Arming cows with “smartwatches” could prove to be an ideal way to make “smart farms” healthier, happier, and greener, according to a team of scientists from China.
In a new theoretical study, researchers from Southwest Jiaotong University in China proposed the idea of fitting cattle with “smartwatch-style sensors” that are powered by their own steps. They argue that this could help to gather data on the health, reproductivity, location, and environmental conditions of cattle, which in turn could help improve food safety and supply chain efficiency.
Since the sensors would be powered by the kinetic energy of the animals' leg movements, they would also come at no extra environmental cost.
“On a ranch, monitoring environmental and health information of cattle can help prevent diseases and improve the efficiency of pasture breeding and management,” Zutao Zhang, study co-author and an energy researcher at Southwest Jiaotong University in China, said in a statement.
“This information can include oxygen concentration, air temperature and humidity, amount of exercise, reproductive cycles, disease, and milk production,” he continued.
The team initially looked at whether solar or wind energy could be harnessed to power the wireless sensor, but they feared it would be too reliant on temperamental weather.
The researchers then devised a kinetic sensor that could be attached to a cow's leg to provide just enough energy to power the “smartwatch”. It achieves this using a motion enhancement mechanism that uses magnets and a pendulum to amplify small movements the cows make. Once captured, the energy can be stored in a small lithium battery that will continue to fuel the device 24/7.
“Kinetic energy is everywhere in the environment – leaves swaying in the wind, the movement of people and animals, the undulation of waves, the rotation of the earth – these phenomena all contain a lot of kinetic energy. We shouldn’t let this energy go to waste,” added Zhang.
The researchers also float the idea of hooking up the devices to the internet using 5G technology and linking them to vast networks of information.
“With the development of 5G technology and the Internet of Things, the operation of the entire industrial chain of the food system is more intelligent and transparent”, Zhang continued.
Smartwatches aren’t the only bit of consumer tech that cows are starting to get involved in. In Russia and Turkey, farmers have already plunged their cows into the metaverse by fitting cattle with virtual reality (VR) headsets. Plugged into a digital screen where they see nothing but pleasant green fields all day, the idea is that the cows will be happier and produce more, better-quality milk.
Let’s hope there doesn’t come a time when the farm animals start to question whether happiness experienced through the Mootrix can be considered "authentic" happiness though...
The new study was published in the journal iScience.