Gaps between channels in the digital TV spectrum are being used by conservationists to test technology that monitors endangered wildlife in remote areas.
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Google are testing television white space (TVWS) to send footage from cameras in the wild as the low frequencies in this part of the spectrum can travel long distances, making it well suited to provide low cost connectivity to remote regions.
It is hoped that in the future the vacant frequencies will allow conservationists to accurately monitor areas such as rainforests or deserts, where it has previously been difficult to study wildlife, but for now it is being trialled closer to home at London Zoo.
Cameras and radios have been installed in animal enclosures to test the use of TVWS by wirelessly transmitting 24-hour video coverage live to YouTube during a two-month trial period, using Google's "spectrum database" to make sure they do not interfere with existing channels.
ZSL's "white spaces for wildlife" project co-ordinator Louise Hartley said: "With projects in more than 50 countries around the world, ZSL's conservationists work in some of the planet's most difficult-to-reach areas, from the vast expanse of the Saudi Arabian desert to the dense jungles of Sumatra.
"Remote monitoring of wildlife is a vital conservation tool, from helping us to better understand a species' behaviour to detecting activity such as poaching or illegal logging.
"The prototype systems at ZSL London Zoo are already demonstrating that they can transmit high definition video over long distances, confirming their invaluable potential to use wireless connectivity to transform ZSL's worldwide conservation work."
ZSL said it aims to integrate the technology into its existing "instant wild" system, which is used for anti-poaching and wildlife monitoring operations and allows members of the public to assist with identifying wild animals photographed by motion-activated camera-traps.
Using television white space could significantly boost the range and capability of the current system, ZSL said.
The scheme is one of a number of trials of new wireless technology, with broadcasting regulator Ofcom working with the industry to see how it might be put into practice – making the UK the first country in Europe likely to use it.
Other trials include using TVWS to provide early flood warnings, by monitoring water levels in real time and sending the information over the white space, and using the technology to provide internet and communications to ferries in the far north of Scotland.
Philip Marnick, group director of Ofcom's spectrum policy group, said: "In a world where consumers' demand for data services is experiencing huge growth, it is essential we find the most efficient ways to share the airwaves. White space technology could be one way of meeting this demand."
For links to the video feeds visit the Zoological Society of London website.
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