By: Taylor MacPherson
A Saskatchewan beekeeper’s innovative security system has won the province’s first Rural Crime Innovation Challenge, and he expects to begin a public pilot by spring.
Jeff Shirley, a Saskatchewan farmer and owner of Rivercity Technology Services Ltd., developed an app which he initially used to improve security for beehives at his commercial apiary near Wakaw.
When the province put out a call looking for innovative technology to combat rural crime, Shirley said he realized his app could be used to protect more than just hives. During the initial meetings, Shirley said he met and partnered with Prince Albert’s William Topping, founder of Brand X Technologies, to help with the hardware side of the project.
“He had a piece of hardware that I thought would work really well with my software app,” Shirley said. “The two of us got our heads together and we combined our proposals.”
Together, Shirley and Topping developed a GPS-tracking box which can alert owners through a web app when their property is tampered with. The self-powered and weather-proof box is about the size of a pack of cards, Shirley said, which means it can be placed almost anywhere.
“You can put it in a skidoo, you can put in a vehicle, you can put in a trailer, you can even put it on the back of a door,” he said. “The minute the device is activated, which is through motion, the device will text up to eight people.”
When the box detects motion, Shirley said it will send out automated text messages to the owners, who can then determine if the activity is suspicious. The device updates its GPS location several times each minute, Shirley said, which means police will have a very easy time tracking down stolen property.
Suspicious incidents are logged in a database, Shirley said, which law enforcement agencies will be able to view and monitor in real time. In addition to improving response times, Shirley said the database will allow police to determine which areas are most vulnerable to rural crime.
“We can then do some proactive planning to hopefully prevent crime, improve community relations, make farmers safer and bring some positive changes to rural residents in Saskatchewan,” Shirley said.
Access to the database will be free to anyone, Shirley said, but use of the automated GPS-tracking box is expected to cost five dollars per month. Shirley said he tried hard to keep the cost low in order to ensure the technology is used as widely as possible, and noted five dollars is a small price to pay when compared to the headaches of a stolen vehicle or ransacked cabin.
Shirley said he and Topping will spend the next four months working with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice to improve their prototype and ensure it meets the government’s specifications.
“As we approach May, we hope to pilot this out to the general public,” he said. “I believe we’re going to get some great things coming out of this for rural residents of Saskatchewan.”
In a statement, Attorney General and Justice Minister Don Morgan said he was happy to see the widespread interest in the innovation challenge, which he expects will help improve the lives of the province’s rural residents.
“We are excited to see the technology sector’s involvement in addressing crime in rural Saskatchewan,” Morgan said. “This collaborative approach will help us find creative solutions to make Saskatchewan a safer place to live and raise a family.”