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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Fuel cells and virtual network computing show polar bears

Photo: © R & C Buchanan
Virtual Network Computing (VNC) embedded technology from a company in Cambridge has been used to control and maintain a network of remote cameras in Canada to track the movement and behaviour of polar bears.
The project used an IP-based network system of digital microwave links to transmit images across the tundra from Cape Churchill cameras to the remote town of Churchill, which was in turn connected to the control centre in Alaska via the Internet. The work also involved a Tundra Buggy that fed live Polar Bear Cam streaming video through a 45MB wireless link to the town of Churchill and then to the National Geographic website.
The system was set up by SeeMore Wildlife Systems that specializes in remote wildlife monitoring solutions, to help researchers from Polar Bears International researchers from the University of Florida to film the dwindling number of polar bears as they prepared to head off to the Arctic for the winter.
"As the cameras were unmanned and powered by methanol fuel cells, it would have been virtually impossible to keep the system running without using VNC," said wildlife filmmaker Daniel Zatz of SeeMore Wildlife Systems. "VNC provided full control and monitoring of the camera network and remote PC server in Churchill from the relative warmth and luxury of project HQ in Alaska."
One of the benefits of realVNC is that it works with virtually any platform or operating system across any network, using just a simple downloadable interface or through a browser. This meant that Zatz and his team could log in, manage the network and download images directly from a PC, Mac or even handheld device.
The VNC technology comes from RealVNC in Cambridge which was originally developed in the AT&T labs in the City under Porf Andy Hopper. With over 100 million software downloads, VNC is a de facto standard for remote control and has been used widely in hundreds of different products and applications, from helpdesks to virtualization.
RealVNC has broadened the scope for VNC software by founding Adventiq to design semiconductors and software for sending keyboard, video and mouse (KVM) signals via IP networks market. Products containing Adventiq chips and embedded VNC software are already on the market.

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