Electronic spies come in all shapes and sizes, but none is as funny looking as an oyster impersonator called the ‘Flex Spy’ now infiltrating the waters off western France.
Looking for all the world like the bivalves it is protecting, the plastic imposter is fitted with a circuit board that allows it to snitch on thieves. Invented by French start-up Flex-Sense, the device has been in the market since September.
After the first prototypes were tested in Vietnam, the gadgets are now making their (undercover) appearance in the oyster beds off France’s Atlantic coast, with a major deployment planned in February.
Several dozen tonnes of oysters are stolen each year out of France’s total production of 1,00,000 tonnes.
“It may not be a big proportion, but it is a lot for the operator who is robbed”, said oyster farmer Gerald Viaud, president of National Shellfish Farmers’ Association.
Theft is a “real problem” in the sector, which is “always on the lookout for solutions”, from surveillance cameras to ground, sea and air patrols, he said.
Flex-Sense was interested in offering shellfish farmers a way to monitor water temperature, salinity and oxygen concentration from a distance to enable them to limit the mortality rates of their mussels and oysters.
But customers were also interested in ways to prevent thefts, which spike ahead of the holiday season. After months of development, the electronic oyster was hatched.
Infiltrated into an oyster bed, the ‘Flex Spy’ is equipped with an antenna, a simple motion detector, a buzzer and a frequency modulator, said Sylvain Dardenne, co-founder and commercial director of Flex-Sense.
The electronic spy kicks into action if it detects suspicious movement, transmitting an alert to the oyster farmer’s phone or computer. The user can then track the oysters’ movements for up to a week.
If left to “sleep” without the need to report intruders, the Flex Spy can lurk in its watery field of operations for 60 months with no need for recharging. — AFP