Internet of Animals

While the Internet of Things is yesterday's news, the Internet of Animals is on the rise. When it comes to pets, several products have been on the market for those who would like to keep an eye on the mysterious ways of their cat or dog such as Wistle and Pawtrack.

But animals are also taking over social media and many animals have their own Instagram account.
In Japan, they have taken it a bit further introducing Anicall, a social website for animals where you can track not only movement but fitness too.

From Budapest 2013
The Scenario Magazine presents other examples such as tail lights for horses, and dog collars providing the owner with the opportunity to give commands from a distance (digitalisation may change sheepdog trials). They list five areas where wearable technology today is used in connection with animals:
  • Identification of individual animals, e.g. through implanted chips
  • Tracking of an animals’ position and movement, e.g. through GPS
  • Monitoring health
Mechanisms that regulate behaviour
  • Communication between animals and people or things
Of course also the management of life stock and wild animals can and is digitalised. For example, in the Happy Healthy Cow project, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University is working together with scientists, engineers, ICT specialists and parties from the dairy sector to develop a sensor for cows that can promote their health and welfare. Already in 2013, Fujitsu introduced their GyuHo SaaS product, monitoring when the cow is in heat.

But I think that maybe the use of ICT when it comes to wild animals is the most exciting. The Wildlife Tracking and Poaching Prevention XPRIZE tries to incentivize teams to develop low-cost, easily deployable, and highly reliable tracking devices for protected species that contain the highest levels of cybersecurity to prevent hacking.  I'm sure that we will se much more ICT in use in the EDGE of Existence programme!

However, as always it's not the technology that is lacking but the business models, as pointed out by Gautan Shah. He has started the company Internet of Elephants where they attempt to engage a worldwide audience with wild animals through a combination of technologies that include GPS hardware, data, games, and social media. The objective is to create a stronger, more vested connection between people and animals that directly influences consumer attitudes and behavior in a way that has a positive impact on wildlife populations worldwide while at the same time generating revenue for the sector.

As pointed out by the Sydney Morning Herald, researchers Edewede Oriwoh and Marc Conrad from the University of Bedfordshire in Britain published an paper titled 'Things' in the Internet of Things: Towards a Definition. In it they attempt to "accurately define the broad categories of interacting objects that will form matrixes in the rapidly approaching tech revolution that seeks to build internet connectivity into pretty much everything henceforth manufactured – or, indeed, born." One of the categories is the "Internet of Animals". The article also points out that this use of ICT raises a number of ethical questions. For example, it might no longer be possible to claim that you didn't know about how the animals you eat were treated since their every movement (or lack of) can be traced.

Of course, humans are animals too, why it's interesting to see if we'll see if more applications used on animals first will be applied to humans than the other way around. Maybe also it's not the robots we should be worried about, but augmented animals. Remember the lyrics by King Louie in the Jungle Book: I wanna be like you!

See this excellent visual overview of the Internet of things for animals from Visually Content:
The Internet of Things for Animals

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