Reindeer get their own navigation application in Lapland

In the northernmost region of Scandinavia, Lapland, large herds of reindeer move around the wilderness freely. They are looking for food, adjusting to seasons, or simply escaping mosquitoes during the summer months. The number of reindeer is strictly controlled to ensure the animals don’t strain too much the sensitive Arctic environment. Every reindeer belongs to a herder, and that’s where modern technology can help.
Reindeer on a snowy fell. Photo by Tristan Ferne. Once a year, herders bring all reindeer of a specific region into a place built for the occasion. There, the youngest members of the herds are marked to their owners, individuals are selected that won’t roam any longer, and all get medical treatment.

Especially, during winter, herders bring supplemental food to the animals into the forest or fells, or wherever the herd may be. Herders need to know the location of the animals. Lynx, wolves and wolverines are a threat to the reindeer around the year. If anything happens, herders want to find the animals as quickly as possible.

BBC reports how Actility, a Finnish IoT (Internet of Things) company has designed a device that can determine its position from GPS satellites and transmit the information via a low-power network to a mobile phone application.

Actility GPS device for reindeer
The alpha female of the herd gets the device around her neck. The device doesn’t communicate via an ordinary mobile phone network, because in the wilderness it is likely that there is no coverage. In addition, the power consumption is relatively high for mobile devices that connect to a 3G or 4G network.

The Actility reindeer device communicates via a special LoRaWAN network that is designed for low power and long distance applications. The data transmitted by the reindeer travels from the wilderness network to a mobile phone network, and the information is displayed in the owner’s smartphone application.

Lapland is a vast wilderness located north of the Arctic Circle in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia (a travel guide to Lapland has the details). In addition to reindeer, tourism is a way to make a living in Lapland. Road trips, hiking, mountainbiking and fishing in summer, and skiing in winter are the primary activities.

Here is a video clip that shows the reindeer in their own environment, with the new positioning device the leading reindeer is wearing.

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