In February, we released an open call for the WILDLABS TECH HUB, offering 3 months of support for solutions using technolgy to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. We were overwhelmed by an incredible 37 submissions, demonstrating the commitment and passion of the WILDLABS community to enact real change. Today we are excited to announce the four solutions chosen as winners of the WILDLABS TECH HUB.
The WILDLABS Tech Hub is helping to further the development of four innovative technology solutions tackling the illegal wildlife trade, through a three-month support program. This program seeks to help participating solutions achieve sustainability, offering long term access to cloud infrastructure, opportunities for further investment, and the establishment of new partnerships to help scale implementation. The FCO provided the initial seed funding to kick-start the WILDLABS TECH HUB, and in-kind support has been donated by Digital Catapult, Satellite Applications Catapult and WILDLABS conservation partners, with professional services and Cloud Credits offered by Amazon Web Services and Microsoft.
A monitoring and communication system for protected areas
Wildlife Protection Solutions has deployed its cutting edge solution in over 15 nature reserves across Africa and Southeast Asia, where it has provided alerts on over 200 potential poaching incidents. The IoT web platform transmits real-time images from remote cameras and live video streams to rangers so they can respond to threats. AI modules also help to automatically detect people or animals in the images, filtering alerts to provide vital intelligence on poacher and wildlife positions across vast areas. The technology is improving the speed to detect and apprehend poachers, preventing wildlife crime in important conservation areas.
Fingerprint storage and search technology
With the support of Interpol, the City of London Police Fingerprint Bureau is opening up their fingerprint database and AI search technology to countries working on the front lines of wildlife crime. The tool will help local law enforcement collect, process and search fingerprints from people involved in wildlife crime, helping analyse marks from crime scenes and provide identifications to support local investigations.
The UK’s fingerprint database contains the fingerprints of over 7 million people and helps make over 1.5 million detections each year. By teaming up with WILDLABS Tech Hub, the collaboration is working to raise awareness of the technology and increase local access to forensic training. In May, the Bureau is running crime scene training in Zimbabwe and Zambia, to help local law enforcement set up their own collection and search tools for local forensic operations.
Acoustic sensing devices to detect signs of hunting
Open Acoustics have developed a low cost, open-source acoustic monitoring device called AudioMoth capable of running smart detection to monitor the sound of gunshots, chainsaws or trucks in important conservation areas. The data helps managers understand where illegal activity is taking place so they can respond to threats and plot patrol routes to safeguard wildlife. Version 2.0 will expand new features for wireless networking, enabling AI modules on the device to detect sound triggers and provide real-time alerts.
Cube satellites for low-cost monitoring to unconnected areas
PandaSat from WWF, Stanford University, the University of Colorado Boulder and Imperative Space are working to launch a constellation of lightweight, low-cost satellites, to enable a network of tiny tracking devices that can monitor the movement of animals or assets anywhere in the world. The technology will provide geo-location for important species, rangers, vehicles, to enable on-the-ground verification, targeting and scaling of conservation efforts. Existing satellite tracking and communications systems are costly, bulky, expensive and often fail before fully meeting requirements or needs. PandaSat is looking to disrupt the space with new technology to help conservationists track more wildlife at larger scales.
How can you get involved?
In the coming weeks, there will be opportunities to hear directly from the winners about how they are scaling their technology, and achieving sustainability, in the drive to make a lasting difference in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade. From cutting-edge forensic technology and open hardware, to cloud-enabled data aggregation and satellite networks, the participants in the WILDLABS Tech Hub represent a diverse and inspiring cross-section of approaches.