Total Cost of Ownership: Trailcams vs cognified Thermal Cams

Conservation projects need to make hard decisions based on the cost of deployments and the cost of a camera network can be considerable.  As with any technology purchase, it can be misleading to consider only the initial purchase cost of the device - there are a number of factors that influence the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of your camera setup.  We've worked with DOC to look into what the true TCO of a camera set up is. 

Cameras are increasingly becoming integrated into conservation management as a non-invasive detection and monitoring tool.  Many projects are now using trailcams to some extent and some are using more capable devices such as cognified, connected thermal cameras.  We often hear that projects make decisions based on the "cost" of the camera.  Our paper considers these additional factors and provides guidance across use cases for monitoring and detection.

Today we share with you a co-authored report that covers a number of scenarios and aims to provide insight into the real-world Total Cost of Ownership as well as the advantages and disadvantages of thermal cameras and trail cameras. A comparative analysis of several scenarios allows prospective users to make informed decisions on what camera type best suits their project.

You can download a copy of the report here: 

The model we used to carry out these comparisons can be found here: Public Camera TCO Model.

Feel free to download a copy for yourself, adjust the figures in the assumptions sheet to represent the costs and effort for your project and the model will produce graphs to suggest which cameras are most likely to provide the best return for each use case. 

There are certainly some outcomes worth noting before you next make a decision on what cameras to use for your project.  In order to make the comparison relatively simple, we've assumed the same deployment protocol for both types of devices (deploy and leave).  We suggest there's a better way to deploy the cameras - have a look in the appendices for a our proposed sweep method that will reduce the TCO even further.

Many thanks to Joris Tinnemans for all his help in producing this report.

As always, we welcome your feedback so don't hesitate to get in touch - leave a comment below or email us at


Publication Date: 
Tuesday, 30 August 2022