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Can A Blockchain Save Endangered Species?

NewtonProject says its sensors can fight poachers

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Cryptocurrency isn’t known for being environmentally friendly (well, not Proof of Work mechanisms like Bitcoin), but a new blockchain project could help save endangered species—at a discount.

The Newton Project, which seeks to replace centralized intermediaries with trustless markets, has announced plans plans to help fight animal poaching with the help of blockchain-based monitoring devices. 

In an email to Crypto Briefing, the Newton project outlined prospects for a network of on-chain IoT devices, sensors and drones to track and monitor endangered wildlife across the expanses of the savannah.

“Newton’s NewSensor technology consists of small IoT devices for monitoring location, temperature, air quality, humidity, etc, and uploads that data to NewChain, Newton’s blockchain. By inserting a NewSensor under the skin of an endangered mammal, for example, a rhino or elephant, we can track the location and basic behavior of that animal. Many animals are social and follow a leader, so instead of tagging every individual, we can just tag notable individuals.”

The system, if successfully implemented, could  remedy the problems of tracking and monitoring herds of wildlife over large wilderness regions. 

In addition, the Newton Project has also proposed launching fleets of “NewDrones” kitted with cameras and microphones, to track local conditions and report intruders. “NewDrone footage will be uploaded to the NewChain for a hack-proof, indelible record of potential poaching,” said a Newton spokesperson. “Using NewAI, this data can be analysed and anything suspicious sent to local authorities.”

The application of blockchain technology to wildlife protection could then reduce the strain on local wildlife protection authorities, which often struggle with limited resources:

“Often local authorities are ineffective – not because they’re corrupt or indifferent, but because these parks are huge, and police and park budgets are limited,” Newton Project said. “Our solution reduces costs and manpower, making policing cheaper, easier, and more transparent.”

But fighting poachers may be a matter of wishful thinking: time and again, great ideas for foiling those involved in the illegal wildlife trade are countered by equally creative ways of escaping detection; and there is no indication that these technologies are yet at the prototype level.

Political solutions are perhaps more likely to succeed than technological ones. China recently responded to fierce criticism of its decision to legalize the import of some rhino and tiger body parts by simply reversing it.

It is also not yet clear how easily the proposed subdermal sensors can be planted on a meaningful scale, nor what the cost might be of implementing the program.

But despite the hurdles that the initiative may face in the short term, it’s an ambitious move from the Newton Project, a blockchain system that aims to reinvent everything from agriculture to supply chains with the help of internet-of-things technology.

When it comes to use-cases for this emerging technology, wildlife protection would seem to be a prime example of creative thinking – and genuine benefit for humans as well as the animals with which we share our planet.

The author is invested in digital assets, but none mentioned in this article. 

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