The French Firm on a Mission to Add All Rhinos to the Internet of Things

Sigfox's GPS tracker is painlessly installed in a rhino's horn as part of the "Now Rhinos Speak" programme..

More and more devices are becoming part of the so-called Internet of Things. Now, a leading connectivity firm has added rhinoceroses to that list.

Author Mark Newton, 01.09.19

Translation Mark Newton:

Decades of illegal poaching has reduced the global rhino population to around 29,000 individuals, with some species teetering on the edge of extinction. However, technology is now playing a bigger and bigger role in helping to get an advantage over the poachers.

One firm, for example, has recently been experimenting with incorporating rhinos into the ever expansive Internet of Things – the interconnected system in which everyday objects send and receive information via the internet. French firm Sigfox, a world leader in IoT technology, has developed a small miniaturized tracker which can inform conservationists and rangers on the location of rhinos within a massive area.

Creating Internet Enabled Rhinos

The device, developed as part of Sigfox’s ‘Now Rhinos Speak’ programme, consists of a small low-powered GPS tracker which works in conjunction with Sigfox’s Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) network. During trials in Lowveld nature reserve, supported by the Lowveld Rhino Trust, three solar-powered base stations and antenna were established across the park, each of which maintains an internet connection with the EUTEL satellite. These three stations provide the coverage necessary to communicate with the trackers implanted into the horns of the rhino.

Rangers can then use a secure app to receive an overview of the location of the rhinos, with the trackers pinging out a location to the app three times a day for around three years. The trackers themselves only power up prior to sending out their signal, improving their battery life and making them immune to interception by poachers.

Armed with this technology, rangers can not only see where rhinos are heading – including towards potential danger spots – but it also increase the efficiency, both in terms of impact and cost, of their patrols.

During the trials, around 30 white and black rhinos had the trackers installed, with the process requiring the rhino to be sedated and holes bored into their horns. The tracker was then inserted, causing neither short nor long-term discomfort to the rhino.

The Sigfox Foundation now hopes to scale up their programme, with the ultimate goal of installing a tracker into each of the 29,000 rhinos in the wild.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen innovative technology used in the fight against poaching. For example, image recognition software is being developed to spot and identify animals – and their poachers – in the wild, satellite collars are being used to track elephants and AI-powered programmes are being used to develop more efficient patrol routes.

Ultimately, anti-poaching measures must still rely heavily on traditional ranger skills, such as knowledge of the land and the behaviour of the animals and their hunters. However, technology can be increasingly used to support these activities by improving their efficiency in the field and overcoming time-consuming hurdles that often hinder rangers’ and conservationists’ work.

TAGGED WITH
FishFace: Tackling Overfishing With a Fish Photobooth and Artificial Intelligence

Could artificial intelligence make the fishing industry more sustainable? The "FishFace" project is developing a solution that could help protect fish stocks around the globe.

Your Smartphone’s Face Recognition Software Is Now Being Used to Identify Dolphins

Algorithms based on Google's face recognition software are now able to identify individual dolphins based on only their dorsal fins - boosting conservation efforts.

AfriScout: Satellite Technology That Helps Nomadic Shepherds Feed Their Flocks

Climate change and intensive land use are making it increasingly difficult for shepherds in sub-Saharan Africa to find good grazing land. The AfriScout app is designed to help shepherds identify these crucial areas.

The Eavesdropping AI That’s Helping Rangers Track Africa’s Elusive Forest Elephants

AI-backed listening devices aim to track elephants - and their poachers - in the dense African rainforests.

Getting Ahead of the Amazon’s Illegal Loggers With Miniature Satellites

A newly published paper outlines new models for employing satellites to better spot and investigate deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

How Satellite Collars for Elephants Are Helping Tanzanian Rangers Get a Technological Edge Over Poachers

A new satellite collaring initiative aims to bolster the dwindling elephant numbers in Tanzania’s national game reserves.

Google’s Facial Recognition AI Helps Identify Endangered Species in the Wild – and Their Poachers

Facial recognition tech is the latest tool in the fight against poaching, with London Zoo embarking on a new trial which could drastically improve conservation efforts.A new project, developed in collaboration with Google, will use machine learning and image recognition software to identify and catalogue animals snapped by remote motion-sensitive camera traps.

Kara Solar: A Solar-Powered Transportation System for the Amazon

A solar-powered boat transportation system has been designed that combines modern photovoltaic technology with traditional indigenous knowledge. 

PAWS: Artificial Intelligence Helps Patrollers Hunt for Poachers

Computer scientists from the University of Southern California (USC) developed an artificial intelligence tool that helps prevent poaching by predicting where it is likely to happen and suggesting patrolling routes.