Sensing Clues goes to Nepal!

After a summer of hardcore development, Sensing Clues is ready for the next step. Together with the Himalayan Tiger Foundation we’ll travel to Nepal to examine and demonstrate the potential of our sensor and real-time intelligence tools. Think of:

  • passage detection,
  • lingering detection,
  • group size detection,
  • first-time seen detection,
  • light-beam detection,

and many other profiles which can be used to inform rangers of alarming occurrences in protected areas. Following is a short summary of what we did this summer.

The Trespasser, a sensor designed to detect electronic devices, has reached it next level of maturity. In a pilot study conducted with the Dutch National Forestry Department we were able to detect the difference between hikers passing a nest of a protected hawk and people lingering near the nest. Based on the number of devices we could estimate the number of persons at the scene. This is an important feat, as “big-5 poachers” often work in groups of 3 to 4 persons. Recognizing the number of people lingering near a waterhole or other critical spots thus gives rangers an early warning of a threatening situation.

Our new Serval-soundscape sensor has passed its first milestones. Data acquisition, a tech-word for recording and storing the sounds in a ready-to-process format, is ready. So is the store-in-memory function that ensures that sounds do not get wasted when connectivity is lost for a while. The next step is to incorporate the recognition algorithms and to establish connectivity. Both are within reach. As soon as time and funds permit we will start field-testing.

Power supply is a critical issue when working in remote areas. As there is no off-the-shelf solar solution that meets our tough outdoor requirements, which includes proper camouflaging to avoid detection by poachers, we needed to develop a tailor-made solution. The good news is: we did. The first results are promising. In two days time the solar panel is able to load a car battery that keeps the sensor alive and kicking for over 6 weeks. Hence, protection operations of 3 to 6 months have become within reach.

In the mean time we experimented with the setup of a LoRa-network. Such networks are comparatively cheap and can be deployed where cellphone coverage is lacking. As with all technology, the road to full-scale use is bumpy. If not properly configured, reaching a proper range is troublesome. Knowing the problem is half the solution. So we are now working on the second half.

All that being said, most of our time was spent on the development of Cluey, our fast-response coordination app, and its backend, which in fact constitutes an affordable sensing-and real-time analytics platform and intelligence tools. Our platform constitutes a dozen servers, software packages, has very high security standards, and is maintained by our engineers. Regularly, such systems are prohibitively expensive for a single park or NGO. By offering the platform as a service, however, we bring it within reach of even the most modest NGO.

Ps. local governmental organisations in the Netherlands have shown an interest in these tools also, which accelerates their development!

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