Finnish firm combines cell phone & tracking device for

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In the land of Nokia, hunting dogs are issued with mobile phones

Aug 22, 2002

By MATTI HUUHTANEN, Associated Press Writer

HELSINKI, Finland - The wilds of the Finnish forests this fall will ring with the sounds of rifles as well as strange crackles when hunters give commands to their dogs by mobile phone.

In the land of Nokia, the world's biggest mobile phone maker, hunters are hoping to track game better by strapping cell phones with tracking devices onto the backs of dogs as the bear and duck hunting season got under way on Tuesday.

A dog's bark will help determine what sort of animal it has tracked from hundreds, if not thousands of kilometers (miles) away, and hunters will be able to give orders on the two-way mobile system.

"We can hear the dog absolutely live, whether it is running on a road or in the forest, and (from its bark) what kind of game it's after," Asko Makinen said as he strokeds Retu, a Finnish spitz, with a mobile phone strapped on its back in a plastic pouch.

"The most important thing is that we can see exactly where the dog is moving on a map," he added.

The cell phone, equipped with a Global System of Mobile Phone technology, GSM, widely used in Europe, and a Global Positioning System, or GSP, was developed by the Benefon mobile phone company and Pointer, a company in northern Finland that makes dog tracking devices.

Hunters tested it for more than a year on several dogs in different weather conditions and it works well, said Klaus Ekman, spokesman for the Hunters' Central organization.

"It's a natural development from the tracking devices that we have been using for some 25 years," Ekman said. "Hunters are able to pinpoint the dog and now they can communicate with it from kilometers (miles) away."

Hunters in Finland — one of Europe's most sparsely populated countries — have permits to fell 103 brown bears of an estimated population of 1,050 by the end of October. Some 200,000 hunters also have permits to shoot 600,000 ducks during the season that ends in December.

The canine cell phones are expected to come into increased use in September when traditionally large groups of hunters set out after some 85,000 elk this year.

But even in a country where mobile phone coverage is nearing 100 percent despite large expanses of wilderness and some 190,000 lakes, the new technology can pose problems.

"I sometimes wonder what will happen with inexperienced hunters who depend on this technology and will be totally lost when the battery runs flat," Ekman said.
 


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