France’s Sigfox develops tiny sensors to track and monitor endangered species

Sigfox has collaborated with conservationists and specialized groups, including the International Rhino Foundation, to develop this tiny sensor.

In a development that could potentially positively impact the environment, Sigfox, a French tech company has developed a bite-size tracker that once inserted into the horns of rhinoceros can help conservationists track, monitor and protect the endangered species.

The population of rhinos across the world has witnessed a decline which can be mostly attributed to poaching and urban expansion; as a result conservationists and wildlife organizations have turned to technology to help safeguard the species against potential extinction.

A decade ago the global number of rhinos had come down to just 20,000 due to merciless poaching. Effort by conservationists have led to their current population of 29,000.

Sigfox, known for building networks that link objects to the internet, has developed sensors that are able to give the exact location of the animal using the its network over a longer period of time.

“We now help rangers and conservation experts to observe from a distance, taking less risk, and especially to anticipate potential dangers that the animal could (face),” said Marion Moreau, head of the Sigfox Foundation, a non-profit organization.

Significantly, the sensors can alert park rangers when rhinos approach an area which has previously been identified as a poaching risk. The sensors, combined with other warning sensors can be used to get rescue teams to the location in real time.

“We started a project in Zimbabwe three years ago, inventing a prototype of a captor, inserted in the horn of about 30 rhinoceroses, which emits the exact position of the rhinoceros three times a day, over three years,” said Moreau.

The Sigfox network uses a specific radio signal which offers more security guarantee than other tracking devices. The sensor only wakes up when it has to transmit data, which makes it immune to interception by poachers, said Moreau.

She went on to add, Sigfox has designed the sensors so that they are long-lasting with a battery-life of nearly three years. The cost of the sensor will be capped at $30.

Sigfox has previously worked with conservationists and specialized groups including the International Rhino Foundation. It has developed this tiny sensor with their inputs. Sigfox is also collaborating with the Jane Goodall Institute, a nonprofit organization that protects primate habitats, in the use of new technologies for conservation.

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