How do I get started with OpenCollar Edge Trackers?

In this Tech Tutors episode, Tim van Dam, answers the question, How do I get started with OpenCollar Edge Trackers? In this episode, Tim will introduce the OpenCollar edge trackers and give a live demo of how the new OpenCollar Edge trackers work. He'll walk through a complete workflow from triggering a GPS fix on a collar with a smartphone app, showing it flow through a LoRaWAN network into an integration layer and ending up in EarthRanger and Grafana. Tim will also guide us through some deployment examples from the field (rhino, wisent, cheetah, lion, cats, elephants), talk about lessons learned and where the community could help to grow the OpenCollar ecosystem.

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Date published: 2021/10/27

About the Series

Welcome to the third season of WILDLABS Tech Tutors, the series that answers the "how do I do that?" questions of conservation tech! Brought to you with the support of Microsoft AI for Earth, Tech Tutors is made for conservation tech beginners of all knowledge levels and yes, even experts can still be beginners when it comes to tackling a new aspect of conservation tech or starting a new project.). Our Tech Tutors will give you the bite-sized, easy-to-understand building blocks you'll need to try new conservation technology, enhance your research, DIY a project for the first time, or simply explore the possibilities.

Taking place every Thursday, each Tech Tutor will present a 30 minute tutorial guiding you through an aspect of conservation tech, followed by a 30 minute live Q&A session with the audience.

What do you gain as a Tech Tutors participant? You'll leave each episode with the confidence to build on the skills discussed in these tutorials, and you'll have an ongoing opportunity to learn and collaborate with other members of the WILDLABS community! The connections made through the past seasons of Tech Tutors have led to real projects and results, and our third season is set to introduce you to even more new ideas and community members who are ready to start something new! 

Can't make it to an episode this season? Don't worry! You can find every tutorial after it airs on our Youtube channel, and you can collaborate and ask questions in each episode's thread on the WILDLABS Tech Tutors forum.

Want to catch up on Tech Tutors Seasons One and Two? Find links to our episodes' recordings and resources here and here

Meet Your Tech Tutor: Tim van Dam, Smart Parks

Tim van Dam is the Co-Founder and Director of Smart Parks and initiator of the open source OpenCollar intiative. Smart Parks is an NGO that promotes, builds and supports LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) solutions in conservation. They founded the OpenCollar initative, a conservation collaboration to design, support and deploy open-source tracking collar hardware and software for environmental and wildlife monitoring projects. Their goal is that the development of wildlife monitoring collars enters the world of the cooperative, Internet-based community. 

Smart Parks and OpenCollar publish their development, data and lessons on opencollar.io, GitHub and posts in the WILDLABS community. By making the collars’ hardware and software and other information available online, their aim is to attract and inspire talented students, researchers, and tech-savvy conservationists to develop tracking systems that are more customizable and a better fit for use on different animals. Making existing technology available for anyone who wants it also means anyone can inexpensively build and adjust collars, with for example a GPS, GSM or LoRa module, for their own use cases.  As the threshold for deploying collars disappears, they hope that wildlife experts will collar more animals, generate more data, create more actionable intelligence and share as much as possible to benefit the conservation of our natural world.  Finally, bringing an audience with a passion for technology and wildlife protection into the development of these technologies will reduce cost and increase innovation overall. 

Based in the Netherlands, Tim is an expert on LoRa-technology and sensor networks and has worked for the last 6 years to deploy conservation technology all around the world. Tim also has a love for kite-boarding, climbing and sailing. 

We asked Tim...

What will I learn in this episode? 

You will learn about the OpenCollar initiative and what is needed to help and build an open source advanced and open wildlife tracking system to protect what we love. Through a live demo of how the new OpenCollar Edge trackers work, Tim will show us a complete workflow from triggering a GPS fix on a collar with a smartphone app, showing it flow through a LoRaWAN network into an integration layer and ending up in EarthRanger and Grafana. Tim will also guide us through some deployment examples from the field (rhino, wisent, cheetah, lion, cats, elephants) and talk about lessons learned and where the community could help to grow the OpenCollar ecosystem. 

How can I learn more about this subject? 

Beginners in developing and using advanced wildlife tracking systems can start by reading the WILDLABS forum discussions about OpenCollar. The aim of the OpenCollar Initiative is to make deploying collars easier so that wildlife experts can collar more animals, gain more data and share as much as possible online so that more people can contribute and take action, so having a look at this data on Github could be helpful. You could also have a read of the first successful implementation of an elephant collar in Liwonde National Park in Malawi here or having a look at articles and community updates from SmartParks. 

If I want to take the next step, where should I start? 

Akiba and Jacinta from Freaklabs have created a nice virtual course that is an indepth guide to "How to build your own data logger". If you're interested in learning along with other people, we'll be running this course again starting in early 2022, so keep an eye out for updates. 

More advanced wildlife engineers can start digging into our open source resources through www.opencollar.io. To use OpenCollar products in the field, there are two main routes to follow. First, you can go to our Open-Source repositories on Github and find your way to producing them to your needs. The other option is to find an organization that can do this for you. Smart Parks is one such organisation - they're also supporting protected areas to deploy these collars. Learn more about this work here.

What advice do you have for a complete beginner in this subject? 

If your aim is to develop and use advanced tracking technology, you could start learning how to work with IoT (Internet of Things) technology in general. Technology community websites like www.hackster.io/ are a good place to start, as they offer tutorials and projects for all levels. The aim of the OpenCollar initiative is also to make deploying collars easier, more customizable, and their data more accessible online. 

Learn more about our upcoming Tech Tutorials

Visit the series page on WILDLABS to find the full list of WILDLABS Tech Tutors.

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