More than 100 designers, technologists, entrepreneurs, conservationists, and wildlife enthusiasts gathered in Chicago November 14-15 to attend the first Hackathon for Wildlife, a community event aimed at designing technology solutions for wildlife conservation. Participants took on the Hackathon challenge to develop innovative ways and business models to connect 20 million people worldwide with wild animals, through a combination of technologies that include GPS hardware, data, games, and social media.
The Hackathon couldn’t have come at a better time. Wildlife conservation seems to be in its end game. Habitat loss, climate change, and poaching contribute to the world’s fourth largest illicit trade, in which a staggering number of wild animals are being lost. Wildlife conservation is struggling – apart from pockets of public and private support, the life of an endangered orangutan in Indonesia, for example, is not top of mind.
“We want 20 million people to wake up in the morning and check their phones to see where their elephant is,” says Gautam Shah, founder of Internet of Elephants, a Kenya-based startup specializing in smart and creative applications of technology to aid wildlife conservation. “While we’re applying technology with big success in areas such as healthcare and education, no one has yet used it on a large scale in wildlife conservation, to truly reverse the tragic decline that we’re witnessing every day. We need to think big and create groundbreaking ideas that have a massive and unprecedented impact on how people engage with wildlife and the consequent funding of conservation efforts. This event is as much about business model innovation as it is about tech innovation.”
Award-winning customer experience development firm Solstice Mobile hosted and sponsored Hackathon for Wildlife in Chicago. ”One of Solstice’s guiding principles is to always search for new ways to use technology to make a difference,” says Solstice Founder and CEO, J Schwan. “The wildlife cause desperately needs the scale that technology can provide to create an emotional connection between people and endangered wildlife thousands of miles away. Working with the Internet of Elephants provides us a unique opportunity to use our UX and engineering expertise to directly service social and environmental change. We’re excited and honored to sponsor this event.”
Teams are working with cutting edge technologies provided by technology partners Gimbal, ESRI, IBEIS, BRCK, and Savannah Tracking. Subject matter experts were on hand from the Africa Wildlife Foundation and Forest Preserve Foundation to help participants understand the situation of conservation on the ground.
On Day 2 of the event, a jury of experts judged the concepts on use of technology, innovative business models, and their impact on wildlife conservation. The winning teams earned prizes, but the open-source ideas are available to all. The Internet of Elephants will endeavor to support in helping to make these technology solutions happen.
Check back here shortly to see the results of the Hackathon. Or see the results yourself on Twitter through the hashtag #HackForWildlife.
Megan Gilmore, Senior Marketing Manager at Solstice Mobile, heads up the company’s marketing, as they build mobile and IoT solutions that transform how companies interact with their customers.