Last week I attended the LifeWatch meeting at the University of Amsterdam, marking the end of the preparatory phase, and the start of the construction phase.
Eric Pauwels of CWI announced in the meeting that the internet of things is coming! About 5 billion devices are currently connected; by 2020 this will reach around 20 billion, including not only computers and mobiles, but also smart objects such as internet-enabled cars.
The fastest growth is in machine to machine applications, such as smart electricity grids, networked homes and offices and environmental monitoring using Wireless Sensor Networks. As the components for these get smaller and smaller, WSNs are transforming ecology into a data intensive science. Eric had some great examples of species tracking using radio tags. Whales, dolphins, seagulls and turtles are all being tracked around the globe, not to mention sharks. Visit the TOPP (Tracking of Pacific Predators) website to follow predators in real time.
My favourite though was CowDetect from SmarterFarming. By attaching location tags on a collar and setting up receivers in barns and fields, animals can be tracked as they wander around the farm. This actually has a serious economic use – by checking on rest periods, activity levels and any unusual behaviour, farmers can make sure that the cow is not only in the best of health but also maximise productivity. They have estimated that farmers could save 330 Euros per cow per year of losses.
At the end of the day, we reached the point where people needed to put a real commitment to the future of LifeWatch on paper. Wouter Los, coordinator of the preparatory phase, outlined the central questions behind it all. How do the different layers of biodiversity work together? What changes biodiversity, can we manage this and how? We need an environment to make this complex task possible.
So far 21 countries are interested in getting involved – Albania, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Rep, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the UK. Eight of these have signed a Memorandum of Intent, and at the event yesterday, five of these countries had sent representatives to put pen to paper on a Memoradum of Understanding for the Start up activities - Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Spain. Not only that, the meeting also saw the signature of the national MoU of the Dutch LifeWatch Consortium.
This leaves LifeWatch in full start up mode for 2011, with 2012 to 2015 earmarked for construction and also operations. Full operations should begin in 2016.
We’ll be watching with interest!