If Only They Could See It All



How a solar-powered wildlife surveillance system allows conservation staff to monitor vast reserves — and stop poaching before it happens.

Wildlife trafficking is an international crisis. From 1999 to 2018, law enforcement around the world seized nearly 6,000 different species of plants, trees, and animals. The illicit wildlife trade not only drives biodiversity loss, but also hurts livelihoods dependent on wildlife tourism.

As part of our efforts to halt the illegal wildlife trade, in 2014, USAID, alongside partners, launched the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge to offer rewards to organizations using innovative techniques to tackle wildlife crime and trafficking. Complementing USAID’s support for other anti-wildlife trafficking initiatives, the Tech Challenge sought to stimulate ideas and leverage funds for tech-savvy solutions to combat wildlife crime.

Among the 16 winners was Binomial Solutions, an IT solution and service provider based in India that created a wildlife surveillance system called electronic-Eye, or “e-Eye,” for short.

The founders of Binomial Solutions, Raja Brij Bhushan and Ravikant Singh, are both wildlife enthusiasts. They applied their expertise in monitoring and surveillance software, enterprise mobility, and business intelligence to design a system that could stop poaching, even in the dead of night or in adverse weather.

By providing trend analysis, detecting intrusions, and managing patrol routes, the e-Eye surveillance can improve enforcement efforts and response times. / Binomial Solutions

The Challenge of Wildlife Surveillance

National Park staff in India and other parts of the world face a daunting task. They must monitor vast swathes of land for potential poachers and illegal loggers. True success, for them, is a physical impossibility. If only they could see it all — the whole reserve — even when it’s foggy and dark, even the most remote areas.

Binomial Solutions’ founders set out to build a solution to this problem. They pulled together an innovative mix of hardware (solar-powered infrared, thermal, and motion-sensing cameras) and software (intelligent systems that alert staff to suspicious activity and monitor animal movements around the clock) to give park staff extended visibility, data to drive decision-making, and alerts to trigger preventative actions.

Five Years On: Doing More Than it was Designed to Do — and Still Scaling

After winning one of the Tech Challenge prizes, which provided critical funding support from USAID and institutional partners, Binomial Solutions successfully patented the e-Eye technology and began implementation in India’s Kaziranga National Park. Plans to expand to two additional parks were slowed by the pandemic, but are expected to move forward in the next year.

When the e-Eye system won the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge in 2016, it required a human to actively monitor the video feed and identify suspicious behavior. However, machine learning advancements implemented since then now enable the system to distinguish between normal and suspicious behavior and issue warnings and alerts to forest staff. It’s still incumbent on a human to take action, but the system provides real-time, specific information that can help prevent wildlife crimes before they happen.

There’s anecdotal evidence that the e-Eye system helps forest and wildlife staff more effectively manage and prevent poaching — but the team admits that it is difficult to measure what you have prevented. It has actually been easier to measure the unexpected benefits.

As Binomial Solutions co-founder Ravikant Singh explained, “Originally, this [system] was designed for anti-poaching. But it also helps forest officials manage forests, check the state of the prey base, check the habitat, and monitor tree-cutting and deforestation. So, it is helping in a lot of ways apart from just being anti-poaching software.”

Additionally, the e-Eye system is helping to reduce human-animal conflicts. It allows staff to monitor when animals, especially elephants, are nearing villages, and redirect the herd. The Binomial Solutions team is piloting the use of mobile towers mounted on vehicles to monitor areas just outside of the nature reserve. When the e-Eye system alerts wildlife staff about an elephant herd on the perimeter of the reserve, they can deploy the mobile towers to that area for further surveillance and warn communities in advance.

In the next phase, the team plans to expand its technological capabilities to include drone support. For example, if elephants are nearing a village, the mobile towers will send drones programmed to emit a sound similar to African bees in order to steer the herd away from the village.

The Binomial Solutions team is also working to incorporate artificial intelligence and species recognition into their system. As the e-Eye system is installed in more parks across India, they will have more data to feed into the system and improve its capabilities.

The team is exploring opportunities to include more artificial intelligence in the system and drones for aerial surveillance to detect when animals, like elephants, come into close contact with communities. / Binomial Solutions

Tech for Profit Can Still Be Tech for Good

For the Binomial team, winning the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge was an incredible opportunity to learn from others who are just as passionate about preventing wildlife crime as they are — and to share their own knowledge and expertise.

“If we just talk about what was different before and after [the Tech Challenge] — the major difference was knowing what others were doing and learning from them. Can we collaborate? Can we help others with our solution? That was the main outcome,” Singh said.

Becoming a Tech Challenge winner also increased Binomial Solutions’ credibility at the local and national level.

“[Winning the Tech Challenge] allowed us to go into different communities and talk to people. We were validated as a Challenge winner. It helped us, motivated us, and boosted our presence locally and internationally.” — Binomial Solutions co-founder Ravikant Singh

But they also faced a surprising hurdle as they tried to build partnerships with others working in conservation and to expand internationally — a hesitancy to work with a for-profit tech company. Despite this, Binomial Solutions remains committed to merging tech, profit, and good, both in India and abroad.

Through the Tech Challenge, the team has proven that with the right institutional and financial support, it can push technological boundaries for the entire conservation and development sector.