The hamlet of Gartness, to the west of Stirling, enjoys centuries-old links with innovation.

Mathematician and physicist John Napier famously made his home there, occupying a castle where he worked on calculations that led to publication in 1614 of his landmark research on logarithms.

But, like many small rural communities, Gartness faces the challenge of retaining people and talent.

Now, in an echo of the breakthrough embodied in Napier’s work, residents are bidding to make the hamlet a magnet for new economic activity by turning it into one of Scotland’s first “smart villages”.

Key to their efforts are sensors that have been installed to provide near real-time data on the number of walkers heading towards Gartness and nearby Drymen via the West Highland Way.

The devices are aimed at helping local businesses monitor demand for services, with accommodation providers and hospitality businesses able to anticipate the popularity of campsites, B&Bs and food-anddrink venues.

Included is an Internet of Things (IoT)-connected weather station, hosted at Drymen Primary School, as well as water-level sensors on the nearby Endrick Water.

These will help monitor flood risk and can even tell tourists when they would have a better chance of seeing leaping salmon.

Data will be shared thanks to an internet-based openaccess hub.

Bruce Ellison, chairman of Gartness Community Group, said: “Gartness is a hamlet of less than 200 people – we’re talking about a very small community.

“The sensor project really grew out of another community initiative to improve our poor broadband speeds. Small, rural communities with poor connectivity have much less appeal to families, homeworkers and small businesses.

“So, in January of this year, we secured funding through the UK Government’s Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme and Stirling Council, and signed the contracts for the installation of ultrafast fibre broadband in Gartness.

“We hope to have full connectivity by the end of this year. It means we will have 1GB-capable broadband. It also means Gartness will become much more attractive as a base for small businesses and those working from home.

“Stirling Council then asked us what we were going to do with the new technology – that’s where the idea of sensors came in.”

He added: “The next question is, which other sensors might be round the corner Will we see local farmers keeping track of sheep and cattle fitted with sensors?

“Could sensors help us better understand if the flow of the Endrick Water could power a micro-hydro facility to generate clean energy?

“And, with a more vibrant and connected community, you’re only one step away from something like a community hub.”

The digital village project, backed by the Forth Valley and Lomond Leader programme, is designed to be one of the first of many.

It is also supported by Censis – Scotland’s centre of excellence for sensing, imaging systems and IoT technologies – Stirling Council and tech firm North.