Scientists at UCL Computer Science have announced funding for an innovative three-year project in January 2007, monitoring the activities of badgers.
Although an unlikely subject for computer scientists to be researching, the badger population provides an ideal testing group for a new system of data storage from micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS). Recent advances in MEMS technology allow for the use of small radio-frequency identification (RFID) devices on the animals, whose behaviour can be monitored in detail with a sensor network. In the trial, data will be stored in selected 'storage nodes', to be collected later by roaming mobile nodes.
Biologists will have a much less labour-intensive means of tracking badgers' behaviour as a result of the new techniques being trialled. Currently, approaches to wildlife monitoring utilise outdated telemetry equipment. Someone has to go to every single sensor node in the field to collect data readings, which are then taken to the lab to be analysed centrally. The process is costly and the need to employ people working on their own at night carries health and safety implications.
The data collected through the experiment will also be of value to the badgers themselves. The data obtained will make it easier to tailor the animals' surroundings to their needs.
'WildSensing: A Hybrid Framework of Mobile and Sensor Nodes for Wildlife Monitoring' is sponsored by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council, INTEL and Wavetrend. The project is in collaboration with Birkbeck College and the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at the University of Oxford.
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