Connected Conservation: Dimension Data Teams Up With Cisco On IoT Project To Protect Endangered Species

Dimension Data, in collaboration with Cisco Systems, is doubling down on the Internet of Things by using sensor, networks and data analytics tools to protect endangered rhinoceroses in South Africa.

For solution providers, focusing on the "how" is critical to designing and implementing Internet of Things applications in these vertical markets, Grant Sainsbury, senior vice president of strategic services at Dimension Data Americas, told CRN.

"I see the Internet of Things as a significant driver for our business as we look for those applications for our clients," said Sainsbury. "As we come to the world of IoT, in this case it's not so much the ’why' but more the ’how' here, and what are we trying to do? It's the imagination around how to solve the problem."

[Related: IoT Checklist: 5 First Steps For Solution Providers Breaking Into The Internet of Things]

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Dimension Data worked with Cisco to design and deploy the Connected Conservation project, which is aimed at protecting rhinoceroses in an unnamed private game reserve. The problem that such reserves face, said Sainsbury, is that many rhinoceroses are in danger of being poached for their horns. As part of the solution, Dimension Data decided to deploy IoT technology in the reserve, allowing officials to track and monitor individuals who enter and exit the reserve gates -- including potential poachers.

"Looking at what's different here, it's the creativity and the thinking you bring to the problem," he said. "We know it's the animals we want to protect, the inclination is the focus on the animal – but the switch in what we did was to focus on the people trying to get to the animal, and that gives us the time we need to react and make a difference to the outcome."

As part of the Internet of Things solution, Dimension Data first worked with Cisco to gather information from game rangers, security personnel and control center teams – and then create a secure Reserve Area Network and install Wi-Fi hotspots around key points in the reserve. The two companies also worked to incorporate drones with infrared cameras, thermal imaging, vehicle tracking sensors and seismic sensors on the network.

While Cisco created the plan to build an IT infrastructure, Dimension Data brought its range of remote networking monitoring capabilities, as well as managed services, to the table.

One challenge that Dimension Data faced while implementing this solution, an issue that many solution providers deal with, is working in a completely new environment to deploy technology.

"The challenge, which is what you find in many IoT environments, becomes the environment," said Sainsbury. "Where you see IoT being applied are generally places where IT is not well-suited for."

"We think about IoT being applied in manufacturing spaces and industries like that, here we're dealing with the African bush – which with heat, lightning and moisture is not great places for technology and connectivity," he said.

In the future, Dimension Data said its connected conservation technology can be replicated in other reserves in Africa to protect not only rhinoceroses, but other endangered species such as elephants and lions.

Dimension Data has been focusing heavily on the Internet of Things over the past few years.

"I see three components at the heart of an IoT solution – the presence of sensors being used, some kind of connectivity and data management," Sainsbury said.

In 2015, the company scored a contract with ASO, the owner of the Tour de France, to utilize Internet of Things technology to transform customer engagement experiences for the famous bike race. By placing tracking devices on bikes, the systems integrator could collect real-time data about each rider's position and speed, and deliver that data to fans on an application.

The channel has a significant opportunity in the Internet of Things space, said Sainsbury, because many channel companies like Dimension Data are client-oriented and industry-aware players.

"I think the IoT potential is unlimited," said Sainsbury. "Our clients are now getting insights to data they didn't know they could get access to."