Every fifteen minutes poachers kill an African elephant. If this continues, elephants will become extinct within ten years. This situation, once desperate, is now dire. And not just for elephants. Grizzly bears, orangutans, lions, and more are also disappearing. Accepting the status quo means losing earth’s treasures, one by one.
But it does not have to be like this.
What if we could save these elephants and other creatures, based on what IoT solutions we already have? Why not use RFID tags and defined MCU sectors that now prevent shoplifting in retail stores to identify when an individual pangolin is stolen? Or repurpose heat mapping cameras that track customer behavior to recognize immediately if a hippo has been off on its own? What if we could learn in real-time, by means of solar-powered drones that monitor oil pipelines, whenever a predator has culled the herd, or a new baby elephant has been born? What about replicating smart cities as smart savannahs?
This is the mission of Microsoft’s Project 15: An animal conservation initiative created to put a spotlight on the problem at hand. Named in recognition of the frequency with which elephants are poached, Project 15 aims to raise awareness in our partner ecosystem and develop positive change through collaboration and IoT technology. To build a bridge for the scientific community to see what solutions we have already, to create the connection to talk to us and our partner ecosystem directly and work to get these problems solved and solutions built out on Azure, the World’s Computer. How can we help?
Hackster.io and Smart Parks are coming together with leading technology and conservation partners to protect the gentle giants in their natural habitats.
Elephant deaths and abuse like those pictured below are much too common, but they can be stamped out with stronger legislation, law enforcement, and conservation. In order to make that a reality, pro-conservation teams need to better data on what is happening, something our collaboration and technology are perfectly positioned to provide.
We're inviting all Students to join Hackster,io and help develop the world's most advanced elephant tracking collar, which can help park rangers reduce animal loss from illegal ivory poaching, trophy hunting, human conflict, and environmental degradation. With #ElephantEdge, we're calling on the community to build ML models using the Edge Impulse Studio and tracking dashboards using Avnet's IoTConnect, which will be deployed onto 10 production-grade collars manufactured by our engineering partner, Institute IRNAS, and deployed by Smart Parks.
Build machine learning models:
Build ML models with Edge Impulse that will be used for collar deployments. These new models will create a new Human to Elephant Language,powered by TinyML, that will help conservation efforts:
Poaching Risk Monitoring: Build models that can identify an increased risk for poaching. Example: Know when an elephant is moving into a high-risk area and send real-time notifications to park rangers.
Human Conflict Monitoring: Build models and dashboards that can prevent conflict between humans and elephants. Example: Sense and alert when an elephant is heading into an area where farmers live. This collar could detect human presence by scanning if any mobile phones or WiFi hotspots are near, by tapping the available radio modules (Nordic Semiconductor nRF52840, NINA-B30x BLE, Semtech LR1110).
Elephant Musth Monitoring: Build models and dashboards that can recognize when an elephant bull is in musth (a periodic condition in male elephants characterized by highly aggressive behavior and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones). Example: Utilize the motion and acoustic sensors to discern this state of erratic, loud, and aggressive behavior.
Elephant Activity Monitoring: Build models and dashboards that can classify the general behavior of the elephant, such as when it is drinking, eating, sleeping, etc. Example: Detect and report the elephant activity by using accelerometer data. Or go more advanced and use a water detection sensor to see when the elephant goes swimming, drinking, or digging for water.
Elephant Communication Monitoring: Build models and dashboards that can listen for vocal communications between elephants via the onboard microphone. Example: Use sound-recording technology to listen to their vocalizations. Here's how.
This is an urgent problem that no one has totally solved. Do you have completely out-of-the-box ideas that have never considered?
Courtesy of Alasdair Davies fromArribada.org: Github repo and sensor data containing thermal elephant dataset collected at the ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, made available for use by anyone wishing to train their own models using Edge Impulse for the ElephantEdge competition ( (GPLv3).
Build IoT tracking dashboards:
Build an IoTConnect dashboard that will be used for collar deployments and help park rangers, track, monitor, and get on-demand alerts that are critical to conservation efforts:
Simulate dashboards that track location and leaving protected areas
Build dashboards that report the frequency of entering high-risk areas
Monitor and infer active period vs resting period for the elephants
Simulate alerts when activity deviates from the expected range
Alerts to replace batteries or when a collar malfunctions, goes offline
Design and ideate any other telemetry data and inference
The new collar will use the following hardware and software: