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IoT fights rhino poachers

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is being used to help predict threats and combat the poaching of endangered rhinos.

IBM IoT technology is being used by MTN, Wageningen University (WU) of the Netherlands, and Prodapt, as part of the MTN Connected Wildlife Solution at Welgevonden Game Reserve in South Africa.

It is intended to expand the solution to other reserves in future.

Today South Africa is home to more than 70 percent of the world’s remaining rhino population. Conservationists are battling to protect the dwindling number of these iconic animals that are being killed for their highly-prized horns. Over the past decade, more than 7 000 rhinos were killed across the African continent and in 2016, 1 054 were reported killed in South Africa alone.

“One of our primary objectives is to protect wildlife, especially endangered species. We were looking for a solution that would help us better understand possible threats and weed out those coming from poachers so we can react ahead of time and prevent harm to animals,” said Bradley Schroder, Chief Executive Officer of Welgevonden Game Reserve. “This project will be a profound breakthrough in the creation of connected wildlife solutions, a wildlife management concept that aims to harness IoT technology to better manage and protect wildlife and other assets.”

Welgevonden Game Reserve in South Africa is tracking the behavior patterns of animals such as zebra, impala, eland and wildbeest to detect poaching activity . The new IoT powered solution developed by IBM, MTN and Wageningen University collects animal location information, movement, direction and average speed of travel along with other data. (Credit: IBM)

Welgevonden Game Reserve in South Africa is tracking the behavior patterns of animals such as zebra, impala, eland and wildbeest to detect poaching activity . The new IoT powered solution developed by IBM, MTN and Wageningen University collects animal location information, movement, direction and average speed of travel along with other data. (Credit: IBM)

This new predictive capability stems from research performed by Wageningen University.  Ranked the best university in the Netherlands for 12 straight years, the university features an animal sciences group focused on research and education related to the health and welfare of animals and people. According to research conducted on Welgevonden Game Reserve, prey-animals in the wild react in different ways, depending on the type of threat they encounter and the perceived danger from predators such as lion and leopard or the presence of people in the vicinity.

This research has been combined with MTN’s Connected Wildlife Solution which leverages IBM’s IoT technology and the university’s predictive analytics, to create an innovative solution that gives game reserves a powerful new tool in the fight to save endangered species. Protecting the rhinos begins with fitting collars containing custom sensors onto prey-animals including zebra, wildebeest, eland and impala, which will transmit data about their behavior to the IoT platform.

IBM, MTN and Wageningen University's IoT powered solution fits animals such as zebra, wildebeest, eland and impala with custom made sensors which will transmit data on their behavior to the IoT platform. As a result, plains game such as the zebra, act as sentinels and their response patterns provide an early warning in the battle to save endangered rhinos. (Credit: IBM)

IBM, MTN and Wageningen University’s IoT powered solution fits animals such as zebra, wildebeest, eland and impala with custom made sensors which will transmit data on their behavior to the IoT platform. As a result, plains game such as the zebra, act as sentinels and their response patterns provide an early warning in the battle to save endangered rhinos. (Credit: IBM)

The data collected from the LoRa sensors is communicated via the LoRa WAN Network Server (LRSC – Long Range Signal & Control) and backhauled over the MTN 3G/4G network.

Through the platform, the solution collects animal location information, movement, direction and average speed of travel, along with other data. The data is used by Wageningen University to create approximately 20 rule-based patterns based on the animals’ response to threats. As a result, animals such as zebra will act as sentinels with their response patterns becoming an early warning system to protect the rhinos.

IBM, MTN and Wageningen University use an IoT powered solution that gives Welgevonden Game Reserve in South Africa, a powerful tool in the fight to save endangered Rhinos. The solution uses the threat response patterns of other animals such as zebra, wildbeest, impala and eland, as an early warning signal, without divulging the precise location of the rhino. (Credit: IBM)

IBM, MTN and Wageningen University use an IoT powered solution that gives Welgevonden Game Reserve in South Africa, a powerful tool in the fight to save endangered Rhinos. The solution uses the threat response patterns of other animals such as zebra, wildbeest, impala and eland, as an early warning signal, without divulging the precise location of the rhino. (Credit: IBM)

The predictive nature of this solution takes away the reliance on game reserve teams to be in the right place at the right time, or to respond to events, such as the distant sound of gunfire; and the teams can take proactive action that keeps rhinos safe.

“Over the years, we have seen that animal tracking technology has been used reactively in game reserves,” says Mariana Kruger, General Manager at MTN Business. “Welgevonden needed a more proactive solution to take the fight to protect the rhinos further. With the solution designed for Welgevonden, MTN, along with our partners, can better predict and anticipate potential poaching activity. This allows the ranger to take pre-emptive action before any threat happens.”

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Welgevonden Game Reserve was chosen for its specialist wildlife management expertise, its well-known research and development capabilities as well as its excellent reputation in rhino protection. “Welgevonden is one of the best managed game reserves in the world and we need such skills to ensure the success of a project of this nature,” says Prof Herbert Prins of Wageningen University.

“The Internet of Things is changing the way we live and work, and we are finding new applications for IBM’s IoT technologies in businesses across the spectrum,” says Hamilton Ratshefola, Country General Manager for IBM South Africa. “Now we’re helping curb rhino poaching and preserve endangered species on the African continent. IBM’s IoT solutions enable businesses to solve industry specific problems and transform their companies and industries.”

MTN is an emerging innovator in the Internet of Things, with hundreds of clients across 22 countries. MTN is building an ecosystem of vertical partners and an ecosystem of over 3 million active M2M connections. Together these connected devices, sensors and systems provide insight whilst solving real business challenges around the continent.

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IBM’s IoT technology features powerful cognitive computing capabilities that don’t merely gather and predict but truly understand the patterns and relationships in the massive amounts of data being collected by the sensors in field. Today, IBM is an established leader in the Internet of Things (IoT) with more than 6 000 client engagements in 170 countries, a growing ecosystem of over 1 400 partners and more 750 IoT patents which together help to draw actionable insight from billions of connected devices, sensors and systems around the world.

In the future, the aim is for the technology to be made available for deployment at game reserves across Africa and abroad.  Learn more about Welgevonden’s Connected Wildlife journey: https://youtu.be/E9olFUDD_2M.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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