This week we hear IGNITE Finalist Andrew Kerr talk about his Hexagon Smart M.App, Everybody Counts. In this Q&A, Andrew tells us about his passion for wildlife conservation and how it became the fuel behind his innovative Smart M.App.
Q: Where you are from?
A: I’m from Cape Town, South Africa — now living in Sweden.
Q: Where did you attend school and what did you study? Why did you choose this subject?
A: I attended Wynberg Boys’ High School and studied Industrial Design.
Industrial Design marries art and science. It is essentially about solving problems. I see design as the intelligence of a solution, not simply the aesthetics of an object and most of the best designs reflect their function and the problem they are solving — the over quoted mantra of form follows function.
I began a career in physical products, but quickly became involved in digital solutions where I found the principles the same. My enthusiasm for wildlife has now drawn me to applying my design approach and digital skill-set to to animal conservation.
Q: Where do you currently work? What is your job? What are your responsibilities?
A: I currently work at MY SAFARI, developing animal census software. As CEO of a small company relying on the expertise of partners, my scope is wide. I do everything from liaising with partners to chasing down data-sets to hands-on coding.
Q: What are some of your favorite things to do during your free time?
A: I really enjoy exploring jungles, where I have a particular passion for reptiles. If I can combine the holidays with scuba diving and surfing – even better.
Q: Where did your interest in geospatial/mapping/information services come from?
A: The foundation of every conservation program is knowing what you have. The more accurate and more up to date this information is, the more effective the program. I began with an interest in animal census and the journey from there to an interest in geospatial and mapping is very short and logical progression. Seeing analytical data overlaid on a map and the information and answers it can produce is something I find very interesting.
Q: How did you hear about IGNITE?
A: I heard about IGNITE from my Hexagon Geospatial Regional Channel Manager, Dean McCormick.
Q: Why are you excited about this competition?
A: Without this competition – and the support and the interest it has brought – I don’t think I could have continued the dream. I dream of giving all the enthusiasts across the world a common place to store their data so it is not lost and forgotten on old hard drives and dusty notebooks. I’m excited to get everyone to start counting and get answers from that information.
Q: What is the problem that your Smart M.App addresses?
A: Our planet is in a wildlife meltdown and we don’t even know what wildlife is left. As a simple example, we don’t know if there are any Malaysian Rhinos left. As far as we know, they might be extinct. They have not been seen in 7 years. This is very upsetting, as this is a huge iconic animal living in a very restricted area.
At the same time eco-tourism has never been stronger. All we need to do is empower these 250 million annual eco-tourists to start counting. Most of these tourists are birders, scuba divers and safari tourists, and they are already counting. All we need is a means to collect this information and turn it into usable information.
Q: What is your Smart M.App called?
A: Everybody Counts
Q: What IGNITE Theme does it support?
Q: What does it do?
A: Everybody Counts tracks species populations. This information is typically expensive and time consuming to collect, which is where we turn to crowd-sourcing and Smart M.Apps to help us make sense of the huge volume of data. A lot of seemingly uninteresting species give great insight. Currently, wildlife researchers are routinely bogged down logging data in spreadsheets by hand from a wide range of messy sources (e-mail, Facebook, WhatsApp). This time consuming process results in data riddled with gaps from which information is difficult to extract.
We are bringing a clean app solution for data gathering. We enable users to submit data directly into a live database, which can then populate a Smart M.App. The Smart M.App turns this data into clear wildlife trends. How many lions do we really have left in Africa and are they on the decline? Are pest species spreading? Are some species crowding out others? All this can be easily and cost-effectively monitored with the use of crowd-sourcing data fed into a Smart M.App.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your Smart M.App?
A: I hope to log the state of the world. For instance, many mushroom species only grow in healthy, mature forests. Mushroom pickers across Northern Europe can use this to log their secret mushroom hoards for their personal reference – and then we can utilize this as metadata, which gives us a real-time, on-going and low-cost view into the state of the European forests. Similarly, frog populations tell us about our water quality in a far more honest, reliable way than any water survey company would. Just as butterflies tell us about the state of our plant kingdoms, eco-tourists can tell is if we have any rhinos left.
By using the Hexagon Smart M.App, we can amass individual sightings to provide clear, geographical trends. All these trends are updated in real-time providing us the ability to react to the information immediately. It also means that historic and future projections are just a slider away. With the low price entry, our Smart M.App opens up a world where everyone can be not just the field-worker, but a conservationist.
We are all in the world together and we need to start taking care of it – and that begins with knowing what we have, so we all need to start counting.
Visit our website to learn more about Hexagon Smart M.Apps and how you can get involved.