Camazotz: smart tech keeping track of bats

Our sustainable and versatile tracking system Camazotz is being used to monitor flying foxes across Australia, helping ecologists understand and predict the spread of disease.

The Challenge

Improving tracking technology

Flying foxes are a major player in the biodiversity stakes. Their ecological role serves to pollinate and disperse seeds of trees including our iconic Eucalyptus.

Dozens of Camazotz devices have been placed on flying fox collars throughout Australia.

They can also carry diseases that pose a threat to human health. For example, flying foxes are the natural host of the deadly Hendra virus, and other bat species have been linked to the recent ebola virus outbreak in West Africa.

By tracking these animals we can gather data that informs analytical models used to predict disease spread. These models can guide effective management strategies in order to contain these outbreaks more proactively.

Up until now it has been difficult to undertake surveillance of flying foxes as they are nocturnally active and can travel vast distances. This is why a sustainable and versatile tracking platform was needed.

Our Response

Introducing Camazotz

Captured trajectories from many bats in the south east QLD area.

Camazotz is a low power autonomous device that promises to revolutionise long-term tracking of mobile assets, from wildlife such as flying foxes to livestock and even public bicycle fleets.

It uses a low power system-on-a-chip with processing and short-range radio communication, multimodal sensors including a GPS module, inertial unit, temperature, pressure, audio and solar panels for long-term energy replenishment.

Camazotz’s ability to operate sustainably without any human involvement or continuous connection make it suitable for most outdoor tracking applications. 

The technology’s benefits include:

  • Autonomy: As a fully autonomous tracking device, Camazotz can track mobile assets almost indefinitely with no human intervention. This feature is particularly useful for wildlife tracking where there is virtually no physical access to devices once deployed.
  • Configurability: This technology supports full reconfiguration through remote wireless commands. A key feature that can be remotely configured is contact logging, where Camazotz tracking devices can be set to exchange information with other Camazotz devices. This enables data exchange from remote devices that may not return to a base node for a long time.
  • Sustainability: Camazotz provides near-indefinite tracking for small highly mobile assets. It operates on a tiny 300mAh battery, but thanks to its dual solar panels, it can harvest energy from the sun to replenish its supplies.

The Results

Tracking flying foxes across Australia

Camazotz has been in operation within the National Flying Fox Monitoring Program for nearly two years. Dozens of devices have been placed on flying fox collars and have successfully delivered high quality tracking information that is unprecedented for animals of this size and weight. This deployment is planned to expand to around 1000 devices.

The information captured by these devices is highly valuable to vector ecologists who use it to predict Hendra disease and crop damage risk across Australia, and to understand the species' role in the ecosystem as seed dispersal agents.

Long-term tracking of small assets is a very active area of technology, with an increasing worldwide demand for location-based services and continuous tracking devices.

Other promising applications for Camazotz include traceability of goods and parcels, sensor-based logistics and asset tracking.

Introducing Camazotz: A Platform for Sustainable Tracking

Show transcript

[Music plays and logo appears on screen:  Data 61 CSIRO Creating our Data Driven Future, www.data61.com.au.  Animated images of bats fly off screen]

 [Different music plays and text appears on screen:  Introducing Camazotz: A Platform for Sustainable Tracking]

[Image appears on screen of flying foxes in trees in background with person’s hand holding tracking device in foreground] 

Dr Raja Jurdak:  Camazotz was developed as a wearable device for wildlife and animals in general. 

[Image shows Dr Raja Jurdak, Principal Research Scientist, Research Group Leader, Distributed Sensing Systems, CSIRO] 

It allows tracking of their position and their condition as they go around in the landscape. 

[Image shows flying fox hanging in tree] 

Flying foxes are also known as fruit bats. 

[Image changes to show other flying foxes in tree] 

They eat fruits from the environment and they release the seed from the fruits into other parts of the environment. 

[Images flash between Dr Raja Jurdak and flying foxes in trees] 

In that sense they’re important seed dispersal agents which help in pollination across the ecosystem. 

On the other hand flying foxes are known to be carriers of the Hendra Virus which spreads from bats to horses and sometimes to humans. 

 

It’s important to track where they’re going to better understand them and manage them. 

 

One thing about bats is that they’re highly mobile and it’s very difficult to track them as they go around the landscape.

 

[Image shows tracking device being attached to flying fox] 

So you put the technology on the bat, it uses solar panels to get energy from the environment which allows it to last for a very long time. 

The bat flies off and then every time they come back you get detailed data of where they have been and the context around that. 

 

[Image shows Dr Jurdak installing a base station] 

To retrieve the data we’ve installed base stations across the eastern coast of Australia. 

[Images flash between flying foxes in trees, a base station, a map showing data flow of tracking information] 

Whenever the animals come back to their roosting camp they communicate wirelessly to the base stations and then the data just flows onto to the cloud where we can visualise it on a map and do all sorts of analysis on it. 

[Images flash between Dr Raja Jurdak and flying foxes in trees] 

This technology provides autonomous tracking that can run near perpetually without any human intervention.  Other applications for this technology include logistics, transport, defence, personal safety and even bicycle tracking and hikers in remote places. 

Camazotz is actually the name of a Mayan bat god which is why we chose it for our technology. 

 

[Image shows Dr Raja Jurdak] 

At Data 61 we’re all about creating Australia’s data driven future.

[Music plays and credits appear on screen followed by logo Data 61 CSIRO Creating our Data Driven Future, www.data61.com.au]

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