when not to use technology

I came across a link to a story where a South African company was using homing pigeons to transport data because it was faster than their broadband connection:

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.

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.

If you’re curious, doing the math on that works out to roughly 1.5 Mbps for the broadband connection and, if a 4GB card is used with the pigeon, just under 12 Mbps for the pigeon.

Of course, such a solution isn’t without risk:

‘With modern computer hacking, we’re confident well-encrypted data attached to a pigeon is as secure as information sent down a phone line anyway.

‘There are other problems, of course. Winston [the pigeon] is vulnerable to the weather and predators such as hawks. Obviously he will have to take his chances, but we’re confident this system can work for us.’

Though the story is amusing, the point it reinforces is I think a helpful one – namely, that the use of particular technology might not necessarily be the best solution to a business problem. It may just be due to the area I work in, but I have seen instances where organizations are so focused on the use of technology (or in some cases a particular type of technology) that they don’t consider alternatives that may achieve their goals better, cheaper or faster.

Certainly not necessarily advocating the widespread use of PigeonNets, but the story is an amusing example of someone overcoming the law of the golden hammer.


This site was created and is maintained by me, David Ma. For the technical details of the site, please see the colophon. For the details on me, peek at my¬†LinkedIn profile. The short story is that I’m a corporate/commercial lawyer in Toronto, Ontario (Canada), specializing in technology-related transactions and companies.

Why this site? Primarily as an outlet to make personal and informal observations on developments in the technology industry as I see them. And to let me poke around with a little bit of technology.

Views expressed here are solely my own. Don’t rely on anything on this site as if it were legal advice (or for that matter “legal information”), because it’s not. Questions? Feedback? Feel free to e-mail me or contact me through LinkedIn, or if you like, by carrier pigeon.

Creative Commons Licence