Readers of my last several posts may have noticed a strange obsession with wildlife and communications technology. I’m interested in how information technology — especially imagery and mapping tools — can and are being used in service of biology and conservation. I keep harping on cameras and charismatic megafauna, but truthfully that is only one facet of a larger trend of what I would call “ICT4C” – information and communication technology for conservation.
This time, the story that caught my eye was a man in Pennsylvania who built a system for tracking a radio-collared deer in near-real-time using a bunch of free online tools. The radio collar sends GPS coordinates by SMS every five minutes to an email account (unclear if this is through the radio collar itself or jerry-rigged GPS & mobile), where the information is automatically uploaded to a blog linked to a Google spreadsheet and viewable via dynamic KML file in Google Earth.
I speculated about the likelihood of such real-time tracking technology for wildlife almost a year ago, but didn’t think we would see something similar so soon – it shows how versatile the tools are and how far the costs have dropped. I could easily imagine a company selling this capability to pet owners, ranchers, or wildlife preserve managers. In fact, it’s somewhat surprising to me that there is not a military version of this kind of real-time location tracking of items/individuals that has been spun off and packaged for civilian use. Looks like the tinkerers are mapping the territory.