It is time for a major update on what Smart Parks is working on with regards to the new Edge devices.
You may have noticed that we have not been able to stick to the planning for delivery of the various devices you have ordered with us. This update will explain what is happening and what you can expect.
Since the COVID19 pandemic hit the world, global supply chains have been massively disrupted. On top of this there is a global shortage of electronic components. As we are working with state-of-the-art components in our products, this is causing delays in every step we take. First, we had delays while building the first development versions of each device, then we have had delays scaling up to production quantities to be able to deliver to you.
What have we done to secure delivery? On a component level we have built a significant level of stock on critical components. All of these components have now arrived. This will help us to shorten delivery time on production from now onwards.
We also would like to use this blog as a more in depth update on the developments and progress on each new Edge device type.
Evolving to the new OpenCollar Edge series, our open-source wildlife protecting and monitoring devices become more and more capable. The Edge series is build around a main processor with build-in Bluetooth capability. This allows us to develop our new Smart Parks Connect smartphone app for users to configure and control these very complex devices in the field and provide unlimited firmware updates. It also offers the much appreciated contact tracing capability – a feature already used in research on disease transmission amongst wildlife in cities. Another new component is the LR1110 chip, enabling the best LoRaWAN® connection and more importantly the ability to do low power GPS and WiFi localization. The Edge series is also prepared to run Tiny-ML machine learning models supported by the leading Edge Impulse toolset. In combination with new sensors like acoustic, radio and computer vision, we truly think this series will be capable of protecting wildlife even better.
Developing a high performance rhino tracker has been at the core of Smart Parks Research and Development from the beginning. We have been iterating over different versions and methods for more than 5 years now. The focus of this latest design iteration has been to make it as small as possible and add the new LR1110 chip (enabling low power GPS) and the Bluetooth capability. Together with the people from Peace Parks Foundation we have managed to test the first 6 units on White Rhino in South-Africa. We have also deployed 2 units for testing on horn replicates in Zimbabwe. During these deployments we have learned that the new RhinoEdge device is working properly, but needs a very standardized and stable deployment method in order to make this performance replicable and stable over multiple deployments. Any sensor of this mounting method needs precise antenna tuning to match the horn and filler material used. Moreover we have learned that rhino vets across Africa use 2 very distinctive horn insertion methods: side-loading and top-loading. Both methods require a very different device tuning and optimization. We believe both methods have a very valid application, where the side-loading method can be used on larger horn sizes and the top-loading method is suitable for any horn size and therefore used on smaller rhino horns.
The current version of RhinoEdge will now be tuned for top-loading. Another lesson from these deployments is that we have room for a huge optimization of the horn implant. Where using the side-loading method, a 50mm diameter hole is used. This means we now can increase the size of the rhino tracker considerably, adding more batteries, using an internal LoRaWAN antenna and more importantly, increasing the GPS antenna performance drastically. This version we call RhinoEdge Puck 50 and is currently being tested in South-Africa on real rhino horn. If these tests are successful, they will be available in production instantly. We believe this could be the ultimate rhino horn implant we have been working towards for 5 years now!
During the test with the top-loading method in Zimbabwe we have learned that the side-loading method using a 50mm diameter hole is not suitable for many horn/rhino sizes, making it clear that we also need to continue offering a smaller rhino horn implant. The test with the top-loading method showed good results for the current RhinoEdge and also offers a significant improvement opportunity. We can increase the size of the RhinoEdge to fit a 34mm diameter hole. This size does not allow us to bring the LoRaWAN antenna internal, but does offer us the ability to add 3 times the battery capacity and increase the GPS antenna performance. It also adds to the ability to fully standardize the mounting method. This new version we call RhinoEdge Puck 34 and is currently in development. If all goes well we should take them into production before June/July 2022. The current RhinoEdge is available now if people need to have a tracker for top-loading shortly. We invite all rhino vets to support this standardization of rhino horn implants and deployment methods. Please contact us for more information on this.
Support: Development of RhinoEdge is currently supported by Peace Parks Foundation and the Suzuki Rhino Foundation. We are looking for more funding to continue this evolution.
Some protected areas have already had the pleasure to receive the first batch of brand new RangerEdge units. Before scaling up our production capacity, we have used the moment to add some improvements to the hardware, firmware and the app. New app features include: messaging and motion triggered locations updates. We will send a separate update on these new features soon. The enclosure also needed some small adjustments to improve water resistance. Unfortunately we are facing delays in the enclosure production. The RangerEdge units are being produced with a high quality injection mold and even small adjustments take time. We also would like to use this update to link you to our GoFundMe campaign: Connect the Rangers that Protect. Please consider adding your support or share this campaign. All money raised here will help us to keep these RangerEdge units affordable.
The new CollarEdge trackers are an important step towards a modular and high performance wildlife monitoring system. Our previous tracking collars where build around the concept of what we call the payload. The payload has everything from the electronics and the batteries inside one potted enclosure. This has proven to be a very good approach for making the collars extremely ruggedized. However, this also came with the consequence of making the collars top heavy. The weight of the batteries makes it needed custom counterweights to keep the payload facing skywards for GPS performance. Going to our new CollarEdge design, we have chosen to separate the batteries from the active tracking unit, bringing them down to act as a counterweight. This allows us the make smaller and lightweight collars and gives more flexibility in the used battery set-up. For performance and production optimization we have decided to work with an injection molded enclosure for the top unit. The battery counterweight units will be 3D printed and potted at this stage. This way each counterweight can be adjusted to the collar size and circumference. The first CollarEdge prototype units have been tested on feral cats, raccoons, wild dog and lion. We are using the lessons learning from these deployments to improve the CollarEdge tracker and make it ready for scaling up production. Many conservation projects are waiting for these collars. We take this time to make sure they can deliver the needed performance. Currently the injection mold process is facing extra delays due to un-announced COVID19 company closures in the supply chain. We use this time-window to update the PCB, firmware and the app. We expect all of this will be ready for production testing shortly.
ElephantEdge and ElephantFree
Many of you already have received the all new ElephantEdge collars and we are happy to tell you that the first have been successfully deployed on Elephant in Zimbabwe and Namibia. We will publish an extensive update on the ElephantEdge campaign shortly, with some really nice video footage from the deployment we have been part of our selves in Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe. ElephantEdge is ready and available. Having the ElephantEdge development finished, we finally got time to step up the development of the version where we add high power satellite connectivity. This version is called ElephantFree. The ElephantFree will be able to switch to using Iridium satellite connection for sending location updates when the device moves outside a LoRaWAN network. This will provide the advantage of low power when possible, but remain connected when needed. Due to all the delays the ElephantFree should be available for testing in June 2022.
Support: Development of ElephantEdge has been supported by the Hackster.io – ElephantEdge Campaign partners. ElephantFree is supported by the INNO-Fonds from WWF the Netherlands. We are looking for more funding to continue this evolution.
The first prototype WisentEdge has been deployed on a European Bison in the Netherlands a few weeks ago and is performing well except from some early model firmware glitches. We will be performing a firmware update using the new App shortly. As the new WisentEdge is fully based on the RangerEdge electronics and firmware, the new devices will have all upgrades and performance updates. They are ready for production and delivery as from now. We are really happy with the important tool for rewilding and protecting the large and wild grazers in Europe. The previous Wisent trackers have also successfully been deployed on other large grazers like Water buffalo.
Support: Development of the WisentEdge has been supported by the Cor Wit Fonds. We are looking for more funding to continue this evolution.
One of the park management applications we have been working on from the start of Smart Parks, is High Voltage Fence monitoring. We know this application is at the core of protect area management. We still do not see good and affordable solutions available for remote areas. Therefore we have decided to add this feature to the new Edge line of devices. We are planning to add the High Voltage Fence monitoring probe to the RangerEdge. The FenceEdge still needs some Research and Development work on the electronics, the firmware and the enclosure before we are able to deliver them to you. We expect to have the first units ready in the next 3 months.
Support: Development of the FenceEdge is currently not financially supported by one of our partners. Let us know if you would like to help us continue the evolution of fence monitoring.
We are working on acquiring funding to develop an even smaller version of the CollarEdge tracker, as we understand that there is a big need for tracking collars with a total collar weight as low as 65 grams. These units may have a need for remote controllable VHF beaconing. Let us know if you are interested. If all goas well, we hope to start the development in the second half or 2022 and have them production ready 6 months later. We are also still looking into GPS, LoRaWAN and BLE ear-tags, Hack the Poacher device with Cellphone detection and off course we will continue with new firmware and App updates.
We want to thank our partner IRNAS from Slovenia for all the great work – working together we have been able to give purpose to state-of-the-art technologies at the highest performance level!
Although multiple challenges have brought serious headwind, slowing us down, Smart Parks and its growing group of partners will continue to do what is needed: protect wildlife with passion and technology!