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Safeguarding seal populations with Vodafone M2M

Case Study

Case study | Dec 2015

The Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) provides impartial, independent and innovative science that has high relevance to society. It carries out research into the biology of marine mammals and advises governments, non-governmental organisations and industry on conservation issues.

Business Need

In the UK, some populations of Harbour seal - one of two resident UK species - have declined sharply, up to 90% in some areas over the last 10 years. The Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) Instrumentation Group at the University of St Andrews has been conducting research about the rapid decline of some species of marine mammals and required a way of tracking the seal population.


Seals and other marine mammals will be equipped with the latest marine smart tags using Machine-to-Machine (M2M) technology. The smart tag connected to Vodafone’s global M2M platform, is small and lightweight and can withstand depths of up to 200 metres. Fixed to the fur of seals with harmless adhesive, the tags drop off during their annual moult. The managed service provides a single and dedicated communications network from coastlines around the world to allow data about a seal’s location, dive behaviour and its oceanic environment, to be sent directly from the tags to SMRU for analysis.

Business Benefits

  • Creates a platform from which The Sea Mammal Research Unit can roll-out service globally, giving scientists more opportunities to collect data from ‘tagged’ marine mammals worldwide.
  • Enables The Sea Mammal Research Unit to standardise the smart tags to work on one system rather than working across multiple mobile phone technologies.
  • Marine scientists can control the active state of every M2M SIM in each tag anywhere in the world from a single PC.
  • Avoids any unforeseen data roaming charges if the seal travels to a different country as it works across a single system.
"Through the combination of technology and science, SMRU and Vodafone can help businesses and government accelerate economic growth and responsible environmental management. Marine data collected is fundamental in balancing the health of the sea with society’s need to harvest food and energy from it."

Dr Bernie McConnell,
Deputy Director of The Sea Mammal Research Unit

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