Smart ring buoy project launches to curb theft and save lives

26 Oct 2022

From left: Dublin City Council executive manager Anthony Flynn, Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys Dublin City Council assistant CEO Eileen Quinlivan, Water Safety Ireland acting CEO Roger Sweeney. Image: Shane O'Neill/Coalesce

More than 600 sensors are being installed across Ireland to alert water safety officers when ring buoys are tampered with or go missing.

A new digital initiative is being rolled out to ensure ring buoys are ready to save lives in Ireland’s waters.

More than 600 low-cost sensors are being installed across eight local authorities in Dublin, Laois, Meath, Sligo and Limerick. These sensors are designed to alert water safety officers when ring buoys are tampered with or go missing.

The sensors are paired with a mobile, map-based platform that has real-time monitoring, to ensure ring buoys are replaced as quickly as possible.

Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys, TD, said ring buoys are designed to save lives and protect people, but vandalism and theft is still “commonplace in both our rural and urban communities”.

“In 2021 alone, we tragically lost 80 lives through drowning. Such incidents have devastating and long-lasting effects on families and communities,” Humphreys added.

“This project is a leading example of how the public sector is tackling community challenges with innovative approaches.”

The smart buoys project began in 2018 as part of a workshop to identify challenges in Dublin’s Smart Docklands area. Dublin City Council said around 15 ring buoys go missing or are stolen every week in its authority alone, costing more than €20,000 per year to replace.

The project was developed as part of the Smart Dublin initiative, which aims to future-proof Dublin’s regions by trialling technology to address a wide range of local challenges.

The Smart Dublin team worked with Dublin-based tech partners Civic Integrated Solutions, mSemicon and ZiggyTec to develop the technology. In 2020, ZiggyTec was chosen as one of four bidders to complete the first phase of the project.

Dublin City Council CEO Owen Keegan said the project is a great example of collaboration, as it had the support of local authorities and Water Safety Ireland.

“It is also the first time we have used a procurement approach like this to pilot an innovative technology solution before we buy,” Keegan said. “We look forward to scaling this type of approach to accelerate the deployments of new innovations that can address city challenges.”

Humphreys said the project has received funding through her department’s Digital Innovation Programme. Last year, she announced €1.2m in funding for 20 digital projects in rural communities across Ireland under the scheme.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic