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Saturday, December 16, 2017

E-Track develops an integrated system for automatic measurement of animal behaviour based on GNSS. The system will allow researchers to visualise and analyse wildlife behaviour in a highly interactive manner. The system will be innovative in its ability to rapidly detect the behaviour (and not just the position) of one or more animals. This opens the way to real-time wildlife management.

Benefits for the adoption of EGNOS and Galileo

Through this project we contribute to GNSS use in behaviour analysis and in particular the use of EGNOS to provide the accuracy required and to find patterns at a relevant scale. The project will study the feasibility and demonstrate the use of GNSS (and EGNOS in particular) for animal behaviour analysis. Our demonstrations and outreach activities will be underlining this.

Contribution to the GNSS developer community

The consortium has a clear commercial intention, provided that field trials show sufficient feasibility of the newly developed system. The necessity to use EGNOS and EDAS will stimulate other developers to look into its possibilities. The consortium has a positive attitude towards knowledge sharing and open interfaces to other software developers. We therefore develop an open interface to the statistical scientific software package 'R' to allow for developers' own algorithms to be used within our system. In future other open interfaces might be developed as well.

Benefits for wildlife research

The system of EGNOS/GNSS tags will, for the first time, enable scientists to record small-scale movement and individual interactions of animals over long times in various environments. That will help to make prognoses of disease transmission and social behaviour of animals, supporting predictions of possible impacts of human interference in their habitat.

Benefits for dairy farming

The global financial benefit associated with monitoring cow behaviour to perfect timing of fertilisation is estimated at about $2bn per annum in lost milk volume (source: Farmers Weekly). Changed social interaction (like the so-called “standing heat”) and an increase in activity (walking distance and pace) are well known indicators of heat. A system of GNSS cow collars and analysis software capable of detecting changes in cow behaviour will be an important source of information for heat detection.

Public benefits

The tremendous increase of wild-living animals all over the European Union increasingly facilitates contacts between those animals and humans. This had led to an upsurge in attention and unrest for diseases that are transferred by animal vectors both to humans but also to livestock (Kilian et al., 2007). Recent outbreaks of avian influenza, swine fever and recently the Mexican flue all attest of this and show general anxiety with the European public and policy makers.

Our project aims at further development of existing technology vis à vis geolocating for the management of fauna and free grazing livestock. Our system will provide park managers with a tool to monitor behaviour in real-time and to take action based on it. By aligning hardware and software manufacturers in a common system development, a tool will arise that will greatly facilitate the work of wildlife researchers and managers.

Worldwide, the lives of a number of charismatic large animals are at stake due to severely increasing poaching. Individual tagging of animals to be protected now become feasible (in rhinos, for instance, tags can be built into the horn) but with the E-TRACK technology we could envisage that future development beyond the current project will allow the guards to have e-tags too, so that supervisors can monitor whether the animals are closely guarded or not.

In addition to the societal value of the application of the intended system for wildlife research and management, spin-off applications in other domains may have even larger societal impact. Better insight in how people move in open spaces will provide new opportunities for crowd control (festivals, soccer matches, demonstrations, etc.), more effective mass transportation and logistics at airports and train stations, more efficient usage of space in shopping malls, etc.