Oftentimes, we think of the conservation of the old
as incongruous with the use of newer technology like
mobile devices. This is far from the case; in fact,
GPS technology is being combined with text messaging
to track both wildlife and livestock, a useful tool
to keep an eye on both the farm animals we depend on
and the increasing number of endangered or threatened
One device conservationalists are using to keep tabs
on wildlife is cellular GPS collars. Cellular collars
are affixed to animals, which then use GPS to calculate
the animal's coordinates. This information is relayed
to researchers via SMS. The frequency of text message
updates can be controlled by the researchers. When an
animal wearing a collar moves out of cellular range,
a beacon transmitter is automatically activated, using
radio tracking to monitor the animal's location.
These devices offer a few extra features that take
advantage of SMS. Researchers can designate zones on
the map, such as a normal zone for the animal, and abnormal
zones as well as urgent danger zones. If an animal leaves
the normal zone, researchers can receive a text, and
if an animal enters emergency zones, researchers can
receive both an SMS and a missed call.
Additionally, researchers can use text messaging to
control the device. The collar employs two-way texting
so that researchers can send an SMS to a specific collar
requesting an animal's location at that time. The device
will then send a text to the researcher detailing that
animal's most recent location.
SMS is also being used for more specific projects,
such as in efforts to combat elephant poaching in Kenya.
This undertaking by the Kenya Wildlife Service uses
the fences around parks and wildlife sanctuaries they
have established, which are sensitive to any kind of
unauthorized tinkering. The fences can detect any interference,
be it from an animal or a person, and trigger a loud
alarm at any disruption as well as an SMS to the security
switchboard showing the location of the breach. This
acts both as a deterrent to elephants that may escape
safety or humans who pose a danger to threatened elephants,
as well as a means of potentially tracking down poachers.
Similar SMS animal tracking technology is also used
to protect livestock. A notable example is a 2012 pilot
of Swiss sheep herds, in which sheep were given heart
monitors. In the face of a wolf attack, the heart monitors
detected a significant enough elevation in heart rate
to trigger, using technology that has been conceived
but not yet completed, the release of a repellant from
the sheep's collars as well as a text message to the
shepherd to alert them immediately of the situation.
With the growing threat many species face ever imminent,
and with so many societies depending on their livestock
for numerous important goods, protecting our animals
wild and domestic alike is an important project. With
the aid of text messaging and its wide range of applications
to new technologies, SMS and related developments hold
great promise for this important prerogative.
About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage,
Inc. a software company for communication software solutions.