Spotlight on Wireless Tech: The Internet of Cows

By Sandra Maas, Md7 International – Business Development and Client Relationship Support

We live in a connected world.

Gone are the times where this referred to people only. Being able to get in touch with friends, family and loved ones on the other side of the globe in an instant and at any time of the day comes as a given to every digital native. For those who were brought up with the amenities of the Internet, mobile communication and smart devices constant connectivity is just as natural as breathing.

Yet it’s not only people anymore who are connected to their kind via internet, mobile communication and smart devices. Advancing technology and the decline of sensor costs have given way to a whole new concept: the Internet of Things or ‘IoT’.

IoT is a cloud-based, data driven ecosystem and its constantly communicating inhabitants are both inanimate objects as well as living creatures. Or simply put, everything that can be connected is being connected: refrigerators, washing machines, cars, industrial equipment, trees, city lights, our heartbeat and blood pressure, and cows.

That’s right—cows. Up until now cow farmers were facing a sleep-depriving problem when it came to the calving of their herds: due to difficulties or a lack of speedy assistance, one out of every fourteen cows died in the process of giving birth.

For the farmer that means it was either spending hour-by-hour alongside the animal in order to be alerted in time or risking the loss of mother and child by not being around. Yet, whenever there is a problem, there is also a solution and in this case, the solution was IoT (or IoC, the Internet of Cows, as you should say).

When in 2010, Niall Austin, member of the Moocall founding team, lost a cow and calf due to a difficulty during childbirth, the idea for the Moocall calving sensor was born. What was theory back then proved to be true soon after: if there was a sensor that could monitor the tail movements of the cow (apparently they increase when calving is imminent) and that could alert the farmer so he can assist the birth or call a vet if necessary, then the bovine mortality rate could be drastically reduced.

A few prototypes later, the finished sensor is a lime green device that’s being clipped onto the cow’s tail and comes with the corresponding app for smartphone or tablet. About one hour ahead of birth, it sends a notification to the farmer who is, until that time, now able to look after the productivity and efficiency of his other farming operations. Since its launch in 2015, over 13,000 devices have been sold and helped over 100,000 calves into this world – safely, needless to say.

And while some still believe it is cat pictures and memes the internet was originally built for, it is the cows who have silently claimed the rule for themselves…

October 27, 2016
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