Question: What is Automated Outdoor Animal Monitoring?
Answer: Automated Outdoor Animal Monitoring utilises conventional audio recording, digital still and video cameras for automated and unattended animal monitoring systems.
For our specific instance, we specialise in combining the best detection sensing technologies with a microprocessor to control standard still and video camera equipment. This allows automation of the process of determining there is an animal to record and minimises the skill level required to operate the equipment.
Question: What are the critical success factors with Automated Outdoor Animal Monitoring?
It just has to work
There are literally hundreds of sensors, controllers and cameras available from all over the world.
Quality varies considerably with some being very cheap and others very complicated.
If the sensors are not correctly filtered and the camera, light sources and recorders not correctly matched and controlled, you will just buy yourself hours of frustration wading through hundreds of recorded files and have wasted the opportunity to capture the information you wanted.
We have cabinets of equipment that have failed testing whilst trying to find the appropriate components to make a reliable TrackSnap product.
The equipment that failed the testing will never be useful in professional Automated Outdoor Animal Monitoring.
It must be cost-effective
Cheap or expensive on its own is no indication of effectiveness in the field. Of the many products available, a cheap system may cost you many hours of searching for what you expected to see or hear in hundreds of useless files, whilst a several thousand dollar system may be an expensive investment when you just want a simple indication of the presence of an animal you are monitoring.
The cost-effective secret: Clever use of a low-cost microprocessor to filter and control what the sensor detects, in a given situation, and only record the correct events.
Keep it Simple to operate.
Our philosophy - must operate professionally with only the On / Off switch.
What is the point of Automated Outdoor Animal Monitoring if you need hours of training on how to use the system? Turn it on and leave it to do its job. It can be technically advanced but it needs to be non-technical to operate.
The manual must be relevant and written to reflect the way the camera is used in the field, not to glorify the product or provide a full list of operating features that you may never understand or use.
TrackSnap manuals are downloaded and used even by users of other camera systems because the manuals are written for field use and provide good field tips.
What is the point if it is not reliable?
An appropriate field tool can be next to useless if it is unreliable. It must continue to operate for many years without more than the minimum level of maintenance.
Effective support is the key to the future.
Support for the application of the system will insure that you continue to get the most value out of the system. Simply purchasing from a catalogue, over the internet, will possibly get a cheaper purchase price and for the minority, they will manage to use the product effectively. For the rest of us, we need localised advice on the application of the system to our respective needs, recommendation and assurance that the system will work in the field.
Question: What is a PIR sensor?
At the heart of any motion sensing camera is a PIR (Pryoelectric Infra-Red) motion detection sensor.
A PIR sensor measures the reflected Infrared radiation from objects in its range. As an object moves into the range of the sensor and if it is reflecting a different amount of radiation the sensor will output the changing values of the radiation levels. The detection of the change in this reflected radiation is, very adequately, assumed to be motion of an object - hence why the PIR is commonly used for motion detection.
The PIR sensors come in many formats and they usually detect motion in one or two vectors of travel. Commonly, most of the PIR sensor, used in the field, will be more effective in detecting movement in the horizontal vector of movement. They will also be more effective when detecting an object that is moving perpendicular to the sensor and less effective when detecting movement when the object is moving towards or away from the sensor. Some sensors will detect both horizontally and vertically (say up and down target movement) as well, which can be important if you plan to mount your sensor in an elevated position. Pleacent of the sensor and the type of lens used with the sensor will determine the effectiveness of the sensor.
Question: Why use a PIR sensor instead of other sensors?
A PIR uses only a minimal amount of power to detect motion in comparison to other sensors. As an example, an ultrasonic sensor (like what is used in car reverse parking sensors) or a LED beam uses up to 1000 times more power than the sensor we use in our motion systems. This is why our sensors will continue to operate on the same 9V battery for more than 6 months in the field.
Question: Why is the TrackSnap PIR sensor different?
Being the heart of a motion sensing system, the PIR sensor better do its job properly or your experience will be pretty negative. Having the wrong sensor in your system will leave you wondering where are the animals in the hundreds of empty files?
The answer will be - there probably wasn't an animal there to start with is was just the Sun or the Wind falsely triggering your recording. This is the most problematic of all issues with systems in the field.
All TrackSnap cameras use the best PIR (Pryoelectric Infra-Red) motion detection sensor available managed by a micro-computer controller.
This design allows for the incorporation of years of experience that provides the minimum number of false triggers (blank photos, videos or sound recordings), and the most effective results in the field.
The PIR micro-computer filters out common false movements and provided the highest balance for correctly detecting the target animals.
Question: Will a PIR sensor be affected by temperature or movement?
Yes, as a PIR sensor measures Infrared radiation and this is very closely associated to heat radiation so changes in temperature will affect the sensing. The important thing is how the controlling device uses this sensor information and how it determines what is really the movement of an animal. A sensor will be more sensitive depending on the ambient temperate. In colder temperatures the warm body of an animal will be much more apparent than in hot climates.
On a windy day, there will be temperature movement with the wind gusts and also quite possibly movement (and heating / cooling) in the objects in the field of the sensor. Poor location of the sensor target area could make the best camera system perform very badly.
Use the following guide to positioning a PIR sensing system correctly:
· Point the sensor away from the rising or setting sun. In general, North or South works well, but your local site conditions could dictate otherwise.
· Keep the sensor aimed at an area that will not have intense, direct sunlight warming all or part of the detection area. Shadows of trees or clouds moving across a sun-warmed area can cause a momentary temperature drop which could cause a false event to be recorded. The warmed air rising from the ground can cause problems too.
· Tall, sun-warmed grasses or other vegetation blowing in a breeze can be detected. Point the sensor away from dense, sun-warmed vegetation which can trap heat.
· Even in a shaded area, keep the sensor pointed away from dense shrubs or trees that can retain the day's warmth. A warm evergreen or other dense shrub will hold the day's heat. If the air temperature drops at night - and the still warm shrub moves in the wind, this movement could be detected.
· If the area is known to have many small birds / mammals, you may get some empty pictures, as these active, fast animals will often leave the frame before a recording event can be taken. Orient your sensor to your target.
· Wind (moving air) can cause false events. The moving air might be warmer or cooler than the background. Place the sensor in an area sheltered from strong winds when you use your PIR sensor in a location prone to high winds.
· Wind can also cause movement of the tree or other object on which you have mounted your PIR sensor. Make sure to secure your sensor to an object that will not sway in strong winds. Trees should be a minimum of 25 cm in diameter.
· Make sure your equipment is fastened securely. Movement of the equipment can be interpreted as motion by the sensor and may result in unnecessary recording events.
Question: What is the Auto Walk-Test Mode?
All PIR sensors and their associated electronics require an amount of time to allow the circuits to warm up. This is usually about 20 to 30 seconds. It is common practice to then allow a short period of time to make sure your sensor will react to movement in the target zone. This period of time is referred to as the Walk-Test time of mode of operation. The camera system will not trigger a capture of the image during this time.
Question: Can I put a camera system, using a PIR sensor, inside a glass or plastic enclosure?
No. Glass or plastic will not allow the heat radiation to pass to the sensor. There will always be a PIR lens mounted in the front of the sensor but this is a very special tyoe of plastic. The lens is a specially designed to focus the radiation onto the window of the sensor and allow the sensor to measure the radiation within a specific area. We use a Fresnel lens which is a flattened version of the curved lens you might have seen on domestic motion detecting lights. The Fresnel Lens is carefully centred over the PIR Sensor on the control board and must not be obstructed. The lens has miniature ridges facing towards the PIR sensor. If the lens is obstructed or scratched on either side it will not work correctly. Do not mount any glass, tape or plastic film over top of the PIR sensing lens. If the infrared heat cannot pass through to the lens the PIR sensor will not read any changes.
Question: Should I use still images or Video?
Wow what a question and don't we wish it was simple. Detection is pretty much a stable and reliable technology but what you do after you detect the movement of an animal is the the real question. We will try to summarise the options by providing a simplified guide based on the availability of technology in August 2008.
Cost-effective for research applications
The quality of captured images is generally excellent.
The time delay to power up the equipment is a small as it can be.
It is only one short moment in time and may not reflect the true situation.
It usually doesn't provide an indication of what the animal does.
Unless an expensive camera is used, a white flash will have to be used at night and there is usually and audible click when the shutter cover opens.
Cameras generally require modification to remove Infrared filters to use invisible night vision
Cameras that have been IR modified will modify the colour of pictures.
Systems can be modular and include interchangeable cameras for different applications
Colour during the day and Invisible Infrared at night.
Virtually undetectable (hence it doesn't affect the animal's behaviour)
Cost-effective high-quality video is getting closer each day.
Currently even reasonable low light video systems use a lot more power so they require larger and heavier batteries
They are currently a little more complicated as you need to understand bit rates and Frames-per-second
The quality of captured images is generally poorer than still images and will be for the near future.
The time delay to power up the equipment can be slower that the still camera equivalent and hence it will take longer before we record and event.
Cheap CMOS and electronics = poor quality and the image could be uneven. Subject lighting is critical. We only use high quality CCD's and their associated quality electronics.
Question: Why do you insist on knowing the application before you will sell a TrackSnap product?
There are two main reasons for this and they protect both us and our customers.
Firstly, our guarantee is that the camera system will operate for a specific application not just to manufacturer's specification.
We are also a customised system manufacturer so we can extend this guarantee to the camera system operating as recommended for the application in the field.
So then it is now a given that we should want to know what the system will be used for. We intend to support the application of the camera system not just as pieces of plastic and silicon. This means we must understand how it is meant to operate with a particular animal in the field.
Secondly, there are ethical concerns for any person who either supplies or uses a surveillance type of system. Some of our camera systems are virtually undetectable and so it is important, for us, that we are clear of the intention of the use of our equipment as we only intend the camera system to be used for animal surveillance.
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