An IoT solution that taps into geolocation data from trains and reindeer herds looks set to save thousands of animals a year.
We often report on the rising impact of IoT, AI and other technologies on agriculture, but these developments often involve large-scale arable farming – both the horticultural elements and the advanced machinery that’s used.
However, we’re now seeing IoT permeate the far reaches of agriculture. Each year, train collisions kill around 6,500 of the Nordic region’s 600,000 reindeer – a staggering loss of life that also represents a cost of around €8.5 million in livestock. Following on from animal tracking company FindMy’s success with FindMySheep, SaveMyReindeer seeks to prevent accidents by repurposing their technology to provide an early warning system.
Norway’s railroads wind their way through hundreds of kilometres of land inhabited by indigenous Sami people, for whom rearing reindeer is the backbone of their culture and economy, as it has been for thousands of years. Their herds roam at will, crossing both borders and rail tracks.
“Reindeer husbandry is an ancient and important element of Norway’s economy and also hugely significant in the culture of our indigenous people,” says Kristin Skjerven, senior advisor with Norwegian mapping authority, Kartverket. “FindMy’s IoT solutions are already proven in protecting sheep and cattle and SaveMyReindeer holds even more potential to prevent needless incidents, while helping the nation’s railway users suffer fewer disruptions and improving train staff welfare.”
Industrial revolution brought railways to the Arctic Circle and now it comes again to mitigate its negative impact on reindeer. FindMy uses satellite messaging and emergency notification technology from Globalstar to connect tracking collars to devices in the hands of farmers and train conductors.
“When designing SaveMyReindeer, we knew that only satellite would give us the reach we needed in remote regions,” says Halvor Mjoen, Founder of FindMy. “Other requirements were low power consumption and minimal maintenance since reindeer live outdoors year-round. Low cost was also key to driving higher volumes of collars and allowing us to develop new international markets.”
The system also incorporates data from the Norwegian Railway Directorate to reveal the real-time location of each train, as well as data from mapping authority Kartverket. This allows the technology to create a moving geo-fence 40-50km around each train.
By combining this data with the GPS information reported by reindeer collars, SaveMyReindeer can alert train drivers when they are nearing the animals – they will then decide whether to accelerate to avoid an accident, slow down, or stop completely. The reindeer owner simultaneously receives an alert on their smartphone, giving them vital time to move the livestock.
The power of IoT
The herding nature of reindeer means that a collision with a train can injure as many as 50 animals – a traumatic experience for the reindeer, train conductor and farmer. While train staff are currently permitted to carry guns to humanely kill seriously hurt reindeer, the new technology will make this redundant, returning the duty to local authorities when it’s still necessary.
This is an unequivocal example of the potential of IoT to benefit all parties – from the reindeer and their owners, to the train services and staff.
Its success means FindMy and Kartverket are now considering how the system could apply to Norway’s highways – conceivably feeding information to smart signs that integrate both weather warnings and proximity-based animal alerts.
Mjoen claims, “We have only just scratched the surface as to how IoT can be used; we believe there will be many more meaningful and practical applications.”