Google And London Zoo Use White Spaces To Monitor Endangered Species

Ofcom is expanding its nationwide trial of white space technology with a new partnership between Google and ZSL London Zoo to see how video streaming can monitor and protect endangered animals in the wild.

The zoo is streaming live video of its meerkats, Asian otters and giant Galapagos tortoises to YouTube, making use of Google’s spectrum database.  The live footage can be viewed by anyone on the video sharing site and, along with a number of other trials, will help Ofcom determine the potential benefits of white spaces to the UK.

White space radio uses the 700 MHz frequencies reserved for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) and wireless microphones, choosing particular frequencies which are not occupied in a given location because of the pattern of TV transmitters.

Ofcom White Space trials

However because the availability of white space radio spectrum depends on location, power level and the time of day, Ofcom is maintaining a database on where the white spaces are and the power level that devices would need to be restricted to if they want to use them.

White spaces can travel further than Bluetooth or conventional Wi-Fi signals, with M2M, rural broadband and urban capacity all seen as areas which could benefit from the technology.  Other trials are testing Wi-Fi on boats in Orkney and the Isle of Wight, the use of sensors to determine flood risk in Oxford and to see how indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi coverage can be improved.

“In a world where consumers’ demand for data services is experiencing huge growth, it is essential we find the most efficient ways to share the airwaves. White space technology could be one way of meeting this demand,” says Philip Marnick, group director of Ofcom’s Spectrum Policy Group. “These trials are an important first step in Ofcom understanding whether white space can be used in other spectrum bands.”

Ofcom launched a consultation into spectrum use last year and has also outlined plans to free up and auction spectrum in the 700MHz band for so-called ‘5G’ services.

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Steve McCaskill

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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