01 September 2016

DIGITAL - Internet of Things for Wildlife and Conservation

The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to revolutionize the way conservationists engage the public with their work, and even how they do their jobs.

Through sophisticated tracking equipment, Project RAPID (Real-Time Anti Poaching Intelligence Device) is able to protect endangered rhinos and other endangered animals.

The project relies on satellite signals, heart rate monitors, and even video streaming.

The monitoring team is notified when an animal’s heart rate spikes, and they can observe the animal through a small camera implanted in the rhino’s horn. From there, help can be dispatched.

Project RAPID highlights many of the benefits and also some of the challenges involved with using IoT technology in conservation. Every rhino being monitored this way needs to be caught, sedated, and the video camera implanted. Replacing the batteries will be a challenge.

Another collar-based wildlife project is Elephants Without Borders, which tracks elephant movement across political boundaries, and highlights the impact of human development on wild animals.

War and conflict can change wild animal’s behaviour as they avoid dangerous areas, and the EWB project has shown that in areas where conflict has ceased, such as Angola, elephants are returning.

This project also tracks other large herbivores, such as giraffes.

Most current GPS tracking devices for wild animals have a 9-12 month battery life, and each battery change requires capturing the animal again.

These project teams are probably looking forward to self-charging batteries, which have been in development for years now, and appear to be close to launching for some devices. Once they become viable they will be an important part of the IoT for animals and people!

Instant Detect is another IoT innovation in animal conservation, using a range of technologies to create early-warning systems for poaching activity in protected areas without having to capture the animals.

Camera traps, as well as seismic and magnetic ground sensors, collect data and are designed to recognize the presence of humans.

This information is sent via satellite to individual users. Rather than relying on information connected to the animal itself, Instant Detect takes advantage of the environmental sensors that are the hallmark of so many IoT applications.

As InfoStream previously reported, the International Space Station is going to be used for wildlife tracking and conservation efforts through the ICARUS Initiative - with the ability to monitor and track hundreds, or possibly thousands of birds, bats and other animals in real time.

The Internet of Elephants is using the IoT in yet another way, gamifying conservation to engage members of the public. The project uses game mechanics to allow users to interact with wild animals through the app.

Internet of Elephants founder Gautam Shah is also looking for future applications of the IoT for conservation.

The Hackathon for Wildlife, which took place in at Solstice Mobile’s Chicago headquarters last November, generated app ideas as varied as incorporating VR into child education, and a “Habitap” app that would allow users to follow animals in real time.

The Internet of Things offers huge potential for conservationists.

Whether they’re bringing wild animals into people’s phones, or deploying rescue teams in response to remote sensors, conservationists are bringing the wild closer in order to keep it safer.

By Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a writer, editor, academic, and animal lover who came late to her appreciation of pets. At 18, a rescue pup named Tasha saved her from a depression and she hasn't looked back. She has worked as the canine behaviour program coordinator for the Calgary Humane Society, and was a dog trainer specializing in working with fearful and reactive dogs for many years. She doesn't have any pets right now, but makes up for it by giving her petsitting clients (and any dogs she comes across on her frequent coffee shop adventures) extra snuggles.

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