Internet Of Seals: Vodafone Connects Marine Mammals To IoT

Harbour seals in Orkney will be connected to Vodafone’s M2M network with tags that will help researchers understand why populations are falling.

Harbour seals in Orkney are to be connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) as part of a study into declining populations of the mammal in the Scottish archipelago.

The study will be conducted by the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at the University of St Andrews.

Marine telemetry tags will be attached to a number of seals and will send data on their location, dive behaviour and oceanic environment back to researchers using Vodafone’s M2M network. The tags are harmless to the animals as they are affixed to the fur at the back of their heads and designed to drop off when the seal moults (renews its fur).

It is claimed the project will “significantly” improve researchers ability to gather data as it will be transmitted using multiple mobile technologies and will allow scientists to monitor the state of each SIM card in each tag from a single PC.

Internet of Seals

Vodafone Orkney Seals Tags Harbour seals are just one of two seal species in the UK, but numbers have fallen by up to 90 percent in some areas around the north and east coast of Scotland since 2000.

“Over the last 15 years, many of the harbour seal populations in the Northern Isles and on the north and east coasts of Scotland have been declining,” said Dr Bernie McConnell, Deputy Director of the SMRU. “Marine data collected during this project on Orkney will help to assess the causes, management and mitigation options in relation to the harbour seals decline and to prioritise future research directions.”

The project has been initiated by the Scottish government and Scottish Natural Heritage, both of which have concerns about the survival of the species in Scotland. The data collected will be used to help form Scottish marine policy in areas such as offshore wind farms and unexplained seal deaths.

Not an April Fool’s

“This exciting, collaborative study is vital to help us to better understand the drivers of population change in Scottish harbour seals, and to evaluate the potential conservation and management options open to us,” added Professor John Baxter, Principal Adviser, Marine, Scottish Natural Heritage.

Vodafone has devoted significant resources to the Internet of Things (IoT) and has been a major supporter of the more power efficient Nb-IoT (Narrowband-IoT) standard, which mobile operators hope can ensure cellular technology fends off competition from the likes of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and proprietary technologies like SIGFOX in the race to connect up the IoT.

Most recently, it agreed a deal with Philips to power the latter’s smart lighting platform.

“This project is proof that collaborations between government, science and the private sector can work to improve better informed policy decisions on the environment,” said Helen Lamprell, corporate and external affairs director at Vodafone. “We are delighted to be able to provide Bernie and his team with access to our technology and consultancy.”

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Vodafone Orkney Seals 2

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