Interview with Africam - Bringing safaris to allBy Ryan Noik 25 April 2019 | Categories: interviews
Ryan Noik (RN) spoke to the CEO of Africam, Africam's Paul Penzhorn, the CEO of Africam, to explore Africam's origins, how it uses Amazon Web Services cloud, and the role of live streaming 'safaris' and how viewing animals in their natural habitat from anywhere can aid in animal conservation.
RN: What is Africam? What inspired it?
PP: Africam is live Full HD streams from remote waterholes in Africa that we broadcast to any device anywhere in the world 24/7.I wanted the 99.5% of the world that cannot afford to go on safari in Africa to experience the beauty of African wildlife and at the same time tell the story of the endangered animals. By using the sights and sounds of the African bush people from around the world from any culture, religion or language can make that emotional connection to the animals.
RN: How does Africam leverage AWS cloud?
PP: Due to the remote locations and limited bandwidth we need to get the streams into the cloud to ensure we can stream in Full HD. AWS cloud provides the below benefits:
- Amazon's AWS Elemental servers provide a CDN network that ingests the feeds close to source and then distributes globally reliably and in high quality.
- AWS cloud also provides all out needs from encoding, security, server elasticity, ad insertion, trans-coding and distribution.
- AWS effectively looks after the stream from source to your device of choice.
- AWS also provide costs saving benefits due to their economies of scale.
RN:How do you sign up for Africam?
PP: Africam is free to anyone. We serve ads to cover costs. Africam TV will be accessible via a $5 donation.
RN: Which countries seem to live stream safaris the most?
PP: The US make up 65% of viewership with the rest spread over the EU and 200 other countries.
RN: Can you elaborate on the conservation and education aspect? How are you hoping that this helps foster understanding of and appreciation for African wildlife?
PP: Africam TV will have both a conservation and educational side. We will use live and recorded video (VOD) to tell the stories of the NGOs on the ground. Using features from AWS and Elemental we will make the user experience unique and engaging and build an online community around the content.
Most important is to make the emotional connection to the animals and let the people live their story.
RN: How do the cameras cope with adverse weather and lighting conditions?
PP: We are constantly having to repair cameras due to lightning strikes and bad weather - but this is Africa and what makes the whole experience unique. It shows the viewers that this is really wildest Africa and we are open to the weather and animals who have destroyed many a camera rig!
RN: Have any of the animals ever reacted to the cameras or are they largely unaware of the devices?
PP: Elephants and monkeys are the worst culprits. We now try and hide the camera so they don't know it is there. We also use IR lighting and not flood lights so the animals don't know we are watching at night.
RN: What is some of the outstanding or most notable footage that has been captured to date?
PP: We have had some lion kills but the most popular is the interaction between the animals. We have elephants fighting with their tusks, lions who have been chased by elephants.
Baby animals with their parents are very popular and we often see the Big Cats come down with the cubs.
RN: Is AWS platform being used to run any analytics of the footage and if so, can you elaborate (for example if you view a particular animal at a certain time, and whether this helps predict what animals may be coming to the watering holes and when?
PP: We are working with Amazon Web services to use their AI recognition on our streams. This can be used to identify an animal on the camera and send out an alert to your phone to even moving the camera and following the animals.
We are using AI on the cameras and footage from the safari trucks to track the animals and then further predict where they will move during the night to help anti-poaching.
We will quickly build up a data base of animal movements and behaviour that can be used by the rangers and conservation.
We are even looking at using AI to identify the birds on the camera....the possibilities are endless.
RN: Can the cameras be used to monitor the health of the waterhole ie detect whether drought is causing a particular watering hole to dry up?
PP: For sure - we have concerned viewers emailing us every time the waterhole looks dry! What it can also show is when there is a drought what animals come to the waterhole and where they have traveled from. We can also look at the quality of the water and if there is any fungi growing on there that can affect the animals.
RN: Do you foresee the technology assisting in monitoring animals access to water in lieu of climate change?
PP: Yes - animals will also move to other reserves and we can then pick them up there. This will allow lodge owners with open fences to monitor the movement of the animals due to climate and food changes.
RN: What is next on the cards for Africam?
PP: In terms of next steps, Africam will be gathering lots of data and security and encryption will play a big role in keeping it safe from poachers and other parties.
Africam would like to become a platform to tell the stories of NGOs on the ground and raise funds for them. We will achieve this by getting as many people as possible to make the emotional connection to the animals and show them how they can make a difference.
Africam also wants to become a 24/7 live wildlife OTT channel.
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