faster, residents in neighbourhoods could be alerted in advance via a text or an app if you register for an alert.”

He added that low rainfall over the last few months has restricted the gathering of data but that the weather over the weekend has changed that.

At the moment there are several sensors in place including on campus at University College Dublin, with approximately 20 planned to be in situ at various locations for the next phase of the project.

Gerard O’Connell, from Dublin City Council’s flood advisory office, said the project has the potential to “revolutionise”.

“This pilot project has the potential to revolutionise our rainfall and water level monitoring systems around the city, making the capital safer for its citizens and visitors.

Flood damage to the city infrastructure ranges from €2m to €100m per annum currently, with an average of around €8m per annum.

“This figure is increasing due to sea level rises and more intense rainfall events,” Mr O’Connell said.

Some initial flood monitoring activity had already taken place across the capital through Intel’s ‘Dublin Living Lab Programme.’ This led to the prototyping of a set of river and rainfall sensors.

“Projects like this demonstrate how low-cost environmental sensor networks can be scaled to generate useful and actionable flood data for communities living across the city,” Mr Cudden from Smart City said.

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