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Internet of things helps track endangered dugongs in the Philippines

Fishermen in the Philippines are using smartphones and apps to help conservationists protect an endangered species

Fishermen in the Philippines are using Android apps and smartphones to track dugongs in the Philippines, in a bid to help save them from extinction.

The fisherman capture data to upload to an internet of things (IoT) platform.

The “citizen science” conservation project – in which scientific research is carried out by nonprofessional scientists – is managed by Smart Earth Network (SEN) and marine conservation non-profit C3 (Community Centred Conservation), with IoT cloud provider Ki supplying the platform. 

Dugongs, also known as sea cows, are marine mammals that are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a species vulnerable to extinction. They face many dangers from local fishing, destruction of habitat and illegal hunting.

As part of a trial in the Busuanga region of the country, around 30 fishermen have been given basic smartphones, supplied by local mobile provider Cherry Mobile.

At sea, the fishermen can photograph any dugongs they spot and upload the images when they are back on land to a central database hosted on the Kii Cloud, using an app developed by SEN.

The fishermen, many of whom are unable to read or write, are being trained to use the smartphones and are being provided with local charging facilities.

Collaboration helps protect rare species

Each image will indicate the location of a dugong via GPS, and allow C3 to map the sightings and get a clear idea of the population in the area. This data allows the team to put together recommendations for future protection areas.

The plan is to share the data with other conservationists worldwide, and also with the local Council of Development to help C3 lobby the local government.

“Traditionally, we have had to track these amazing sea creatures from the air, which is expensive and not entirely reliable,” said Chris Poonian, a consultant at C3.

“Using smartphones to monitor endangered species is an innovative and novel approach. This collaborative project is one of the first initiatives of its kind to employ smartphone technology. If successful, these approaches could have important applications for surveys of rare species throughout the world,” he said.

IoT for conservation initiatives

Using IoT and mobile technology for conservation is a simple but effective approach, said Simon Hodgkinson, founder of SEN, which provides a platform for conservationists and technologists to share ideas and network.

“This technology is helping to take the expense and legwork out of conservation, especially in the more remote parts of the world. While this project is in its infancy, the feedback from the local community has been positive and we are seeing early results from the data,” said Hodgkinson.

Serene Chan, industry manager of digital transformation at Frost & Sullivan Asia-Pacific, said IoT technology has made it possible to collect, transmit, store and share data in ways that were not possible before.

“The declining cost of sensors, modules and devices has created a lot of excitement and expectations about the results technology can achieve,” said Chan.

Effective collaboration is key to the successful use of IoT technology in conservation efforts, added Chan. “Extending the collaboration to the public, in this case the fishermen, is a very useful way to support conservation efforts.”

She said that using IoT technology in this conservation effort is effective, as it uses satellite tagging and tracking of sea animals to gain insights on their location, movement patterns and other behavioural parameters.

“Data can also be extracted and presented in the form of a web-based dashboard showing an aggregated view of specific parameters, such as the environmental condition these sea animals are in.”

Read more about IoT in Asean

  • Malaysia is exploring the use of IoT technologies for agriculture in the Asean region, driven by collaboration between government and the private sector.
  • IoT deployments are in their early stages in the Asean region, but experts predict as take-up of IoT apps increases it will have a big impact on IT infrastructures in the region.
  • IoT investments will be one of the major trends in Asean economies throughout 2016, according to predictions from Frost & Sullivan.

Read more on Internet of Things (IoT)

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