By Avrohom Gottheil
When thinking of Internet of Things (IoT) Technology, the thought that comes to mind is civilization. You imagine a sprawling, urban metropolis with magnificent, picturesque skyscrapers and automated municipal conveyances delivering all sorts of cutting-edge conveniences. The truth is, that IoT Technology provides benefits for all facets of life – city dwellers, country farmers, and even wildlife! Yes! Believe it or not, wild animals in the African jungle are joining the IoT movement!
There is a long-standing problem with Rhino poachers in Africa. There are about 20,000 rhinos living in South Africa, which is more than 70% of the world’s total population. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the number of poached rhinos in South Africa increased by a staggering 9,000% from 13 rhinos in 2007 to a record-breaking 1,215 rhinos in 2014! Thanks to law enforcement activities, those numbers dropped a bit in 2016. However, there is a lot more that needs to be done.
IoT technology is being used to fight the constant threat of poachers. In Kenya, police installed microchips in rhinos’ horns to track their movements and to boost chances of prosecuting the poachers. In Zimbabwe, the International Humane Society’s Project Rapid (Real-Time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device) is deployed on the rhinos with heart rate monitors, GPS trackers, and video cameras. In the event of an encounter with a poacher, the rhino’s heart rate increases due to stress. This triggers an alarm and broadcasts its GPS coordinates to a control center. The control center activates the rhino’s video camera in order to get visual verification of what’s going on. They then dispatch a helicopter which arrives onsite before the poachers can escape or harvest the horns.
In South Africa, the Netherlands Research Institute (NRI) is leveraging MTN’s (a leading South African based Telco) 3G and 4G cellular network, along with IBM’s IoT platform and predictive analytics to fight back in an ingenious way. They are using nature to alert them of poaching activities. NRI is using IBM’s predictive analytics to track the movement of smaller animals that comingle with rhinos, such as zebra and buck species, which are being outfitted with special collars. NRI research shows that these animals move differently depending on the type of threat. For example, they react differently to a threat of a mountain lion versus a hunter with a rifle. By deploying sensors on the smaller animals, they created an advance warning notification system, so that law enforcement has time to arrive on-site and prevent the poaching from taking place.
In Singapore, UIB created a technology called Intelligent IoT Messaging, which runs on the IBM Cloud and is able to integrate with the collars on the zebras. If they scatter due to a poacher, the incident will trigger a broadcast notification to law enforcement via a WhatsApp group, which will contain the GPS coordinates and a description of the incident. This will enable local field officers to respond quickly. Law enforcement will also be able to inquire about the recent and historical movement patterns of the zebra, using natural language voice and text messaging, which will get processed by IBM Watson’s Artificial Intelligence engine, and provide the officer with a detailed report.
Due to economic pressures and technological advancements, a small farm only needs a few hands to manage hundreds of cows. Due to the disproportionate ratio of hands to cows, it’s physically impossible to maintain direct contact with each cow. However, direct contact is extremely important. One of the reasons is due to the fact that dairy cows need to be on a constant cycle of getting pregnant and giving birth in order to produce milk. Once the cow goes into heat, there is a very short window for successful insemination. That’s where IoT technology saves the day. The cows receive special sensors that track body temperature, movement, and other vital signs. The farm manager is able to track everything from his mobile phone and take action as needed. Furthermore, with intelligent IoT messaging, he or she can receive text message notifications as soon as a cow goes into heat so that he/she can manage the entire farm while making his/her rounds.
Another benefit to deploying IoT sensors on cows is when it comes to administering antibiotics. Due to the frequent use of antibiotics, diseases are becoming resistant, which is becoming a major threat to farmers. Furthermore, we humans aren’t too keen on drinking milk that comes from cows who were indiscriminately injected with antibiotics. IoT sensors measure body temperature, heart rate, activity level, and the chemical makeup of the cows’ sweat in order to determine which cows are actually sick. This enables farmers to only treat those cows, versus injecting every cow with antibiotics as a “preventative” measure. Not only does this cut down on antibiotic-resistant germs, it saves money and allows the farmers to sell the milk (or meat) as “antibiotic-free,” which is more lucrative for them and more desirable for us.
In conclusion, IoT technology is no longer just for humans. It is now also serving the animal kingdom. From connected cows in upstate New York to crime fighting zebras in the African jungle, animals are now online and very much an integral part of this fascinating new world of ours.
My question for you is, what impact will connected animals have in YOUR life?
Avrohom Gottheil is a top-ranked global IoT expert by Postscapes.com. You can listen to him every week on his popular technology focused podcast, #AskTheCEO, which is featured on YouTube, iTunes, SoundCloud, and Google Play.