You may have noticed that the mainstream news outlets have recently picked up a quirky story about a device called Moocall. This little device, invented by an Irish farmer, straps to the tail of a pregnant cow and alerts the farmer via text message when the cow is about to give birth. This saves the farmer from having to stay near the cow for many hours or even several days to be ready to assist the birthing process when it happens.
The most interesting part of this story is how advanced technology is finding its way into traditionally very low-tech situations and delivering significant benefits in unexpected ways. Moocall uses motion sensors and advanced analytic software along with the cellular SMS messaging network and the ubiquitous smart phone to help the farmer better use his time and increase the reproductive success of his herd. The software analyses the tail motion looking for certain patterns that indicate the start of contractions. The alert is then sent over the cellular network as a text (SMS) message. The system works anywhere there is adequate cell network coverage.
The core technology that powers Moocall was obviously not developed for dairy farmers. Inexpensive, connected sensors are at the heart of the Internet of Things (IoT) phenomenon that has seen explosive growth over the last few years. Many of these sensors can be found in consumer products including cars, appliances, home security systems, and “smart house” controls. They are also found in factories, warehouses, and the supply chain as part of what has come to be known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) that is delivering new efficiencies and increased flexibility to companies trying to compete in today’s fast-changing global business environment. The high demand in the consumer space has led to high volume production and rapidly diminishing prices. Industrial (and dairy) applications benefit from the wide availability and low cost as they adapt consumer-grade devices for use in managing the factory and the supply chain.
The proliferation of connected devices has greatly increased the volume, variety and velocity of data that has overwhelmed traditional data handling tools. This so-called Big Data boom has spurred the development of new facilities and methods for data handling. Great advances are being made in analytics, increasingly required to cull intelligence from Big Data. Many of the data management and analysis tools are available on the cloud and for download into consumer and industrial control systems at very affordable costs.
Connected devices and advanced analytics are providing unprecedented visibility and control across the supply chain. Think of the advantages and possibilities if you could know exactly where every bit of in-transit inventory is located, real-time tracking of remote inventories and their usage in distribution centers, warehouses, distributor stockpiles and in retail store shelves and back rooms. Imagine the improvements in responsiveness and customer service that are possible (at reduced overall cost) when this kind of detailed data is readily available and advanced analytical programs can more accurately predict needs and direct replenishment activities. Why, it’s not unreasonable to think that the Moocall signal could be passed to the local vet’s office for scheduling a follow-up visit. Or the same message could be made available to the farmer’s supplier to plan delivery of the correct amount of feed or other supplies for the newborn’s care.
The technology is advancing rapidly while becoming more affordable and more available. Forward thinking companies and individuals, including dairy farmers it would seem, are finding new uses for low-cost connected devices to save time, improve results, and generate benefits in new and unexpected ways.