Acoustic monitoring made affordable with AudioMoth

Holly Baines, MSc
May 30, 2018 · 3 min read
The AudioMoth

It’s $50, the size of a credit card, and can record uncompressed audio at 384,000 samples per second. The AudioMoth, offers researchers, conservationists and rangers access to high quality recording at an entry level price point.

Over the past year, the Arribada Initiative team worked to ensure that its accessible to all by developing a group purchasing model and a sustainable funding strategy to support the continued development of the device well into the future. Together, we have discussed common failings, successes, and road mapped the actions necessary to help users access, use and benefit from the adoption of suitable technologies to aid their work. After several days of whiteboarding, sketching and ridiculously good coffee, a revised model and pipeline was born.

Giving a talk on how we can use conservation technology to conserve our species and environment.

Today, if you wanted to have a single AudioMoth produced for you using on-demand manufacturers, you’d be looking at a cost of around $700. That’s because the amount of effort and preparation to load the components necessary to manufacture the device is time consuming, and therefore expensive.

If, on the other hand, you were to order 400 devices, you’d be looking at $27 per device. And there is the root problem — users who only need a few devices are priced out, and those wishing to buy many hundreds do so privately, as there isn’t an efficient way to purchase devices together as a community of users.

By disrupting the current commercial business model, we have created a model that gives everyone access to an affordable device, and we have brought together independent buyers so that we can move forward as a community. We selected GroupGets to host the group purchase as they were able to facilitate the payment processing and shipping necessary. They were a delight to work with. We fixed the cost of the device at $49.99, which covered GroupGet’s cut to host the group purchase and we added a little extra so we could solve the next challenge — sustainable funding to support, improve and enhance the device long into the future.

Another common failing within the conservation technology sector is that open software and hardware is often released for general use, shared, manufactured and used by the many, but sometimes with little financial return for the original developer(s). This isn’t to say that the developer(s) are at fault — many just want to release free and open solutions to help others, and have little desire to establish businesses, reinvestment models etc, or just don’t have the time to support what they release.

Continued development of the AudioMoth device — suitable casing, bug fixes, firmware updates etc may have fallen upon the original developer(s) too, and if they no longer had the time or resources to help, devices could become obsolete, or development may stagnate until others with the necessary skills and spare time could assist. We wanted to get the AudioMoth into the hands of users at a price they could afford, but also collect a pool of funds that could be used to support the device based on its success. The more it’s purchased and used, the more funding we could accumulate to address user’s feedback. So far, the campaigns have been a massive success with every campaign selling out within days and/or hours. Now, the device is being used all over the world to detect illegal activities (e.g. gunshots, chainsaws) and protect critically endangered species.

Lots of interest and hands up at Peel Park primary school, after giving a talk on how AudioMoth is being used to monitor wildlife facing environmental pressures.

Holly Baines, MSc

Written by

Project Coordinator & Science Communicator based at the Arribada Initiative and Zoological Society of London.

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