By 23 March 2021 | Categories: feature articles


In recent years it has become apparent that technology has a terrific role to play in strengthening conservation efforts. The most recent example of this was the announcement by Dell Technologies of a collaboration with South African non-profit Elephants Alive. The tech titan has pledged to deploy Dell Latitude Rugged and Dell Precision mobile workstations to  facilitate field research in the conservation of the declining African elephant. 

For elephants, the situation is dire with a 97% decline in the African elephant over the past 100 years. In response, Elephants Alive conducts research on elephants and their movements in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park in South Africa. Their mission is to ensure the survival of elephants and their habitat, promoting the harmonious co-existence between elephants and people.

Dell Technologies explained that its workstations will provide the processing power to obtain data-driven insights and generate detailed maps, which are generated by software that runs on the precision machine. The maps show elephant movements which help researchers keep track of trailblazing elephants and provide much-needed data to ensure their survival.

Speeding data collection in the field

To assist Elephants Alive researchers in the field, where ruggedised computing is essential, researchers are using Dell Latitude Rugged workstations to record data and take vast amounts of high-quality photos – up to 800 per day—for elephant identification. Researchers identify elephants by their unique ear shape, similar to a fingerprint. The company explained that the Dell Latitude Rugged devices are built precisely for the harsh environments that researchers face, and designed to endure everything from bumpy off-road travel to oppressive heat, corrosive wind driven dust and sand to African thunderstorms.

 “Using innovative technology in conservation research allows us to be more efficient in our data collection and analysis. By evolving from hand drawn images to high-definition photographs, digitising the identification of elephants allows us to scale our efforts in the field to protect more animals,” explained Dr. Michelle Henley, Co-founder, CEO and Principal Researcher at Elephants Alive.

Researchers log and update records for every individual elephant– noting their location, behaviour and other elephants they are associating with.

Elephants Alive also maintains an elephant tracking project, which attains data from nearly 200 advanced GPS satellite collars that have been deployed on elephants for the past 20 years. Hourly data downloads have resulted in over 2 million data points, accurately combining location data with the ID photos taken in the field.

Doug Woolley

Deriving value from data

To derive value from all this gathered data, Elephants Alive researchers use Dell Precision mobile workstations to provide reliable, high quality mobile compute power and perform heavy-duty data processing.

Researchers generate detailed maps using data collected in the field to better understand migratory patterns, herd dynamics and general whereabouts of elephants. “The maps that we generate are an invaluable asset to our researchers, they allow us to predict when elephants will enter high risk areas fraught by illegal killings or human elephant-conflict in general,” continued Dr. Henley.

On how the Dell Precision mobile workstations play a role, the company explained that its Precision PCs offer “the latest thermal innovations, professional graphics and powerful CPU technologies," in addition to Dell Optimizer for Precision. Furthermore, the built-in AI software automatically improves application performance, battery run time and audio settings in the background, providing a seamless experience with fewer disruptions. Ïn practical terms this enables the machine to learn how each researcher works, allowing them to focus on the tasks that matter most: conserving the African elephant.

“Dell Technologies is continually developing innovative technology that delivers a simple, seamless experience to users – no matter where they work, in the field or at the office. Our collaboration with Elephants Alive shows how technology can accelerate conservation initiatives like identifying and tracking African elephants,” commented Doug Woolley, Managing Director, Dell Technologies South Africa.

“Dell Technologies is committed to protecting and enriching the planet together with customers, suppliers and communities. With the onset of the 4th Industrial Revolution, smart technology can drive the effective use of data in conservation. By pairing dedicated researchers with the right technology, we can make great strides to preserve and protect the African elephant in its natural habitat,” he concluded.

You can view a video on how Elephants Alive is using the Dell Latitude Rugged and Precision devices below:


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