Researchers and companies come together to collect data on animals

The Animal Sensor Networks project was aimed at conducting applied research so as to increase collaboration on data collection from wild and farm animals in Norway, Finland and Sweden between researchers, including technical research groups and animal scientists, and companies developing wireless sensors. This led to tests of applications for use in farming, zoology and tourism and the development of technology for reducing the number of reindeer killed by road traffic. 

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Road side devices warn drivers of the presence of reindeer. © Johannes Karlsson Road side devices warn drivers of the presence of reindeer. © Johannes Karlsson

" The project has resulted in a long-term collaboration between researchers in the area of wireless sensors for data collection from animals in which researchers have continued to work on topics related to agriculture and reindeer herding in the Botnia-Atlantica region. "

Johannes Karlsson, Researcher in the Department of Applied Physics and Electronics, Umeå University

The use of wireless sensor networks to collect information on animals has become increasingly important, with several groups carrying out research on the subject. The project looked to develop systems for collecting information about individual animals in large areas and, by bringing together partners with different specialisations and from different countries, to establish a knowledge cluster in the field.

Animal Sensor Networks developed hardware platforms for animal data collection and computer algorithms for animal recognition and activity detection. Work was also done on new technology for tourism and farming applications, as well as for remote animal data collection. The technology was applied to grazing animals and reindeer.

Testing and demonstrations

Partners from various fields worked together on several demonstrations of use of wireless sensors for data collection from animals. One involved the placing of wireless sensor tags on reindeer and deployment of roadside devices to warn drivers if reindeer were close to the road. Another was the digital zoo, involving deployment of a wireless sensor network at Lycksele Zoo in Sweden with which visitors could watch zoo animals in their enclosures online before and after their visit.

The project also created tools for enhancing the visitor experience during trips to the zoo. Other applications included a tool for training horses and a system enabling reindeer herders to match a mother with her calf. Several hardware platforms for collecting data from animals using sensors were also set up.

Research related to farming included work on sensor technology to improve farming in Nordic environments, and development of methods for tracking cows in cowsheds and monitoring their behaviour and decision making. In addition, an experimental dairy farm housing 120 cows was used to measure the feeding and productivity of each cow.

Potential business opportunities

Technology developed under the project could lead to new business opportunities for companies in the region, with the various systems at different levels of readiness for the market. Those deployed in Lycksele Zoo are at a particularly high level of readiness and, maintained by the zoo, have continued to operate after the end of the project. Lycksele Zoo used the digital zoo platform to make it possible for readers of Sweden's biggest newspaper to follow the birth of bear cubs online during the 2015/2016 winter season.

Other zoos have shown interest in the technology and an idea based on the work in this project was selected as a winner in a competition run by Moscow Zoo aimed at finding ways of increasing visitor numbers in autumn and winter. Technology developed for farming and reindeer warning systems has also attracted attention from companies.

Total investment and EU funding 

Total investment for the project “Animal Sensor Networks” is EUR 1 377 949, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 675 000 through the “Botnia-Atlantica” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

Draft date