The internet of four-legged things:  wearables for cats, dogs, cows and elephants

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From wild and rare to livestock and pets – more of us want to know what animals are doing 24/7 and wearable technology is providing the answers.

The market for smart devices that will tell us about the location, fitness, diet and even mood of animals, especially our pets, is exploding. We are, it seems, as keen to monitor our pet’s personal data as our own.

Grand View Research is forecasting that the pet wearable market alone will reach $2 billion by 2022, driven by our increased awareness of pet health and fitness and the linkage of pet wearables to IoT and other mobile devices. Smartphones apps, for example, linked to products are allowing owners to remotely monitor, water, feed and release treats for their pets and find them if they get lost.

Reflecting this trend, pet food company Neovia and insurance firm Royal & Sun Alliance (RSA) have recently invested in PitPat, a wearable activity monitor for dogs. PitPat provides owners with an activity monitor tailored for their dog and measures how much exercise they are actually getting. The hope is it will improve canine nutrition and possibly even lower insurance premiums for the fittest.

Pets are part of IoT

Petalways activity monitor for dogs is a pendant which attaches to the collar and, just like human health trackers, monitors sleep patterns, calories burned, activity duration and even how many steps they’ve taken. Or the CleverPet Hub, a games console for dogs to keep them amused when you are out. The plastic dome, complete with speakers and flashing lights gives out treats when tasks are completed. An app lets you monitor your dog’s progress remotely. If it is your dog’s emotional state you want to understand, the Upathy collar tells you if your canine friend is happy, relaxed or excited by analysing its heart rate.

Orange Business Services, for example, is supporting Finish company Yepzon’s global expansion plan with IoT and SIM cards for locator devices, which includes wearables for pets. The devices use Bluetooth, GPS and mobile network technologies to provide accurate location information through a mobile app on smartphones.

IoT – a farmer’s friend

It isn’t just pet owners that are benefitting from animal wearables – so is the agricultural sector.

Farmers are increasingly looking for new ways to monitor livestock and their nutrition to ensure they are as efficient and productive as possible, whilst meeting the demand for safe, quality, sustainable meat and milk.

Animal wearables can provide farmers with a wealth of data that was previously difficult or impossible to access, such as livestock’s eating habits, reproductive cycles and movement patterns, which may flag up potential illnesses.

Livestock wearables come in different guises, from ear tags and tracking collars to electronic saddles, belts and ankle straps. One of the most innovative wearables is MooCall, which can accurately predict when a cow is due to give birth by its tail movement. The app rings the owner’s smartphone and sends a text approximately an hour before the cow starts calving, so that targeted care can be taken.

Call of the wild

Wild and endangered species are also benefiting from IoT. The Internet of Life organization, for example, has deployed a LoRa WAN IoT network to monitor black rhinos and improve operations at Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania. A sensor is placed on the rhinos’ horns which shows the location of the animals in the sanctuary. The network fulfils the Internet of Life’s criteria: it is long range, the sensor batteries are extremely long life and the wireless signal is very difficult for poachers to detect.

A research team at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, have used activity trackers attached to elephants’ trunks in Botswana to find out more about their sleep patterns. They discovered elephants only sleep for around two hours a day and most of this is spent napping standing up!

Understanding our fellow creatures

Wearable animal technology is helping us to better understand the animal kingdom and take care of our pets. The more connected we get, the more sophisticated this will become, allowing us to engage more with animals and address the conservation challenges we are up against.

Find out more about what the world of IoT and data analytics has to offer here.

Jan Howells

Jan has been writing about technology for over 22 years for magazines and web sites including ComputerActive, IQ magazine and Signum. She has been a business correspondent on ComputerWorld in Sydney and covered the channel for Ziff-Davis in New York.