Kii Expert of the Week: Simon Hodgkinson, Founder of Smart Earth Network

This week, were delighted to talk to Simon Hodgkinson, Founder of Smart Earth Network (SEN), an organization that Kii has been working closely with. This week we announced a major conservation project with SEN and partner C3, which uses the Kii cloud to help track and monitor dugongs in the Philippines.

Q: Can you tell me a bit about SEN and what you do?
A: We’re a not for profit social enterprise company. Essentially we provide a platform for conservationists and technologists to come together and share ideas, and to innovate and create solutions to help solve environmental challenges. Our members work in practical conservation and technology, including those in government, NGOs, the private sector, universities and also concerned citizens. We strongly believe in innovation and that technology can help us solve many of the issues affecting our planet.

Q: How did your collaboration with Kii come about?
A: I first met Kii about a year ago at a Meet-up in Cambridge and heard about the work the company is doing with Internet of Things. We loved the idea of the Kii cloud and how the company was also looking to collaborate and partner with other organizations to bring IoT innovation and development to a wide range of sectors and industries. It reflected our philosophy for collaboration and has become a key component for a ground-breaking new project we are running in the Philippines.

Q: So how are working with Kii in the Philippines?
We’re working on an ambitious ‘citizen science’ conservation project with local fishermen in the Philippines to help monitor the dugong population in the region. Unfortunately, these sea mammals are vulnerable to poaching, loss of habitat and entanglement in fishing nets. The project, run from around the island of Busuanga by local NGO, Community Centered Conservation (C3), has historically relied on expensive helicopters to spot and record dugong sightings in an attempt to generate a database of their numbers and locations. Kii is providing the platform where fisherman, armed with smartphones, can upload geo-located images of the dugongs via a specially developed Android app.

Q: How is the dugong project going?
It’s early days and still very much in the trial phase, but it’s been positively received. It means we get to engage with the local fishing community – the only ones to regularly sight dugongs – who have access to a smartphone, which they would otherwise be unable to afford. In return they record the location, time and date of any sightings by using the app on the phone. Data is uploaded to a central database, allowing a more precise and comprehensive picture of the dugong population to be built up, which in turn allows more targeted conservation activities to be put into practice.

Q: Do you think technology is essential for conservation to succeed today?
Technology can provide a level of assistance in conservation that we could only dream of a few years ago. The Internet of Things can be harnessed to massive benefit to the natural world and SEN is seeking challenges from other conservation organizations, which could benefit in the same way as the dugong project in the Philippines. Technology and conservation have to unite to open a new era of environmental activism.

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