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Cambridge Consultants works on project designed to catch rhino poachers

A camera designed by Cambridge Consultants is located near a watering hole in Kenya. Photo courtesy of Cambridge Consultants.
A camera designed by Cambridge Consultants is located near a watering hole in Kenya. Photo courtesy of Cambridge Consultants.Credit:

A technology consulting firm with a 35-person office in Kendall Square is now testing an early-warning system designed to protect Kenyan rhinos and elephants from poachers.

The firm is Cambridge Consultants of the UK, and it is now testing a system of motion-triggered cameras that will be deployed around watering holes and connected to the Iridium satellite network. The hope is that a hundred of these cameras will be in place by the end of year. Via the Iridium satellite network, which the cameras link into, photos can be sent to a mobile app that will allow users around the world to have access to near real-time images of rare animals.

The cameras designed by Cambridge Consultants don’t just detect vibrations; they can also triangulate the sound of gunshots. As a result, the expectation is that park rangers can pinpoint the location of poachers and intervene immediately, the firm said.

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Cambridge Consultants is working on the project with the Zoological Society of London and the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Among other technologies, the project makes use of Raspberry Pi micro-computers, long-life batteries, and LED flash lighting.

In a statement, Richard Traherne, head of wireless at Cambridge Consultants, said: “The challenge was to create a remote monitoring system that was robust enough to withstand extreme weather conditions and animal attacks and could be easily hidden in any surroundings – all within the available budget. The vital importance of the conservation project gave us a valuable incentive to come up with an innovative new system that could help ZSL (the Zoological Society of London) in its mission.”

The “Instant Wild” app that will let people view photos from the project on their smartphones is available at iTunes. The app is still in the test mode. But by the end of year, when more cameras are deployed, the expectation is that it will be of great interest to smartphone users interested in conservation.

In its press release, Cambridge Consultants noted that one rhino is killed every 11 hours in Africa due to the demand for products made from rhino horns. There are just 539 wild rhinos in Kenya today, compared with the 20,000 in 1969.

Much of the work for this project was done in the UK. The firm’s US headquarters office in Kendall Square has a focus on medical technology. For example, the Kendall Square office recently worked with HemoSonics, a medical device company. HemoSonics was working on a device designed to provide critically-needed data to guide the treatment of bleeding and blood clots in surgery, trauma, and intensive care.

Cambridge Consultants recently launched a US recruitment effort to identify and attract new talent in the medical technology arena. 

The firm also worked with the US Navy on holographic radar technology, a Globe story from 2011 noted.

A video on the project can be viewed below. It runs just over three minutes.

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