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Smart Ring Buoys Launched by Dublin City Council to Save Lives and Improve Water Safety

28th October 2022
At the launch of the Smart Ring Buoys project, from left: Dublin City Council executive manager Anthony Flynn, Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys, Dublin City Council assistant CEO Eileen Quinlivan and Water Safety Ireland acting CEO Roger Sweeney
At the launch of the Smart Ring Buoys project, from left: Dublin City Council executive manager Anthony Flynn, Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys, Dublin City Council assistant CEO Eileen Quinlivan and Water Safety Ireland acting CEO Roger Sweeney Credit: Shane O’Neill/Coalesce

Dublin City Council, in partnership with Water Safety Ireland and the Department for Rural and Community Development, this week launched an innovative ‘Smart Ring Buoys’ project aimed at saving lives in Ireland’s waters.

The Smart Dublin initiative worked with technology partners Civic Integrated Solutions Ltd, mSEMICON Teoranta and ZiggyTec Ltd to develop the low-cost lifesaving technology, which will provide real-time alerts when life rings are stolen or tampered with.

Anti-social misuse of life buoys is an issue for councils across Ireland, and more than 600 sensors will now be installed in eight local authorities including Fingal County Council, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, South Dublin County Council, Dublin City Council, Laois County Council, Meath County Council, Sligo County Council and Limerick City & County.

The Smart Ring Buoy technology works through low-cost sensors paired with a mobile, map-based platform with real-time monitoring. It will alert water safety officers when ring buoys are tampered with or go missing and ensure their timely replacement. This is an essential and lifesaving action as a stolen ring buoy could mean a stolen life.

Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys said: “In 2021 alone, we tragically lost 80 lives through drowning. Such incidents have devastating and long-lasting effects on families and communities.

“Safety tools like ring-buoys are in place to save lives and protect people when they are close to water. Sadly, the theft or vandalism of this life saving equipment is still commonplace in both our rural and urban communities.

“The initiative that I am launching today [Wednesday 26 October] in conjunction with Dublin City Council is both unique and important. With the support of funding from my department’s Digital Innovation Programme, we will roll out this sensor technology in 8 different local authorities.

“This project is a leading example of how the public sector is tacking community challenges with innovative approaches. I want to commend Dublin City Council and all the project partners and stakeholders involved.”

The project began back in 2018 as part of a workshop to identify challenges in Dublin’s Smart Docklands area. Members of the community highlighted that ring buoys were frequently being stolen or tampered with, with a delay to replacement devices being installed.

‘These smart ring buoys will detect when this essential public rescue equipment is interfered with or stolen’

At present, around 15 ring buoys go missing or are stolen every week from Dublin City Council alone costing over €20,000 per annum for replacement.

Dublin City Council says it realised that this was a problem not just in Dublin but across Ireland and set out to find a solution through its Smart Dublin innovation programme. Across Ireland there are approximately 5,000 life buoys installed.

The project has taken what’s described as a “unique” approach to procurement in an Irish context, led by Dublin City Council, where the Dublin local authorities have been able to pilot a number of innovative solutions initially and then purchase the best solutions as part of a wider framework with 23 local authorities.

In addition, the project was shortlisted for an Innovation leadership award from the European Innovation Council, recognising the efforts done by the public sector to promote and implement innovation procurement across Europe.

Speaking about the new scheme, Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan said: “This is a great example of collaboration across the Irish local authorities and Water Safety Ireland through our Smart Dublin programme. It is also the first time we have used a procurement approach like this to pilot an innovative technology solution before we buy.

“We look forward to scaling this type of approach to accelerate the deployments of new innovations that can address city challenges.”

Roger Sweeney, acting CEO of Water Safety Ireland said: “Every year, ring buoys are used by the public to save lives from drowning however many ring buoys are regularly stolen or vandalised. A stolen ring buoy can mean a stolen life. Ring buoys play a critical role in drowning prevention but to do so they must always be available and in place.

“These smart ring buoys will detect when this essential public rescue equipment is interfered with or stolen. They will save on the time that is currently needed to monitor and replace them and they will provide this information 24 hours a day.

“The increased number of visitors to our waterways nationwide has placed a greater emphasis on the need for such innovative water safety solutions that can help prevent tragic drownings. Water Safety Ireland is delighted to be involved in this project which will help save lives.”

Published in Water Safety
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