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IoT Aims to Track Free-Ranging Reindeer in Finland

Finnish reindeer herders are testing a LoRaWAN-based solution from Digita and Actility on several dozen alpha female reindeer, in order to track herds of thousands of animals and detect when they may be in danger from predators or vehicles.
By Claire Swedberg

"The long-term target of the project," Kuukka says, "is to provide significantly smaller and lighter devices that could be attached comfortably to the animal's ear." The reindeer herders can use the technology in three ways. In one scenario, they can set up geo-fencing to create zones in which the animals roam. If the trackers move out of an acceptable zone, the software can capture that event and forward an alert to the herders' mobile phone, provided that it is running the association's app.

Herders can also use the system to capture real-time data regarding their herds when they request it in the app, or directly in the software. Upon awakening, the solution interrogates the trackers, which then respond with their GPS location. The system also allows herders to track herd movements by monitoring one or several trackers—for instance, if there are multiple tagged animals traveling with a single herd.

"One thing we've seen around the world is that [end users] start with something simple," Cameron says, such as monitoring for any workers who might have fallen, or any animals that may have left a permitted area. The association can then build on that solution to accomplish more. The trackers can include accelerometers and other sensors that could identify everything from a fall to a sick animal, or changes in behavior that might indicate an injury.

Actility offers its IoT solution as a cloud-based system, or it can install the software directly on a local server. The same technology being employed by the FRHA is also being used in South Africa to protect rhinoceroses from being poached on wildlife preserves, and to protect cattle throughout the United States and Australia.

The reindeer pilot is, in part, intended to determine how densely the gateways should be deployed in order to provide the most effective location data, Kuukka explains. "The terrain is very challenging," he says. "There are lots of high hills, very few roads and very little infrastructure on the area." To date, Digita has found that the gateways are receiving transmissions at a range of up to 40 kilometers (24.9 miles) under good conditions. When the gateways were installed at a distance of more than 100 meters (328 feet), the transmission range was about 15 to 20 kilometers (9.3 to 12.4 miles). "However, the terrain topography with high hills brings additional challenges to the transmission ranges."

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