OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

Homing Pigeon Faster Than Broadband

Homing Pigeon were used reliably during the war. In a place with no communications infrastructure, capturing compelling evidence and flying it maybe the only way.

Photo of DeletedUser

Written by DeletedUser

In the Timor story ( /open/usaid-humanity-united/inspiration/how-the-timor-genocide-was-prevented-story./ ) the prevention of violence   depended on building a case with the U.N. and proving one sided violence.

The two basic challenges I wanted to address were:
1) how to record the evidence in a safe, scalable manner, and
2) how to share this to the world at large from hard to access places that may be surrounded.

For capturing evidence, digital cameras seem an ideal choice. Hidden digital cameras that could transmit pictures to a hidden location would keep the users safe. A fairly new technology called the wifi SD card makes this possible. ( www.eye.fi).

But why the homing pigeon?
- In a few spoofs in recent years, the homing pigeon was portrayed as faster than broadband in countries with developing networks. The video above was a repeat experiment of a previous spoof that was done in Africa, to illustrate how slow the networks were. In effect, a pigeon carrying the latest 128GB memory cards today could carry close to a terabyte of data over long distances. 
-proven in war time. Bomber planes carried two pigeons in WW2, because they could relay a distress message as far as 1000 miles. 
-discreet, low maintenance, inexpensive, and reliable.

In short, this concept is made up for four parts:

1)   provide the means to document and capture events. A kit would be devised to allow the users to easily hide the cameras  in trees or away from the users- bushes or roofs , and provide a timing feature or wires to activate the camera remotely. The wifi SD card would transmit the images automatically to a hidden hard disk around the village. (see www.eye.fi )

2) an ad hoc network of wireless routers would be set up around the village powered by it's own car battery/solar panel. A device will unlock the individual cage as the storage disks are filled wirelessly, or as the time runs out. An automated system would allow the pigeon cages to be well away from the community in anticipation of an attack. In peaceful times, the pigeons would be released to larger cages/lofts, and eventually released back to fly home to be replaced every few weeks/days.

3)  There are several homing pigeon clubs in Africa . A partnership could be formed with NGOs to train and ship homing pigeons to hard to access places. Additionally, an option should be available for the communities to learn how to use and train the birds themselves for use with neighboring villages.

4) Once the pigeons have flown back to their 'home' with the evidence, clear instructions should be provided on how to expediently share the evidence onto a website/map and send the evidence to mass media channels/human rights groups.


How does your idea gather AND verify information? How does your idea keep those who use it safe?

Safety: The system is designed to be passive and give a margin of safety for the users. pictures can be taken by the users themselves, but generally, it would be safer for a timed mechanism to take pictures automatically and away from the users. The cameras should be strategically placed in trees, bushes and roofs. Gathering: Even if a camera is found or destroyed, photos are copied multiple times over several disks hidden around the village via the wifi SD cards sending images to the network (www.eye.fi) Verifying: the sheer number of pictures/videos. They could record and capture movements of armed groups across different communities for example and relay them back to the internet access points. Safety: Homing Pigeon- The transportation of the data is discreet, and proven to be reliable throughout history. The pigeon cages would be situated up in the trees away from the users. The birds are released automatically.

How might your idea be designed to scale and spread to help as many people as possible?

NGOS could be contacted near internet access points to form partnerships with homing pigeon clubs. For example: http://www.westerncapepigeonracing.co.za/ Instruction material could be developed for the villages if they wanted to breed and train their own. This would be the least expensive option- in combination with the eggs of those specific breeds. If violence is anticipated, and they do not have the time to breed and raise their own birds, a race club could train the birds and ship them to hard to access areas.

How might your idea make use of exisiting technology? Has your idea been tried in a different or related context?

this concept uses older and existing technology. 1) Digital cameras and Wifi SD cards (www.eye.fi) 2) older routers, car battery, solar panel for wifi ad-hoc network. 3) Homing pigeons have proven themselves throughout history in war time, and since the egyptians. 4) using google map apis, an infographic map could be developed to quickly tag pictures and videos to locations. Certain cameras equipped with gps can automatically geotag pictures. But this feature would not be available on donated cameras.

How could you begin prototyping this idea in a simple way to begin testing and refining it? Who would use your idea and/or who is using it now? Is your idea technically easy medium or hard to implement?

In theory, the simplest way to implement this in the real world would be to have one of the racing clubs raise the birds themselves. The racing club would host a home location for a ngo or missionary to act as the receiver. When the time comes, the pigeons would be sent over to the far away village location. When released they would simply fly back to the club. Another possible way to implement this without the clubs, would be to provide the instruction and training on how to raise and train the birds.

How is your idea adapted for conditions in hard-to-access areas, such as lack of internet and mobile access? Can users adopt it without much behavior change?

The local ad hoc networks are solar powered and a pigeon could fly as far as a few hundred miles. the ad-hoc wifi network, the transfer of data, and the freeing of the birds are all automated, requiring little in user behavior change.

This inspired (1)

First Aid Kit

17 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Hi David, it's really surprising to know that pigeons travel faster then broadband. I would consider seriously to leverage this for astrocity protection.

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Thanks Maggie. I wouldn't say that they are exactly comparable:) (one being a live animal, and the other made of fiber optics). But it is interesting that the size of data storage can be condensed to the point that the payload that a bird can carry can rival the amount of data carried by broadband over a certain distance. Keeping birds has it's own costs however..

View all comments