Tell me more about BatMobile…

Bats are important biodiversity indicator species that help us to keep track of the health of  our environment, but as cryptic nocturnal mammals, researching their distributions and populations is scientifically challenging to say the least.

Current bat detecting equipment is expensive and methods for call identification require specialist knowledge, are time-consuming and often subjective. We propose to develop an innovative prototype smartphone application which will solve many of these problems.

So, how will it work?

  • Well, because bat calls are ultrasonic there’s no way that the in-phone mic will be up to the job so we will need to attach an external microphone (in the first instance, a tried and tested high quality microphone costing ~£500, but the idea is to look at far cheaper ones later on).
  • Next we need to find a reliable way to display the recorded calls on-phone in real time using open source sonogram software that we will adapt for the purpose.
  • Algorithms then need to be written to enable the isolation, characterisation and identification of calls on-phone.
  • Simple…

Coupled with the GPS signal from the smartphone, this would provide researchers with much needed accurate information about species distributions that can feed into national research programmes and inform conservation policy.

There are many challenges to finding a workable solution to this problem.  In addition to the myriad issues around variability of calls, call isolation and effective pattern matching a particular focus of this project will be finding a compromise between what processing gets done on the phone and what gets done on the server.  In an ideal world you would do everything on the phone, meaning that biologists could be out in the field, well out of signal range and still work efficiently.  But will modern phones be man enough for the job?…