Wednesday, January 25, 2006

 

Photos from day 1





 

The audience


In the main lecture room at Microsoft Research, listening to presentations on the first morning.

 

Peter Hall


Director of Biodiversity Information Services at UNEP-WCMC, and lepidopterist, gave us the conservation perspective and used a butterfly to make his point.

 

A busy day

The first day of the conference was pretty hectic
But there's time for a quick sandwich at lunch, as Ken shows.

 

From the chair

We've just started the second day of the conference, here at Microsoft Research's office in Cambridge, and the breakout sessions are beginning. This is the exciting - and most challenging - part of the conference. After yesterday's speakers and debate, we now need to come up with some practical proposals. They have the rest of the morning to think out loud, after which the four groups will make brief presentations. And after lunch the final plenary will focus on the action plan and a 'next steps' document.

But while the others are working on their proposals I have a few minutes spare to post some thoughts on yesterday, culled largely from Zoe's notes [for which many thanks!]

Sunday, January 15, 2006

 

Introduction to Tracking

Like GIS systems, satellite tracking is a widely used and popular technology in the conservation world. Recent advances in the technology, principally the reduction in size and weight of the 'collars', and an increase in battery life (and the incorporation of solar cells) has meant that tracking and monitoring capability is being extended to include smaller species, such as snakes and birds. Further advances mean that environmental data can also be collected, such as air temperature and, for marine animals, depth and heart rate, all of which contributes to a greater understanding of the target species. Combined with other technologies, such as GSM networks, data can be made quickly and easily available. As the reach of GSM mobile networks becomes greater and greater, the emergence of 'location-based services' may have particular relevance as a tracking tool. In addition, the continued development of Europe's Galileo GPS service - which promises improved accuracy over the existing US-based service, as well as the ability to provide a fix in more condensed areas - provides further options for conservationists.

The commercial development of vehicle and asset-tracking devices provides further insight, along with the huge potential of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tagging - something still very much in its infancy but believed to be the 'next big' thing in the technology world.

The Biometrics approach, with the potential application of image recognition technologies, developed in the first instance as security tools (iris/ear lobe/gait recognition etc), to the monitoring of individual animals such as elephants, is another area worth watching.



What do you think? Please use the comments feature to let us know and help to shape our discussion.

 

Introduction to Remote Power

How to power and charge an electronic device in the field - for conservationists, perhaps the million dollar question - but conservation and development practitioners are not the only ones challenged by issues of power. Some of the biggest technology companies in the world are investing huge sums in research and development searching for that lucrative breakthrough in power device size and longevity. There are many different approaches, from miniature ethanol-driven 'reactors' through to thin gel-based quick-charging battery packs, all being pursued by big names such as NEC, Toshiba and Hitachi. But as a sign of the challenges that lie ahead, Nokia recently announced that it was dropping its work on methanol-based portable power devices after concluding that the technology was "still some way off maturity".

However, while energy supply is a real issue, it's not the only one - energy efficiency is a key component in the mix, and energy efficient devices with a range of power-saving options can extend the life of a single-charge considerably. Of course, field-based workers still have the options of solar power, portable generators and wind-up chargers, but some of these are not only bulky and impractical in many instances, many are also expensive. With ICT playing an ever-increasing role in global conservation and development work, the problem of powering and charging mobile devices - GSM phones, handheld GPS units, satellite phones, cameras and laptops - becomes all the more acute, and a challenge that more are beginning to face.


What do you think? Please use the comments feature to let us know and help to shape our discussion.

 

Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing

Perhaps the most common and widespread use of an ICT in conservation management and planning is GIS. Linking environmental data by location (aerial and satellite imagery with on-the-ground surveys, for example) can provide a much greater understanding of both built and natural environments. Conservation practitioners have a particular use for this in areas such as park planning, studying wildlife movements, monitoring environmental pollution and degradation, and determining optimal environments for endangered species.

Software packages such as ArcView provide a standard by which the data can be stored and shared, and numerous organisations, from the UNEP to local wildlife authorities, provide GIS databases for public use.

Participatory GIS is of particular relevance in instances where there is clear potential for local communities living in or around conservation areas to engage in data collection. The size and usability of handheld GPS and data collection devices is crucial in such cases, and underlines the importance of innovations such as CyberTracker. Access to higher-end GIS management systems such as ArcView and Google Earth are still highly restricted, however. Making GIS data collection more widely available to stakeholders, and more relevant to them and their circumstances, are challenges which still need to be faced.


What do you think? Please use the comments feature to let us know and help to shape our discussion.

 

Introduction to Mobile Communications

The spread of global telecommunications networks, both land-based GSM and satellite, present new and unique opportunities for voice and data communications to the conservation and development communities. Not only is it becoming steadily easier and cheaper for fieldworkers in remote locations to contact each other, but high-speed information and data flow in and out of the field (to a national or international headquarters or between organisations and stakeholders, for example), is now a reality.

While satellite communication devices are generally out of reach for many due to cost - although they continue to come down in price - mobile phone uptake has been phenomenal; not least in developing countries where it is seen as a 'leapfrogging' technology and one which is helping close the digital divide. Mobile phones and satellite communication devices have huge potential to enhance conservation & development work, particularly given the numerous tools that can be integrated into such devices - many are enabled with mobile internet, text messaging, picture messaging, cameras and a variety of operating systems and software - but how best do we make use of this potential?

GSM's ability to cross over into conservation disciplines, such as wildlife tracking, is just one example of how adaptable and flexible the technology can be, and as more and more devices converge - as we have seen with the development of camera phones and GSM-enabled PDA's - the greater the opportunities become.

What do you think? Please use the comments feature to let us know and help to shape our discussion.

 

What the conference will do

The first day of the t4cd conference will feature a number of speakers and presentations, but on day two we're going to focus on practical steps that can be taken in using technology within conservation and development.

We will focus our attention on four separate but overlapping areas:

  • Tracking

  • GIS and remote sensing

  • Mobile communications

  • Remote power

  • In the morning each area will be discussed by a group who will then present their ideas and conclusions to everyone, and then we'll spend the afternoon coming up with an action plan for how to take things forward after the conference.

    We're posting short summaries of each of the four areas as a starting point for our discussion - these will also be provided to delegates at the start of the event.


    Sunday, January 08, 2006

     

    Some background reading on t4cd

    In 2003 Ken Banks, one of the organising team behind the conference, was contracted as the Technical Advisor on a one-year Vodafone Group Foundation-funded project to investigate the potential for mobile telephony to be used in the promotion and support Flora and Fauna International's global conservation work.


    One result is t4cd.

    During field and desk-based research for t4cd, a report was written: 'Mobile telephony: An appropriate tool for conservation and development?'. Co-authored by Ken Banks and Richard Burge, the Vodafone Group Foundation provided additional funding and the report was published in November 2004.

    You can download a PDF of the first nine pages of the report (courtesy of FFI)


    Monday, January 02, 2006

     

    Welcome to the t4cd conference blog

    On the 24th-25th January 2006, t4cd will host a conference at the Microsoft Research Centre, Cambridge. Entitled the “Conservation & Appropriate Technology Conference & Workshop”, it will bring together experts in conservation and technology development to cultivate innovative thinking and partnership between the two sectors. The event will include profiles of existing success stories, such as CyberTracker, FrontlineSMS and Google Earth, high profile speakers from the conservation and technology fields, and dynamic interaction between delegates and panelists in plenary debates and break-out sessions.

    Ultimately this high-profile “brain-storming” event is looking for solutions: concrete opportunities that can ultimately go to market and enhance our work as conservationist. We have set up this weblog to provide a space for discussion of these issues in advance of the conference, and hope that those who can't make it to Cambridge will find it useful..

    Click here for more details, here for a Registration Form (Word: 747Kb)

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