'Smart cows' can text owners when mooood strikes

A U.K. research project will equip dairy cows with the same sensor used in Wii controllers to alert farmers by text if they're getting sick or they're, um, in heat.

A dairy cow equipped with a smart collar and wireless sensor can detect head position and notify its farmer via text.
A dairy cow equipped with a smart collar and wireless sensor can detect head position and notify its farmer via text. University of Strathclyde

You may have heard of the Internet of things. Now researchers in the U.K. are trying to build the Internet of animals.

The University of Strathclyde has begun a $2.2 million project to equip cows with a "smart collar" that will allow their owners to keep tabs on them via cell phone.

The collar uses the same 3D sensor found in Wii video game controllers to detect shifts in the cow's head position. The data is then sent wirelessly over the cell phone network or a local network.

When a cow lowers its head, it's a sign of possible illness. The sensor can also detect when a cow is coming into heat, which would allow farmers to optimize insemination. Researchers expect farmers would be notified by a text.

"This technology can help secure [the future of farming] by allowing farmers to monitor the health conditions of individual cows far more easily and accurately. Not only can this development help to save the farmer money, it can also help to keep food affordable," David Evans, the head of agriculture at British food retailer Morrisons, said in a statement.

The sensor system will collect data that can be analyzed in a decision-support tool. Over time, it can be used to keep track of livestock through the food chain, said Annette MacDougall, the CEO of Embedded Technology Solutions, a spin-out company from the University of Strathclyde.

About the author

Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.


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