Crime gets Hacked at M-SParc

The Rural Crime Hack at M-SParc saw innovators and idea developers come together with North Wales Police for the first time, in order to help tackle and prevent common rural crimes.

MSparc team - hackathon

The Rural Crime Hack was a partnership event between M-SParc and North Wales Police.  PC Dewi Evans, from the Rural Crime Team, first approached M-SParc to ask for assistance in August. “This work is part of the Future Farms Cymru project by North Wales Police’s Rural Crime Team, which aims to encourage the use of sophisticated security technology on farms to help solve rural crime. We chose to focus on three crimes we thought people could help with; Quad bike theft, breaking into outbuildings, and theft of outboard motors.

Having seen M-SParc help put on the Welsh Health Hack twice this year already, we knew they could help us reach the innovators who might be able to come up with solutions for us.  As well as prize money, the winners will be invited to showcase their solutions and trial them on the demonstration farms.”

The event took place on Friday the 16thof November, with 9 solutions pitched for a cash prize of up to £3,250 thanks to funding from M-SParc, North Wales Police, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, North Wales Police and Community Trust, FUW a NFU. 

Carl Foulkes, Chief Constable at North Wales Police, opened the event. “This is an innovative event that we hope will lead to the introduction of new tools and methods to fight thefts across our region and beyond, and help make North Wales the safest part of the UK.”

Pitches were presented from students, innovators, and companies in the region, and four winners were chosen.

Baglu Rhywun – Dan Bates and Lee Hughes

Dan Bates specialises in Electronics and has worked for 5 years with Open Energy Monitor.

Lee Hughes is a Network specialist, encompassing Networking Architecture, Security and Troubleshooting, and currently building farming robots to be used in low impact agriculture. The security device uses a magnetizes case, and notifies owners in real time via vibration sensors if the device is being moved.  It also provides real time location tracking, and is a completely customised design. There is potential for this device to help prevent all three of the crimes being tackled in the hack.

Curiad – Wyn Griffiths and Rob Shepherd

Wyn is a design technician, and Rob is a network and electronics specialist, with an expertise in Internet of Things. The device makes use of the LoraWAN transmitter and the growing number of ‘gateways’ in the region, transmitting a ‘heartbeat’ which notifies theft in real time, provides an incident time stamp, and pinpoints speed and direction of travel. For both quadbike theft, and for theft of large and expensive items from outbuildings, this device was noted as a very viable solution for reducing the time window and therefore the people-hours required to investigate when and how a crime happened.

Gary Smith

Gary hopes to develop his solution quickly in order to provide a quick and viable solution.  It involves RFID tag tracking, starting from a 10m sensing range, that effectively works like a shop door alarm – once a quad bike, outboard motor, or other device passes through the sensors, the farmer is notified. It was advised that this device would be particularly suited to outboard motor thefts, as entrance via the dock is usually limited and allows a suitable location for the sensors to be placed. Gary will be donating some of the prize money to YANA, a charity providing help for those involved in farming and other rural businesses affected by stress and depression. 

Y Bugail Bodlon – Rhydian Williams

Rhydian’s idea is to prevent farmers relying on traditional keys and locks.  From Pen Llyn, and with a keen interest in science and technology, Rhydian wanted  to put a smile on people’s faces with his solution – an RFID tag which would be placed in farmers’ wellingtons to allow them to engage an electronic door lock by kicking it! This solves the solution of remembering to lock outbuildings, as they are always automatically locked.  The panel decided this could be a fun solution as potentially a way to start farming equipment with no keys, and Rhydian will explore this further.

Pryderi ap Rhisiart, Managing Director for M-SParc, said “It was great to see a range of people pitching solutions today, and especially to see some students of Bangor University Product Design and Electronic Engineering scools get involved! That’s one of the reasons we wanted to help with the hack – it’s great to be able to diversify and work across sectors to come up with solutions, that’s what M-SParc is all about, but it’s also fantastic to see young people from the region embrace these opportunities and come along to ‘give it a go’!”

As well as the prise funding, and access to the Future Farms demonstration network, the winners will also get access to the Ffiws makerspace at M-SParc. All projects will be encouraged to grow and develop, with the intention that many will be on working farms in north Wales by the new year.