Telecom26’s global roaming service enables tracking of birds and animals
21 July 2023

Telecom26’s global roaming service enables tracking of birds and animals

21 July 2023

In May we announced that Telecom26 is providing global connectivity, including maritime connectivity, to Stream Ocean, an environmental technology company which is helping to save the planet’s coral reefs and the fishes, plants and other marine life that rely on them.

Stream Ocean’s underwater cameras and computers record what is happening below the water’s surface and are connected by cable to a solar-powered connection tower. From here the data and images collected are transmitted to Stream Ocean’s server in the cloud, so that it may be shared with stakeholders around the world.

Stream Ocean uses SIM cards from local operators and Telecom26’s global connectivity SIMs to provide additional connectivity for when the sea tower is beyond the coverage of the local operator. 

Being involved with such an exciting, innovative and important environmental project got our global connectivity team thinking about what types of wildlife might also benefit from our technology – and they came up with quite a few good examples.

Tracking migrating birds

According to the UN, about 20% of all bird species (around 1,800) migrate every year.  Figures don’t seem to be available for how many birds that equates to but apparently four billion migrate across North America alone whilst around 2.1 billion birds migrate between Europe and Africa every year.

The UN writes that “these journeys are long, dangerous and tiring” and that “climate change is putting pressure on migratory species, threatening their habitats and playing havoc with the timing of their journeys”.

Tracking the progress of birds as they move has been taking place for years. The UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds explains a number of projects here.

But tracking needs to be about much more than simply knowing where the birds start from and where they end up. With so many species under threat, conservation efforts need to also track where they stop en-route to ensure that they are protected there. 

A few years ago, this article highlighted the problems For Migratory Birds, Lebanon Is A 'Black Hole' Where They Are Hunted, Trapped, Killed - and discussed the pro-active approach to tackle farmers who catch birds and sell them to restaurants or shops and hunters who shot them for fun.

Near-constant tracking of migrating birds is necessary to identify other areas where they might be in danger. And key to this is cost-effective global connectivity so that their routes and stopping points can be identified.

Of course, there are different ways of tracking birds – many of which require a compromise between the size of the device and the connectivity methods available. For example, GPS devices are often used to calculate accurate positioning data, but this must also be made available to the scientists tracking the birds (or other animals) in question. Many such devices simply store the data, but this depends on retrieving it from the bird when it reaches its final destination.

An alternative is to combine GPS tracking with cellular connectivity. In this case, when the device passes within range of a cell tower, the stored GPS data can be transmitted and then delivered to the researchers – wherever they happen to be. The cellular connection is brief and, since real-time tracking isn’t necessary, new data can be accumulated the next time a tower is encountered.

Of course, this depends on the bird passing such towers – and, because they may travel through remote regions, cell towers may be few and far between – so connectivity may only be obtained infrequently. The bird are also oblivious to national borders, so the connectivity solution must support roaming.

However, this approach can have unexpected drawbacks…

In 2019 Russian bird researchers took to crowdfunding after a GPS-tracked eagle sent costly text messages from Iran.  Apparently, “ornithologists were following the movements of eagles through a GPS system that sent text messages with the birds' geolocation. Two eagles spent the summer outside of a mobile coverage area in Kazakhstan. One eagle flew to Russia where she triggered one million text messages at just 2 rubles (€0.03) a message. The other eagle flew to Iran where she sent text messages with all her summer locations at 49 rubles (€0.69) a message”.

Bill shock indeed! And something that could have been avoided with Telecom26’s global roaming service…

Telecom26’s global roaming service can be combined with GPS tracking devices

What the Russians clearly need was a solution that provided global cellular connectivity with the best roaming rates to provide the connectivity they needed to transmit the data when coverage was detected, cost-effectively.

With Telecom26, scientists can leverage GPS tracking backed by our cellular connectivity – with packages that protect them from large bills. In the Russian case, when the eagle passed within range of cell tower, the GPS data could be uploaded via a temporary connection.

Telecom26’s global roaming service is compatible with 1100 cellular networks from over 650 mobile operators in more than 200 countries and territories. We are also a well-established global maritime cellular operator providing bespoke maritime and marine communications services across the globe to vessels of all sizes from leisure yachts to fishing boats to container ships.

So our maritime connectivity service combined with our terrestrial global roaming service is perfect to track migrating birds – and identify their stopping points so they can be protected there.

Get in touch – birds, mammals, fish, and your devices

If you’d like to learn more about how our maritime connectivity and global connectivity services can keep the people, and devices they use, including IoT, connected as they travel around the world, then please get in touch.

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