Wednesday, September 9, 2009

When technology lets you down

I was amazed to read of a South African company that's resorted to an ancient technique for the transfer of modern digital data.

A company is to start using a carrier pigeon to transfer data between its offices - because bosses believe it will be quicker than broadband.

IT experts at a firm in South Africa said it takes up to six hours to transfer four gigabytes of encrypted data between two of its offices which lie 50 miles apart.

Today staff at the financial services company will save valuable time by instead having the information transported by a homing pigeon named Winston.

Workers will attach a memory card containing the data to bird's leg and let nature take its course.

Experts believe the specially-trained 11-month-old pigeon will complete the flight in just 45 minutes - and at a fraction of the cost.

Unlimited Group boss Kevin Rolfe said: 'It might sound crazy in this day and age, but we're always looking for new ways to move our business forward and we think this might just work.

'For years we've struggled with the internet as a method of communication. It's fine for emails and correspondence, but we need to transfer a lot of data from office to another and find it often lets us down.

'To send four gigabytes of encrypted information takes around six hours on a good day. If we get bad weather and the service goes down then it can up to two days to get through.

'We started looking at other ways to solve the problem and discovered that carrier pigeons could do the job a lot more quickly.'

If the first pigeon flight is a success bosses will employ Winston and some of his friends to make a weekly trip between the firm's two offices.

. . .

Broadband internet in South Africa is not as widespread as in the UK.

Although recent advances in technology have seen it rolled out in most major cities, it remains costly to use and the service can be blighted by adverse weather conditions and power cuts.

There's more at the link.

Having experienced at first hand, over many years, the slowness and inefficiency of the State-controlled telecommunications infrastructure in South Africa, I can only sympathize with this company. If I were in their shoes, I might do the same thing out of sheer desperation!



Ladi said...

RFC 1149 addresses this method:

PeterT said...

As we used to say at my first high tech job after retiring from the Navy, Never underestimate the bandwidth of an Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser loaded with mag tapes.


BCFD36 said...

Not too many years ago, Lockheed used to do the exact same thing, transferring microfilm from Bonnydoon in the Santa Cruz Mts. of California to Sunnyvale. And this is the HEART of Silicon Valley.

That's not done any more. We don't have the broadband problems.

Dave S said...

Not too many years back I visited a whitewater river in Colorado. The outfitters had photogs stationed near the major waterfalls. By the time the clients were off the river and shuttled back later that day, they could see / purchase photos of themselves going over the falls (still safely in the raft, hopefully). The film had been sent back by carrier pigeon while they were completing their trip. Given the narrow canyon where the photogs were stationed, I suspect they're doing the same thing with memory cards these days.

Anonymous said...

If it works... it works.