Designers beef up farming tech with wearables for cows

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Moo Cows by Matt Northam
Some dumb cows are getting some smart wearables.
Photo: Matt Northam/Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Design firm Cambridge Industrial Design herd that dairy farmers might want to track their cows’ moo-vements, so they went ahead and developed some udderly clever smart collars to help keep an eye on the beasts.

That’s right: Even cattle are starting to horn in on the wearables scene.

“Wearables, such as the Apple Watch, may be stealing the headlines, but tracking the behavior of cows is equally vital to farmers who want to best manage their grazing,” said CID design director Tim Evans.

True North Technologies, which develops its own electronic compasses and sensors, commissioned CID to create the collars, which pinpoint the wearer’s exact location and can even correlate the information it gathers to activities like grazing, sleeping, and whatever cows do to socialize. Farmers can also use the collars with geofencing to steer animals toward the best pastures.

CID uses a 3D printer to make the collars, which maintain the cartoon-accurate Alpine cow bell shape and are designed to withstand impacts with fences, trees, feeding and water troughs, and other cows.

We’re used to things like GPS-enabled animal tags in conservation efforts and implanted microchips in our pets, but these collars up the game by moving beyond mere tracking functionality and into data and behavioral analysis. This is just a trial phase of part of a larger, Europe-wide project that will conclude next June.

“Contrary to popular belief, agriculture is increasingly reliant on technology to maximize yields and ensure the highest standards of animal welfare,” said TNT managing and technology director Patrick Halton. “By combining our strengths in GPS and location technology with Cambridge Industrial Design’s skills we have been able to create an innovative, tough product that will help dairy farmers to optimize their operations.”

If this tech catches on, we can expect to see more wearables for animals. Imagine a dog collar that lets you know if your mutt is getting enough exercise or little bracelets that tell you when your turtle or hedgehog are distressed. The possibilities are as limitless as they are adorable.

In the meantime, however, this is the cows’ show, and they’re milking it for all it’s worth.

Via: Cambridge News