Driving down the cost of acoustic monitoring with the AudioMoth
It’s $50, the size of a credit card, and can record uncompressed audio at 384,000 samples per second. The AudioMoth, designed and developed by the Open Acoustic Devices team, offers researchers and acousticians access to high quality recording at an entry level price point.
Over the past few months, the Arribada Initiative team have been working to ensure that its accessible to all by developing a group purchasing model and a sustainable funding strategy to support the continued development of the device well into the future.
It wasn’t until April 2017 that I first got my hands on a production ready device. I’d met Alex Rogers from the Open Acoustic Devices team earlier in the year, but it was still early days. They were planning to spin a test batch with CircuitHub in the coming months.
We were both attending a CEED workshop in Brisbane where we spent several days with a group of prominent users of conservation technologies to identify viable ways in which we could support the development of conservation technologies.
Together, we discussed common failings, successes, and road mapped the actions necessary to help users access, use and benefit from the adoption of suitable technologies to aid their work. After several days of whiteboarding, sketching and ridiculously good coffee, a revised model and pipeline was born.
The AudioMoth was the perfect candidate to trial one key feature of the model – group purchasing to drive down the cost of entry.
Today, if you wanted to have a single AudioMoth produced for you using on-demand manufacturers to fabricate the device, you’d be looking at a cost of around $700. That’s because the amount of effort and preparation to load the components necessary to manufacture the device on the factory floor is time consuming, and therefore expensive.
If, on the other hand, you were to order 400 devices, you’d be looking at $27 per device. And there is the root problem – users who only need a few devices are priced out, and those wishing to buy many hundreds do so privately, as there isn’t an efficient way to purchase devices together as a community of users.
We needed to bring independent buyers together, so we could move forward as a community, resulting in everyone having access to an affordable device – and so, the first group purchase of the AudioMoth was crafted, using Wildlabs.net as the platform to communicate the opportunity to the wider conservation technology community and GroupGets as the payment service and distributor.
We needed to bring independent buyers together so we could move forward as a community, resulting in everyone having access to an affordable device
We selected GroupGets to host the group purchase as they were able to facilitate the payment processing and shipping necessary. They were a delight to work with. We fixed the cost of the device at $49.99, which covered GroupGet’s cut to host the group purchase and we added a little extra so we could solve the next challenge – sustainable funding to support, improve and enhance the device long into the future.
Another common failing within the conservation technology sector is that open software and hardware is often released for general use, shared, manufactured and used by the many, but sometimes with little financial return for the original developer(s).
This isn’t to say that the developer(s) are at fault – many just want to release free and open solutions to help others, and have little desire to establish businesses, reinvestment models etc, or just don’t have the time to support what they release.
Continued development of the AudioMoth device – suitable casing, bug fixes, firmware updates etc may have fallen upon the original developer(s) too, and if they no longer had the time or resources to help, devices could become obsolete, or development may stagnate until others with the necessary skills and spare time could assist.
We wanted to get the AudioMoth into the hands of users at a price they could afford, but also collect a pool of funds that could be used to support the device based on its success. The more it’s purchased and used, the more funding we could accumulate to address user’s feedback.
The first group purchase round sold 400 devices and generated ~$4500. This is now being used to develop a range of suitable enclosures and is accessible to respond to the needs of AudioMoth users when necessary, now and into the future, because as a community, we supported the device together.
The second group purchase is live. It’s running until 7th Jan 2018, so if you need access to a low cost, open, acoustic recorder, please do join this second round and help us to continue to provide access to the AudioMoth through our group purchase programme.