Inspiring example: tracking birds

Keeping track of things can create a lot of value. It has already been exploited in various ways to keep track of things like goods, cars, boats, kids, containers and pets. But combinations of weight, cost, size and technology have been limiting the use significantly.

I always claim that as long as we know what we want to achieve, we have technology today to solve it. In the case of real-time tracking, spectacular progress has been made over the last few years. Let me share an exciting example.

A traditional way to track birds has been to secure an RF transmitter on the bird and manually detect the radio beacons by using at least two receivers with directional antennas on ground. This difficult and all manual process is disturbed by bad weather and each individual bird needs to have a transmitter using a unique frequency. The poor data provides little information about each bird’s movements and life.

Today birds in the Balkans are tracked real-time by using an ultralight and ultra-efficient M2M-solution sending information every ten or five minutes to a monitoring central. The solution on the bird includes a GPS receiver, solar panel, battery, an accelerometer, a micro processor and a GSM module using GPRS to send the data. The weight of the gear is 70 grams, the dimensions are 90 x 46 x 15 mm and it is supposed to work for at least 3 years.

Animal tracking devices must in general weigh less than 5% of the animal’s weight so the solution can be carried by birds heavier than 1,4 kg. But there is already an effort to bring down weight of the tracking device to 25 grams for birds heavier than half a kilo.

Now the researchers can leave their rubber boots and directional antennas at home to focus on understanding the great information collected. And the important efforts to protect rare birds hopefully give better results. But what could be tracked in your organization to create value and maybe change the game?

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