A PROJECT which explores how technology can help overcome challenges in rural areas has won more national recognition for its internationally groundbreaking work.

The 5G RuralDorset project won more plaudits when it was highly commended in the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) awards in the Future Places category.

Led by Dorset Council, the government funded research programme has previously won seven national awards for breaking new ground in showing how emerging technology can make a real difference to people’s lives.

From farming robots to the world’s first coastal connected 5G buoys, their work is proving how next generation connectivity can make rural areas like Dorset better places to work, live and visit.

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Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for Corporate Development and Transformation, Cllr Jill Haynes, said: “This is another richly deserved award for everyone behind the 5G RuralDorset project.

“Their innovative research has demonstrated how next-generation connectivity can transform farming on both land and sea.

Dorset Echo: 5G buoy Picture: Dorset Council 5G buoy Picture: Dorset Council

“And above all, their work proves how technology can improve the lives and safety of our residents and visitors.”

In farming, the team has used drone imaging and sensors to show that crop irrigation and weed control can be more efficient and environmentally friendly. The team also used digital imaging and artificial intelligence to monitor the wellbeing and productivity of cattle herds.

And in aquaculture, underwater cameras have been used to assist fishers and farmers with crop and water quality, saving both time and money.

To improve coastal safety for both residents and visitors, the team installed the world’s first standalone 5G network along the Lulworth coastline.

This network can feed live data on sea temperature and wave heights back to information signs located at tourist hot spots.

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The digital signage also informs the council and emergency services about the number of people on the beaches and using the car parks, helping to reduce the risk of incidences.

An added benefit has been the ability to equip Lulworth First Responders with communication tools that have 5G data coverage so they can make emergency calls.

To further improve coastal safety, 5G sensors have also been installed along the Jurassic coastline to monitor cliff movement and potential rock falls.

The 5G team has also been looking how tech can be improve the wellbeing of Dorset’s elderly and vulnerable residents.

It has provided devices that can help inform carers of their loved one’s movements and fluid intake.

Connectivity in one very rural Dorset village, Worth Matravers, has also improved thanks to new 5G connections – meaning villagers can call 999 from their mobile phones for the first time.

Dorset Council’s Corporate Director for Transformation, Innovation and Digital, Deborah Smart, said: “The amount of work the 5G team have produced in two years, during the height of the Covid pandemic, is quite remarkable."