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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

Särkelä says he hopes to employ the lighter version of the tags in reindeer ears, and for costs to drop to less than €50 ($60) per unit so that the herders could purchase them in higher volumes—typically, tens of thousands, he says. "With IoT," he explains, "we also hope that operator costs could be much lower than [the GPS- and GSM-based system]," and battery life would enable the transmission of location data on a monthly, weekly or daily basis.

The greatest gain thus far, Särkelä says, has been the ability for herders to know the reindeer herd's approximate location without requiring the labor previously required for employees to drive around the terrain searching for them, "which took a lot of money and labor from us."

Over time, Särkelä adds, "you can analyze your reindeer behavior and movements on an electrical map" with the collected data. For example, in the past, there was little understanding of why a herd might move at a particular speed or in a given direction. With automated data regarding herd movements, however, the herders could better grasp when something was taking place—a predator chasing a herd, for instance—based on the accelerated movement.

The FRHA's long-term goal is three-fold: to follow reindeer movements at a low cost, as well as receive alerts regarding animals' deaths or if they graze or travel near roads. According to Särkelä, "Our minds are open to all new ideas or tests related to fulfilling that goal" for accomplishing these three challenges

Going forward, Cameron says, "If there's a killer app for IoT, it's track-and-trace." He predicts the time is coming, sooner rather than later, when LoRa network providers will be able to collaborate to enable companies to offer track-and-trace capability for LoRa-tagged items anywhere throughout the world.

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