IIoT Technology is Revolutionising the Way We Protect Our Endangered Species

Dan Butler
Sat, 24 Mar 2018
Email Author

Global wildlife populations have halved in the last 40 years due to human activity. IIoT tech is revolutionising the way we protect our wildlife.

According to the WWF, global wildlife populations have halved over the last 40 years, with species extinction occurring at 1000 times the natural rate. Experts estimate that between 2,000 and 100,000 extinctions occur every year with the vast majority occurring as a direct result of human activity.

Habitat destruction, pollution, climate change and the introduction of invasive species are all contributing to the largest extinction the planet has seen since the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Another major factor contributing to the current upsurge in extinction is the poaching of many endangered species to supply the illegal trade of animal body parts, especially to the traditional Chinese medicine market.

It may seem that the planet’s fauna are in dire straits, but there are many people around the world attempting to stem the tide. In fact, corporations, technologists and conservationists are already using innovative technology to save many species from the brink of extinction. From drones to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), technology is giving endangered species a fighting chance of survival.

Once such organisation is the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) who are developing technological tools to better understand animals, their environments and their impending threats.

The ZSL are currently implementing IIoT technology to monitor animals with camera traps. Monitoring the behaviour and movement of animals is vital to understanding their risk of extinction and camera traps are one of the most effective ways of collecting such data.

Camera traps are currently being used by the ZSL to monitor penguins in the Antarctic, Siberian tigers in Eastern Russia and pygmy hippos in the jungles and swamps of West Africa.

Modern batteries allow the camera trap devices to operate unmanned in remote locations for weeks at a time. These devices are also incorporating more IIoT technology, allowing them to transfer their data to conservationists all over the world via satellite and, increasingly, the internet.

ZSL’s Conservation Technology Unit has already developed a multi-sensor alarm system to help fight illegal poaching. Their system uses satellite technology to send camera trap images or security breach alerts to users anywhere in the world in real-time. It is being used to alert rangers of illegal activity in protected areas so that a rapid response can be made.

The Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) was developed by ZSL and its research partners to give rangers and other conservationists the ability to facilitate and standardise the data they have collected, such as information gathered from ranger patrols and reported animal sightings.

GPS technology is used to track rangers’ movements and can highlight the coordinates of illegal activity or other points of interest. This data is standardised and then used to help conservationists make the best decisions with regards to aspects such as ranger patrol coverage and illegal poaching hotspots. This real-time, specific data is vital when prioritising limited resources such as staff and money.

The SMART system is now being employed in over 140 locations worldwide, helping to protect vulnerable species like African elephants and the Western lowland gorilla.

Innovators at ZSL have also developed MATAKI, a tracking system that records the movement and behaviour of species in the wild and then transmits the information to other devices. The system uses small, low-cost tags to monitor the behaviour of an array of notoriously hard to track animals, including turtles, tigers and seabirds.

Other examples of how IIoT technology is aiding conservation:

  • IIoT helps conservationists track endangered dugongs in the Philippines
  • Scientist have developed ‘smart’ beehives that use M2M technology to prevent Colony Collapse Disorder which costs global agriculture billions per year
  • Project RAPID is fitting African rhinos with connected cameras, heart monitors and GPS trackers to alert conservationists of poacher attacks

“Conservationists are currently facing the same obstacles that the wider IIoT industry is facing, namely short battery life, connectivity issues and the current costliness of the technology,” explains Karveh Cavalieri, Managing Partner at Challenge Advisory. “But as IIoT tech becomes more readily available and sophisticated, so too will the effectiveness of IIoT implementation in the struggle to protect our endangered species. The technology is improving rapidly but for many species it may not be fast enough.”