How a novel wireless technology is helping conserve wildlife, fight pollution, save farmers money and more

The sun beats down on the dried Tanzanian soils. Dust is slowly settling back down to the ground in the wake of a parade of tourists’ vehicles, which are now disappearing over the horizon. It’s dry season in the Serengeti National Park, and safari trucks are groaning under the weight of excited visitors. The park, a World Heritage Site, draws tourists from all over the world. Its ecosystem is carefully managed by hard-working park rangers — a delicate balancing act between wildlife promotion and preservation made even more daunting by poachers in pursuit of the endangered eastern black rhino. Protecting rhinos from poachers has always been an integral part of park management. While it’s still a complicated and highly skilled endeavor, it’s been made a little easier thanks to recent advances in data communications technology. Using geolocation sensors implanted in the rhinos’ horns and novel wireless telecommunications technology known as a low-power wide-area network (LPWAN), rangers can track the Serengeti’s rhinos from a central location, then concentrate their surveillance efforts where the animals are at any given time. “If you have the information on where the animals are, then you can guide the protection to them,” says Laurens de Groot, co-founder of Smart Parks, which is applying the technology at Serengeti. “We can place the sensors on tourist vehicles, fences, water level measures, rangers — you can see everything you need from one control room.” De Groot and his organization have been working on optimizing data communications systems used in wildlife conservation — including the Serengeti project — for five years. “Our aim is to make everything in the park measurable, so the manager knows how to anticipate certain circumstances,” he says. The LPWAN Edge From wildlife conservation to oceanography, every single aspect of environmental science and management has a common factor at its heart: data. These data vary enormously across disciplines and projects, not just in the form they take, but by how they are collected. In the last few years, LPWANs have shaken things up significantly in the data collection world relative to the better-known data collection and … Continue reading How a novel wireless technology is helping conserve wildlife, fight pollution, save farmers money and more