Animal behaviour monitoring tool for research, conservation, and agriculture purposes

25th January 2023
Sheryl Miles

The University of Antwerp (UAntwerp), a dynamic, forward-thinking university aiming to contribute positively to society, and imec, a global research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies announce their new spin-off called IoSA (Internet of Small Animals).

Engineers of IDlab, an imec research group at UAntwerp, and ecologists of EVECO research group at UAntwerp, combined their expertise to develop an ultralight low power, accurate proximity tracker that enables monitoring the behaviour and movement of small wild animals such as birds, rodents, bats and even toads.

To conserve, protect and improve the conditions for animals, we need to understand their movements and behaviour, not only from a biodiversity angle, but also for domestic animals, such as livestock animals.

Behaviour provides valuable information about the animals’ health. However, the tools to effectively monitor animal behaviour have been lacking, particularly for smaller wild animals. To meet this need, IoSa aims to develop an ultralight highly accurate monitoring tool that can be used to gather new insights in wild animal behaviour and health, but also in early warning systems for livestock health.

New valuable insights

IoSA combines the expertise of engineers of imec-IDlab and ecologists of UAntwerp to create logging tools, focusing on highly accurate proximity tracking and ultra-low power data processing. While traditional trackers are rather bulky and heavy, IoSA was able to pack these features in ultra-light miniaturised solutions, weighing no more than 5% of the animal’s body weight. IoSA’s solutions will provide new valuable insights to researchers, wildlife and conservation organisations, zoos, and farmers on how animals interact and move.

“IoSA is an excellent example of creating value in a surprising area. This multidisciplinary cooperation between different research groups results in an interesting IoT-tool that supports the biological and biomedical research domain. UAntwerp puts a lot of effort in connecting researchers in order to create more socio-economic value for a broader public.”, says Silvia Lenaerts, Vice-rector Valorization and Development of UAntwerp.

Just the beginning

Lucinda Kirkpatrick, CEO of IoSA: “We started with a miniaturised proximity logger, of merely 0,9 grams, as a contact tracer for smaller animals like birds and mice. Each logger emits Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals and registers the BLE signals and the signal strength of other loggers in the vicinity, as well as the signals of a stationary beacon in the monitoring environment. This approach allows researchers to map movements of, and interactions between the animals, and provides valuable data that was unattainable until now. This first logger is only the beginning – as a team we are hugely passionate about creating even better devices that provide more insights into animal behaviour that can help us study, protect and conserve animals.”

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