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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Echo Meter Touch From Wildlife Acoustics - Addressing Recent Concerns

Review: The Brand-New EM Touch From Wildlife Acoustics - Part 1.5 of 2
An effort to address recent concerns

Since this iOS-based detecting/recording system is so new, and drawing a lot of attention - I felt that perhaps an attempt to address some common questions was in order. In regards to The Echo Meter Touch I'd like to address some of the concerns, which a friend (and Bat Working Professional) has brought to my attention.

Driven transects:

The EM Touch is fine for driven transects, as long as precautions are taken to avoid wind. In any case, this is true when using all bat detectors. I've performed my amateur-level, driven transects with various bat recorders over the years. One quickly learns the tricks necessary, to avoid contacting wind while recording from a moving vehicle. One must remember that The FG mic element employed by The EM Touch is very sensitive. Which is a good thing, of course. More on this subject, in Part 2.

This Bat Working Professional (friend of mine) also suggested that "...The AnaBat system is better and clearer." As someone who has never been a big Fan of AnaBat systems, I must disagree.
I presume the device being suggested for comparison, in this case, must be the new AnaBat Express. Since, it is the lowest-cost system that AnaBat currently offers. It has been touted as a competitively-priced bat detecting solution. However:
  • The current cost of an AnaBat Express is $850 US Dollars. Close to twice the cost of an EM Touch unit.
  • It is an unattended recording solution, therefore does not feature an exposed display.
Admittedly, I haven't had the opportunity to test or review an AnaBat Express. However, if I were given a choice between the two of them...I would choose The Echo Meter Touch; every time. And the query I offer you is:
Who wouldn't?
The EM Touch allows a user (even a youngster!) to: Detect, Record, View the Spectrogram of, and Identify said bat, down to species. I'd say this pretty much runs the gamut of what one may even expect from a bat detector in 2014.

A concern, for the memory capacity (of the required iPad device) was mentioned. This was actually addressed (from the very start), in Wildlife Acoustics' FAQ Section of The EM Touch Page. It's entitled 'How many recordings can you store on the iOS device?'
And is located at the bottom of This Page, just prior to the last question listed.
Using a 16GB (model MF066LL/A) iPad mini Retina for this test and review, presented no issues whatsoever. And, I was especially pleased (and relieved) to see this.

My friend also brought up the (very real) and very relevant concern; one of safety - The safety of, and risks involved, when bat detecting using an iOS device (which thieves find attractive).
On this point, I am in agreement with my friend, an experienced Bat Pro (in The UK). In regards to bat detecting, the concern was "...walking around with a £300+ iPhone or iPad out in the open, plus the detector...nice chance you will be mugged!" 
Indeed. 

When considering the prospect, of performing your bat detecting in the field: You must use your discretion, and common sense.

The vast majority, of traditional "stand-alone" (hand-held) bat detectors can easily pass for: An AM radio, a radio scanner, an (inexpensive) MP3 player (i.e. The Batango), or some homemade gadget (in the case of bottom-of-the-range detectors). Nothing too conspicuous, in other words.
Fortunately, there are many places, where one may do some bat detecting, without the risk of being mugged. This, I can practically guarantee - It simply requires a bit of forethought on your part. Be safe.

Concern was also expressed, in regards to potentially dropping (and damaging) your iOS device while bat detecting. However, this is easily remedied by safeguarding your iOS device, with an appropriate protective case. There are currently a wide selection of iOS device covers available, providing various levels of protection. Many not only provide very good protection, but may be had for under $20 US Dollars.

The final concern, was in respect to the future. Basically, the future of both the Echo Meter Touch and of Apple's iOS devices. My friend, was concerned that perhaps "...the detector will only be useful for the time period you have a current iPhone/iPad device for..."
Luckily, this is far from the actual case. The reality is, that The EM Touch can (and will) roll with whatever changes come. Simply because that is the kind of device it is. The ability to be dynamic, and easily adaptable is one of it's main strong points. It is sure to continue to grow, develop (and change, if need be) right alongside the iOS devices that it interfaces with.

Now that these concerns have been addressed, I can continue working on Part 2 (the final installment) of this Echo Meter Touch review. To be posted soon...

In addition, I would just like to add, that Elekon AG has just released a new firmware update - For their Batlogger M. As well as updates to their (free) BatExplorer software.

Happy bat detecting!

6 comments:

  1. Please include a review of the auto bat ID software, if possible.
    Thanks.

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  2. Absolutely! It will be covered in Part 2 (coming up soon!)
    For now, you can have a look at a video of one of my favorite features (of the Auto ID software) Here on YouTube: http://youtu.be/2F7a4DK4V0c
    Thanks!

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  3. One needs to be very cautious using the Eco Metre Touch, this is great as an educational tool but should not be trusted sole hearted for research and or species presence. This is from many respected bat researched in (Ontario USA) that have been testing this device. I recently took a course taught by a very experienced bat biologist and had the chance to test out the Eco Metre as well as other Wildlife Acoustic products and have now used this device in the field several times to know it has serious limitations. First is the automated ID. It is important to note the serious flaw. If one bat "signature" is close to another it selects the best fit. It will not give an unknown ID. meaning that it does not choose the ID based on the correct signature of a bat but rather what is selected in the checked boxes in the settings menu. So if your in North America and you have bats from the UK selected you get very misleading and incorrect IDs (bats that don't even occur in your country). this has been brought to WA and is the biggest problem in interoperating the data " on the fly" meaning you would need to bring the audio files into a analysis program to double check all the work. The Auto ID and any Auto ID for that matter should never be trusted 100 percent. There are too many variables. Second, it does not work well for walking transects. It is sensitive enough that it was picking up my foot steps. Also it picked up Gypsy moths and larger flying insects as Bats when clearly they were not. I would never recommended this product for research programs or for Car transects. Its a fun toy for education for general observations but never more than that.

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    Replies
    1. The Echo Meter Touch allows you to record the sonogram of the bat or any other animal, you can ID the species yourself from the screen if you do not want to rely on the auto id mode, which by the way you can select only the few bats that occur in your area, so there would not be the problem of out of area id's if you set it up properly. You can bring the recorded audio files and recorded visual files into the office and run them in another program such as kaleidoscope to double check, as with all sonographs used for bats you can only expect an 80 percent accuracy level on auto ID, so I don't see your point, have you ever used the Echo Meter Touch? As far as walking transects, you are not following the directed use if you are trying to walk and record, as with all bat work point sampling is the preferred method of data collection so trying to collect data out of a moving vehicle or by walking and recording won't work well with any highly sensitive recording devices.

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  4. The EM touch has a trigger sensitivity setting which is useful for conditions where rustling leaves or deal with the concerns of the commenter who believes it wouldn't be an appropriate unit for walking surveys. All detectors used in driving surveys need to have wind interference mitigated for the specific vehicle and detector, microphone, etc. Don't forget that the Echo Meter Touch module can be removed from the ipad,iphone, or ipod with and located remotely using an extension cable.

    The concerns about species auto ID are common to ALL software programs that ' assist' the user identify the species(s) captured in a recording. Humans make errors and software make errors, sometimes both the humans or the software can be very wrong, depending on many conditions. It is important to know the limitations of each, and in general to treat acoustic data as one type of data, but not the only, when making conclusions about bats occupying a sampled area.

    I do a lot of acoustic surveying for bats, and use a variety of detectors, selecting one or more for the type of data desired, the habitat type, and the like. If doing an exit survey I usually use the EM Touch as one of the detectors. I'll usually have a second detector recording 'just in case' regardless of which makes or models I'm using.

    There are a lot of good detectors on the market right now, and my favorite 'go to' unit for handheld use, for bat walks and educational Events, and the one I take in my travel kit (when not working) is the EM Touch.

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  5. Thank you very much, for your very informative comment.

    ReplyDelete