The use of smart and connected technology could boost rural communities if early adopters of this new technology are supported and if there is continued investment in high-speed broadband and mobile connectivity in rural areas, according to a new report from British Telecom (BT).
The report, which focuses on the tourism and agricultural sectors in Wales, shows that technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT) could help rural areas thrive in the future. For example, farmers are already testing connected sensors and networks to remotely track and manage stock. The report, produced by economic research company Wavehill, also highlights the growing use of new technologies, such augmented reality apps and mapping services, by tourism businesses to help them work more effectively and engage with consumers.
We have written recently about the vast proliferation of IoT applications, which are of ever-increasing use to large enterprises (both industrial and consumer-oriented), municipalities, transportation networks, military and security sectors, and the consumer. The advent of 5G has decisively improved IoT systems and extended their reach. What is less widely known is the fact that the IoT can be of great use in rural communities.
The BT report, seeing the issue through the prism of one rural region in the U.K., pinpoints certain specific ways in which IoT applications can be of benefit. Like industrial manufacturing enterprises, farmers depend on inventory management, which is very effectively accomplished remotely through IoT-enabled systems. Enterprises use IoT to track the shipment and other movements of products; likewise, livestock, an element of inventory that moves on its own, can be monitored by way of connected sensors, a widely used IoT application.
Tourism is another major revenue source for rural areas in the U.K., and here too the IoT can be useful. Mapping programs and AR apps can facilitate and enhance travelers’ experience and thereby drive more tourist traffic to the region in question. Tourists could use AR apps to experience and learn the history of the places they are visiting, while mapping services could help them navigate while they are exploring off the beaten path, especially in areas where ordinary phone-based mapping apps may not work effectively.
In general, and not limited to the U.K. market, we think operators have an opportunity where it comes to IoT deployment in rural areas. Investing in building special purpose-built networks in such places would lead to revenue from local businesses, including agribusiness, as well as from the tourist sector. And given that connectivity often faces challenges in remote areas, IoT networks would be especially useful and welcome.