Back in the 1990s, the leading mobile phone manufacturer coined the strapline “Connecting People”, which pretty accurately described the mobile communications industry. Twenty years on and the leading smartphone makers are now advising us to “Think Different” and “Be Together, Not The Same” and the industry is no longer about connecting people, but connecting ‘things’. We sent our very own PJ Delmont out to discover some of the more unusual connected things at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona…
Though virtual reality and augmented reality grabbed most of the headlines, the other eye-opening theme across the whole MWC circus was the IoT/M2M space and just how much momentum it has gathered. Communications Services Providers (CSPs) appear much more convinced that the use cases coming to light will be more pervasive and applicable as the right commercial business models have become more apparent.
It’s always interesting talking to vendors and manufacturers about the divergent application of IoT business models and MWC again threw up a few interesting use cases with Fujitsu notably coming up with some of the more interesting solutions. For example, an RF tag embedded in pricy hospital garments that can track the number of washes (they have a product life of X amount of washes) and can be used as a theft deterrent (garments are checked in and out of a lockers seamlessly). Then there was the connected delivery van where businesses have the ability to track a van and its stock contents in real time. Repair vans can view a live inventory file while out in the field, and therefore can track other vans and what they contain in case they are missing a particular part.
However, of all Fujitsu’s IoT offerings, my favourite application by far was the Connected Cow – yes, you read that correctly! Ok, so let me qualify - I’m no expert on cows, but this is the overall principle...
Cows typically come into season/heat on average every 3 weeks. It is obviously important for a farmer to optimise the chance of impregnation to run an efficient farm, however the window for this is quite tight, usually around 16 hours or so. Furthermore, if you can get to the cow in time and she mates in the first 0-8 hours, there is a better chance her offspring will be a cow, whilst if conception occurs in hours 8-16 it is more likely to be a bull calf offspring.
So after this quick explanation of the bovine fertility cycle
, how does having a ‘Connected Cow’ help? Well, a smart tag on the cow’s leg monitors movement and can indicate when the cow starts moving around more - something common when the cow comes into season. Therefore the farmer can optimise the breeding cycle and become much more calculated in terms of breeding bulls or cows as required.
Add to this the connected field (tracking grass temperature, pH, moisture, etc) and connected fencing (farmers can immediately be notified if a fence has fallen over) and farmers can make better, more informed decisions, and run a more efficient business.
This is clearly not a communications service and farmers would never think to buy such a thing from their CSP. However that doesn’t mean CSPs should not be interested. This is just one amongst thousands of practical IoT applications
that can solve real business problems and therefore there is money to be made. The key challenge for CSPs is making sure they have the right systems in place to be able to monetise these IoT partnership opportunities.
Connected cow image by @Gadgette