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A first-of-its-kind project off the coast of Cork

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A specially designed buoy has been deployed 9km off the coast of Co Cork to gather data from the calls of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

A new project called Smart Whale Sounds was launched this week to examine the impact of ocean noise pollution on Ireland’s marine life in real time.

Led by Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA) Ireland and supported by Rainforest Connection and Huawei Ireland, the first-of-its-kind project will monitor the acoustics of members of the cetacean species (whales, dolphins and porpoises) off the south coast of the island.

A specially designed data-gathering buoy will be used to carry out the research. It is 13 feet long and weighs two tons, and has been under development for months. It was deployed 9km off the coast of Baltimore in Co Cork, where it will remain for the next year.

‘Sound pollution causes as much damage to marine life as overfishing, pollution and climate change’
– EMER KEAVENEY

An underwater microphone attached to buoy will record whale species in real time and train machine learning models to identify their different calls. The goal is to use the generated data to create a marine wildlife detection and classification model, which has the potential to be scaled up for other projects around the world. It could also lead to the development of an early warning system to help ships reduce their speed to minimise the risk ships striking whales.

Huawei Ireland will provide technological support and assistance as part of its Tech4All initiative. Smart Whale Sounds is the first project to be launched in Ireland under the programme, and the first focusing on marine wildlife to be launched globally.

“The Smart Whale Sounds project will see Ireland leading the way in using technology and data to have a greater understanding of marine life and help inform how best to manage potential marine protected areas,” said Tony Yangxu, Huawei Ireland’s CEO.

Rise in ocean noise levels

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The south coast was chosen for the project because it is one of the world’s most important habitats for whales, dolphins and porpoises, the research group said. Members of the cetacean species visit the region to forage, rest and reproduce.

Ireland is home to 25 species of resident and migratory cetaceans, which account for 48pc of the country’s mammals and one-third of all cetaceans worldwide.

The project’s lead researcher, Emer Keaveney, is a marine mammal ecologist with ORCA. She said that higher levels of marine traffic – including container ships, speedboats and eco-tour operators – has resulted in a “significant noise pollution issue”.

“Sound pollution causes as much damage to marine life as overfishing, pollution and climate change, and is believed to cause behavioural changes that interfere with the health and survival of the animals,” Keaveney said. “Informed estimates suggest that ocean noise levels are at least 10 times higher today than they were a few decades ago.”

Rainforest Connection CEO Topher White added: “There’s no better way to tap into the subtlety and the essence of ecology than through how nature calls to itself.

“To capture this at scale within our oceans and harness the power of cloud, AI and big-data analysis to gather the ecological insight, is the beginning of an unprecedented era of ambitious scientific discovery and critical conservation work.”



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I can’t charge my electric car cheaply because I’m too close to an RAF base | Money

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A few months ago I decided to switch energy supplier and moved to Octopus Energy’s Go tariff, principally because it offers cheap electric car charging overnight at a rate of 5p/kWh.

I applied to have the required smart meter installed. But after being given a date, I was later declined on the basis that smart meters cannot work at my address because they interfere with the missile early warning system at RAF Fylingdales.

Initially, I thought this was a joke. I have been involved with the construction of hundreds of new homes in Teesside, all of which have had smart meters installed.

Smart Energy GB, the body responsible for the rollout, has confirmed that this is very real, and smart meters installed in the area will not have had their smart capacity turned on.

I was told that a new meter is being worked upon and will eventually replace those already installed.

Meanwhile, I am having to charge my car at a premium rate of 16.76p/kWh which is costing me about £26 more a week than it would be on the Go tariff.

AM, Guisborough

Given that your house is more than 20 miles from the RAF base in question, I, too, was amazed that this could be an issue, but it is – and also in other areas close to bases.

Smart Meter GB has confirmed this is the case and says it is working on a solution – a communications hub that will enable people living near sensitive RAF sites to use smart meters.

It says these will be offered to customers “in the coming months”.

It adds those in the affected area, who had already had smart meters installed should be able to have the hubs retrofitted.

Meanwhile, Octopus has come up with a solution for your problem. It has offered to add you to the trial of these new meters, which, in turn, will allow you to go on the Go tariff.

It says it hopes to install your new meter before Christmas. It has also said that if you get the log from your charging firm, showing how much electricity you have used for the car since the switch took place, it will retroactively apply the savings that you would have gained had the smart meter worked from the start – a generous offer.

We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email consumer.champions@theguardian.com or write to Guardian, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Include a phone number. Letters are subject to our terms: gu.com/letters-terms

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China’s Yutu rover spots ‘mysterious hut’ on far side of the Moon

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Cube-shaped object is probably just a rock. Yutu will check it out anyway

China’s Moon rover, Yutu 2, has sent images of a strangely geometric object.…

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Strikepay struck gold at National Startup Awards 2021

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Strikepay, founded by fintech entrepreneurs Oli Cavanagh and Charles Dowd, scooped the top award for its fast-growing cash-free tipping tech.

Irish fintech company Strikepay has scooped the top prize at this year’s National Startup Awards.

The start-up, previously called Strike, was founded in 2020 to enable cash-free tipping without the need for a payment terminal or a new app on a customer’s phone.

Its founders, fintech entrepreneurs Oli Cavanagh and Charles Dowd, raised €625,000 in seed funding earlier this year and said they intended to seek a further €6.5m in investment by the end of 2021.

Strikepay has already begun acquiring and collaborating with other companies to bolster its product offering. In June, it acquired UK payments rival Gratsi and in April it appointed former Just Eat exec Edel Kinane as its chief growth officer.

Earlier in the year, it teamed up with Camile Thai Kitchen to enable contactless tipping for food delivery drivers and partnered with mobility company Bolt to bring its cashless tipping technology to taxis in Dublin.

Strikepay was one of several winners at the awards ceremony, which was livestreamed last night (2 December).

Other winners included health-tech start-up Stimul.ai, customer analysis tech business Glimpse, and sheep monitoring start-up Cotter Agritech, which has been participating in a new accelerator programme at University College Dublin.

As well as taking the top award, Strikepay also won Best Fintech Startup.

This year marked the 10th year of the National Startup Awards. The event was sponsored by Enterprise Ireland, Microfinance Ireland, Sage, Cronin Accountants and McCann Fitzgerald.

Last year’s top award was given to drone delivery service Manna. The start-up had been working with companies such as Tesco, Just Eat and Camile Thai to test its drones, and has seen further growth since then.

The full list of winners at the 2021 awards, in order of gold, silver and bronze, are:

Startup of the Year 2021

Strikepay

Early Stage Startup

Imvizar, CyberPie, The Fifth Dimension

Emerge Tech Startup

Xunison, Helgen Technologies, LiveCosts.com

Fintech Startup

Strikepay, ID-Pal, Itus Secure Technologies

Food and Drink Startup

Fiid, SiSú, Thanks Plants

Social or Sustainable Startup

Altra, Peer, Fifty Shades Greener

Product and Manufacturing Startup

Cotter Agritech, Orca Board, Filter

E-commerce and Retail Startup

FinalBend, The Book Resort, Nufields

Tech Startup

Glimpse, LegitFit, Examfly

Medtech Startup

Stumul.ai, SymPhysis Medical, Bonafi

Covid Pivot or Response Startup

Zoom Party/Find A Venue, KSH Group, Streat School

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