With next-generation information technologies such as intelligent wireless network and gigabit optical network, connectivity has expanded in definition and application.

Today, many are turning to technology to unearth its limitless potential in bettering lives, enriching our environment and protecting natural resources. The project in Xishuangbanna is a case in point in demonstrating the use of the latest technology solutions to help in accelerating our ecosystem conservation efforts.

Initiated by China Mobile Yunnan and Huawei, the “1-3-9” All-Optical Smart Cities project has enabled a real-time observation and warning system for Asian elephants in the region. The combination of “1-3-9” is derived from the latency within Kunming that is less than 1 ms, the latency in city groups in central Yunnan that is less than 3 ms, and lastly the latency in South Asia and Southeast Asia that is less than 9 ms.

Understanding the human-wildlife equation in Xishuangbanna

One of the world’s most well-preserved tropical ecosystem, Xishuangbanna is where many of China’s protected species reside. The area, locally known as the “emerald belt”, is also home to the remaining Asian elephants, who have lived in perfect harmony with the local population for the last two decades. The number of wild Asian elephants has gone up from 170 in the 1980s to more than 300 now. 

However, living in close proximity with the human population means that the behaviour and feeding pattern of the Asian elephants has also changed over the years, and the elephants have lost their fear of humans and vice versa. So much so that it is not uncommon to see giant elephants roaming around villages and farms and dining on farmers’ crops. 

The growing number of elephants means there is a need to prevent any conflict between hungry elephants and residents to ensure that they continue to live in harmony. This is crucial to maintain the ecological balance of the region. 

Against this backdrop, preventing conflicts between hungry elephants and local residents has become a top priority in Yunnan’s ecosystem conservation efforts. Even so, Asian elephant protection remains an essential task in the ecological development of the province.

Leveraging technology to enable coexistence with wildlife 
Powered by an all-optical network, China deployed its first connected Asian elephant observation, protection, and warning system in November 2019.
Real-time data collection and transmitting warnings demand highly reliable communications networks. Therefore, to ensure that there is no lag in the transmission, China Mobile Yunnan collaborated with Huawei to carry out the “1-3-9” All-Optical Smart Cities project to create a digital Yunnan by leveraging innovative smart wireless networks, optical network, cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), and other technologies. 
The project covered Kunming, central Yunnan, South Asia and Southeast Asia, as well as supported the digital transformation of cities in Yunnan, which enabled the holistic Asian elephant protection initiative as one of its key innovative applications. Made possible by the all-optical network, the observation and warning system has been able to collect 1.43 million images and send more than 6,000 warnings since its deployment in 2019. 
The deployment of the all-optical network has ensured that unplanned human-elephant encounters have significantly been reduced, with zero incidents of injured humans or any other conflict in the areas covered. 
High-quality (OTN premium) private lines ensure real-time and ultra-reliable backhaul of high-definition videos and observation data, greatly improving the intelligent elephant identification efficiency and enabling real-time warning for local residents. In addition, the “1-3-9” all-optical network helps achieve collaborative management for Asian elephant protection in different regions and counties. Further, an ultra-low-latency optical transmission link from the data centre to a research centre in Kunming helps the two organizations to seamlessly work together and use the real-time data to boost research to enhance their understanding of Asian elephants.

The all-optical network has made it possible to ensure the safety of the Asian elephants while at the same time protecting human lives as well. It is a win-win scenario where both humans and wildlife are able to live freely without jeopardizing the security of the other. Latest technologies, when used innovatively, have the power to protect nature better and ensure that we can harmoniously coexist with the millions of species that share our home.
The Xishuangbanna project can serve as a guide for other organizations looking to use technology to conserve the environment and leverage intelligent all-optical networks to bridge the digital divide. Buoyed by the success of this project, Huawei now plans to implement over 100 projects over the next five years across different fields, including educational equity, environmental protection, health and well-being, to continue to make lives better.