Project@ALTEN: Wildlife protection

Project wildlife protection

Job is one of the graduates at ALTEN, for his studies Network & Systems Engineering at the Haagse Hogeschool in Delft. Together with two other graduates, he is working on a system (Wildlife Protection) that detects poachers in nature areas. We spoke to him earlier in February, but he has now completed his research and hopes to graduate this month. How is he and his assignment doing now?

“As indicated in February, the client is an independent organisation whose aim is to protect wild animals and their environment. One of its activities is, for example, detecting poachers. The idea was that we would set up a sensor network that collects data to better support rangers in a particular area. This assignment is split into three parts. Sarah is in charge of network communication, Falco of sound identification and I am responsible for locating the sound sources.
My aim was to investigate what the most appropriate method would be for this project. And to see whether there is software that can determine the location based on data. This could also be done via a virtual network. In any case, the location determination must be software-based.

“Since the last time we spoke, four months have passed. That seems long, but it is actually quite disappointing. When I started the project, I didn’t really know where to begin. I spent most of the time looking for information. The yield was not entirely clear beforehand; you have to start by setting the framework. I wanted to know everything at the start, but that’s not possible.

I started by investigating existing methods for determining noise. Then I looked at the requirements and preconditions that this project has to meet. Then you can start looking for the most suitable method to apply. Next, you make pieces of code based on functionality. This results in a design for a structured program. When this is finished, you can start typing code, testing, improving the code, testing again, etc. You spend a lot of time figuring out how to do this. You are busy with a lot of research and development at the same time.

I learned that you have to take baby steps and that everything takes more time than you think. Next time I would do it more efficiently. But that’s all really fun and interesting to discover.”


“The result is that all three parts are still separate. Falco made software that can do sound analysis, or identification of sound through machine learning. Sarah made the first version of the network. I developed the software that can make sound determinations based on information in a database. I had to generate this myself because there was no input. The system knows where and when a sound is detected by means of ‘nodes’. It looks at where the origin of the signal lies and makes a calculation on this.

Falco, Sarah and I have been in regular contact over the past few months. But because we have different assignments with different deadlines, I have mainly indicated what information I need from them. I am the last link. The parts have to fit together later, of course. All three of us have taken up activities independently of each other. In the future, things must be brought together and further elaborated. Perhaps another graduating student can turn this into a nice assignment.”

Learning points
“You just have to start at some point. Some questions only emerge during the process. If you run into something, you can always tackle the problem. For example, I have experienced that the formulas I had drawn up did not work in certain situations. Unfortunately, I did not have time to develop a whole new method. In a ‘real’ situation, of course, you would. Now I have indicated in my thesis that it does not work in certain cases. You then explain what is going on.

I enjoyed going through this project and learned a lot from it. In the beginning, I had the idea in my head that we would have a nice, finished product at the end of the project. Something that would give a good idea of what the end product would look like. But I soon realised that that shouldn’t be a goal in itself.

You run into quite a few things and that is, of course, less fun. I notice that it helps to talk to people. This could be my ALTEN counsellor or someone from school. But talking to a housemate also helps enormously. I explain my problem and then I come to an understanding. It has to be someone who can think with me. That’s the best way for me.”


“For all my work I have received positive feedback from ALTEN, which is of course very nice. Regarding the education, I will only know in July, then is my graduation presentation. The result of the assignment is different for ALTEN than for the study. For school, I mainly had to describe the process and go through certain steps. My thesis also has to include what I have made, how it works, etc. I put all that in a document. I put all that in a document. For the possible continuation of this project, certain chapters are more important than others. ALTEN (and the client) expect, I think, more of an end product.”

“After my graduation, I am going to do a Master’s in Next level Engineering in Utrecht. There, you are trained as a technical consultant. Within a team of engineers, you learn how best to tackle a problem. Not only within your own field of expertise, but also across the board.

If I had been working, I would have liked to have stayed at ALTEN. It is a friendly club of people with a lot of heart for the company. The collegiality is also very strong. After my Master’s, I will continue to explore. Working at ALTEN fits in very well with the Master. So who knows, I will be back.

(ALTEN: “we can confirm that Job returned after his studies and we are happy to have him in our midst”)

Job van Ellen

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