Connecting wildlife networks

Adelaide-based MIMP connecting solutions won a National Electrical and Communications Association award in South Australia, in the Environment and Energy Efficiency category, for delivering a communication solution that links Adelaide Zoo with Warrawong, a recently purchased property.
Established in 1969 by revegetating dairy land with native trees and shrubs to attract native animals and birds, Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary contains 14 hectares enclosed by feral-proof fencing.
Once the fence was completed, the bird population flourished and the release of many native animals began, including the elusive platypus.
It is now home to 100 species of birds and many native mammals, most of which are nocturnal and highly endangered.
When the Royal Adelaide Zoological Society (Zoos SA) took over management of Warrawong, its only connection to the outside world was a low-speed 256 kilobit-per-second service at a very high cost. None of the business applications required by Zoos SA could run efficiently while Internet email was non-existent.
MIMP installed four Aviat microwave devices to connect up the Zoos SA head office at Adelaide Zoo, on the Adelaide plain near the Central Business District, with Warrawong, south of Stirling, about 25km from the CBD. One device is installed at each end of the link, with two more located at Mt Lofty, a geological high point on the Adelaide Hills face, which provides the central connection point.
MIMP designed and installed a high capacity licenced microwave link providing a low cost 32-megabit-per-second (Mb/s) full-duplex connection between the sites with minimal ongoing costs. In fact, the Aviat microwave devices use less power than a 40-watt light bulb.
Building a 35-metre mast was out of the question due to its environmental impact so MIMP used its own profiling software to plot a solution from Warrawong via the Mount Lofty Fire Tower to Adelaide Zoo in North Adelaide. The solution was based at ground level excluding vegetation.
MIMP general manager Allan Aitchison said picking out a visual line of sight from Warrawong to Mt Lotfy was like finding a needle in a haystack.
“Only one location on the site could provide a clear line of sight – from a well matured heavy girth tree with minimal foliage,” he said.
As well as designing mounts with outdoor cabling to conceal the microwave hardware within the canopy, the tree mount securing the equipment had tolerate movement to ensure a successfully stable link.
MIMP also installed some equipment on a fire tower that had to be specially strengthened. MIMP designed new footing braces for each of the six legs on the Mt Lofty Fire Tower, which previously had been overloaded, despite earlier attempts to strengthen the tower.
The $70000 connection – with was half-funded through sponsorship provided by MIMP – will pay for itself in just eight months by eliminating the need for zoo staff to travel between the two properties for meetings.
The high-speed connection will also enable a business centre located at Warrawong to offer videoconferencing, making it a more attractive location for business events.
As well as standard computer data, the zoo is using the wireless link for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony, further driving down its operating costs.
The commercial cost to purchase a 32Mb/s per second service from a carrier would be more than $4500 per month.
By contrast, the cost to run the new link was $346 per month – less than eight per cent of the cost
The links are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week by the MIMPNOC (Network Operations Centre) via a virtual private network connection to a server that automatically notifies a technician and the customer, if a problem is identified. A technician can be on site within four hours if required.
When it bought Warrawong in June 2010 in a joint venture with the local Ngarrindjeri people, Zoos SA recognised it needed to link Warrawong with the communication systems at the Adelaide zoo.
Zoos SA chief financial officer Tony Russo said a rapid return on investment was important to Zoos SA as a NFP (not for profit) conservation charity.
“The link has reduced the cost of IT and communication systems, it has increased security and backup procedures and it has allowed us to remove paper/manual systems,” he said.
“It has also given staff from other sites the ability to log on and access their files and email.
“In terms of telephony, the system has allowed us to install handsets which are an extension of the Adelaide Zoo telephone system, effectively giving us free calls between sites.”
Mr Russo said it has also allowed it to replace old cash registers with an online Point of Sale system in the Warrawong cafe, retail and Admissions areas.
“It allows Zoos SA to report on sales from any location and provides each staff member with access to an email account,” Mr Russo said.
Adelaide Zoo and the Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary share a communications infrastructure provides network with bandwidth that enables them to run future applications.

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