Stolen life-saving ring buoys see council turn to Internet of Things

Dublin pilot programme to commence with potential for State-wide rollout

Dublin City Council is turning to the Internet of Things (IoT) to solve the issue of stolen life-saving ring buoys.

Some 600 ring buoys are lost each year in Dublin alone and with each one costing approximately €40 to replace, it is costing the council in excess of €20,000 a year. More importantly though, a lost ring buoy can also mean a life lost.

The council has issued a tender notice seeking IoT solutions that would enable it to remotely monitor its 140 ring buoys, which are located on the banks of the city’s two canals, on its three rivers, in the Docklands areas, and at beaches.

This isn’t just a problem for Dublin but one that exists across all local authorities with hundreds of life buoys going missing across the State every week.


The current system for monitoring and maintaining ring buoys is ineffective as it requires inspectors to drive and walk around the areas, check the integrity of every single life buoy and record results on a paper system.

The council last year secured €15,000 in funding from the National Public Service Innovation Fund to trial low-cost IoT sensors on ring buoys to see how effective they might be in reducing theft.

It is now looking to procure low cost, retro-fit end-to-end, IoT solutions to alert, monitor and report on ring buoy theft. The solutions sought are to be based on the low power wide area network (LPWAN) technology standard, which allows long range communications at a low bit rate among connected objects such as sensors.

Ideal solutions

The ideal solutions, according to the tender notice, is one that provides local authorities with a near real-time view of ring buoys, helps reduce the cost of replacing them and identifies locations that are at high risk for theft or tampering.

Each of the four Dublin local authorities have agreed to trial the selected solutions with the council also planning to work with other local authorities and water safety officers to see about potentially rolling them out nationwide.

This isn’t the first time that Dublin City Council has deployed IoT solutions. It is also behind an initiative to address flooding issues in the capital through sensors that detect when gullies are overflowing. In addition, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council is currently involved in a pilot project that uses IoT solutions to capture energy-usage data.

LPWAN is emerging as one of the fastest growing IoT communication technologies with 22 billion connections predicted by 2025, up from seven billion this year, according to the research company IoT Analytics.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist