This is the second article of a series in which we are looking at how IoT can help us better manage our resources and solve our ecological issues. If you’d like to read the first article, about Agritech, head over here.
The exploitation of the planet by humankind is causing an unprecedented extinction crisis. Populations of wild animals —affected by pollution, climate change or human activities¬— have fallen by more than 50 percent. The current rate of global extinction is estimated to be 100 to 1000 times higher than the norm. In Europe, 42% of European mammals are endangered, together with 15% of birds and 45% of butterflies and reptiles. (source: ec.europa.eu)
Does it matter? Yes, without a doubt! The extinction of species could lead to the destruction of entire ecosystems. The consequences of rising sea levels and flooding, drought, bushfires, degraded habitats, soil erosion, air, soil and water pollution, climate change, lack of food are numerous and affect every species on the planet including humans. Population growth necessitates an increased need for food and resources but with the degradation of our natural environment, the planet's carrying capacity is significantly reduced. With this conundrum, we risk apocalyptic consequences such as war, famine, disease and above all, extinction. But the advances in IoT technology are helping experts to track and understand the entire journey of a species in its natural environment. Let’s look at the current state of the IoT on that matter and see how connected objects are being used to benefit vulnerable ecosystems…
Deep learning algorithms that monitor the population of various species, smart cameras that can detect poachers in the bush, sensor-tagged animals that reveal details of their life histories, and smartphones that can listen for chainsaws in the forest, are just some examples of the advantages to be gained from implementing benevolent monitoring systems across the natural world. As of January 2020, 732 companies have taken science-based climate action, and 312 have approved science-based targets and that’s not including the directives already implemented by governments. (source: Science Based Targets)
One such project, dubbed ‘Providence’, is a monitoring system that tracks the diminishing biodiversity in South America’s Amazon rainforest. A wireless sensor network consisting of autonomous nodes is deployed throughout the jungle to continuously monitor wildlife under the canopy of the rainforest. These sensors include acoustic sensors, weather monitoring sensors, and visual and thermal imaging technologies.
Photo © csiro
AWT, one of Saft’s clients, has designed several tailor-made tracking devices to protect endangered species such as rhinoceros, lions, elephants and fish. Wildlife rangers and conservationists are using collars to keep an eye on animals and study their behavior in order to gain insight into their natural environment. AWT created several types of collars, ear tags and horn implants, using different frequencies and networks, to meet the unique requirements of various species and their habitats. Its trackers transmit data as often as every 10 seconds to keep scientists informed about data such as temperature, light intensity, daily movement, home range sizes and information from a 3-axis accelerometer from which mortality can be detected. Around 9,000 elephants in Africa and Asia have been studied thanks to AWT radio-GPS collars.
Photo © AWT
Along the same lines but using different technologies, the Sigfox Fondation has developed GPS trackers to locate rhinos. Baptised “Now Rhinos Speak” , the program is part of a wider and ambitious project, “The Power of Low”, an endowment fund which aims to put the Internet of Things at the service of humanitarian and environmental causes. Now Rhinos speak’s goal is to obtain better knowledge of the animal‘s behaviour by providing up to 33,000 data points from which to track the endangered species (only 29 000 Rhinos remain when 500 000 were recorded just 20 years ago). The devices use low-powered sensors and Sigfox 0G network, giving the trackers up to three years battery life. The Sigfox Foundation is now partnering with several of the largest international organizations to expand the trial and the rhino conservation effort.
WWF and Intel are using trackers to help protect wild tigers and their habitats, monitoring trends in tiger distribution and population numbers. Camera traps are triggered to take a photo or to record a video when they detect movement. They are also used to recognize each individual tigers and different prey species. AI is then helping to analyze the enormous amount of data gathered and make sense of it to protect the species.
Intel again but this time with Inmarsat and in partnership with the non-profit RESOLVE, have developed another camera-based anti-poaching system with satellite connectivity and image processing, TrailGuard AI. Its early warning system, powered by AI cameras is capable of performing in the field on battery power for up to 18 months and can determine when a person or a vehicle is present and send alerts to rangers who can then intercept poachers before they act. The TrailGuard technology has already enabled the arrest of thirty poachers and the seizure of 1,300 lb. of illegal bushmeat during a test phase in Tanzania.
In our article « 6 IoT topics that grabbed our attention this year at the CES », we presented a French start up, BeeLife. They created a new generation of connected beehives that enables them to fight the main causes of bee mortality ¬—mite varroa and temperature change—in an ecological way: The CoCoon hive treats varroa with a purely biological weapon, heat, and helps bees to live in a healthy habitat.
Photo © Beelife
On a wider scale, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), an important international conservation charity, has developed a monitoring system that captures and transmits real-time data on wildlife and human activity anywhere in the world. Baptized “Instant Detect”, the monitoring system uses a combination of sensors, cameras, low-power radio networks, and satellite technology to monitor wildlife behavior and habitat changes, and alerts the authorities in near real time when illegal poaching activity is detected. The devices are powered by internal Li-ion batteries and sometimes by external (solar-powered) batteries to allow installation on animals and elsewhere, even in the most remote locations. They are designed to sleep whenever possible and ZSL is looking for ways to reduce the power draw in sleep mode to prolong the life of both the batteries and the devices.
These are just a few examples of how IoT combined with IA can help in protecting our wildlife in a non-invasive way. Many more are being developed with encouraging results. As custodians of the earth and its living species, we have a responsibility to protect our wildlife and to do everything within our power to do so.
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