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Animals with smartwatches, the new frontier of digital farms

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A smartwatch has been developed in China that could help farmers improve farming conditions by constantly monitoring livestock. The bovine version of a smartwatch would have the purpose of monitoring the health of cattle, potentially reducing the use of drugs on farms, the main cause of antibiotic resistance and thus improving food safety and environmental conditions of livestock. “On a livestock farm, monitoring the environmental and health information of livestock can help prevent disease and improve the efficiency of livestock husbandry and pasture management,” says co-author Zutao Zhang, energy researcher at Southwest Jiaotong University, in a press release.

 

In reality there are already cow watches on the market, thanks to which the animal’s data is continuously stored via an antenna and displayed on a computer, to notify the farmer of behavioral changes which, for example, can indicate health problems in the cow . The real strong point of the sensor developed by the team of Chinese researchers is the exploitation of kinetic energy, that is, the energy that a body generates thanks to its movement. In fact, the device has a unique design as it contains a mechanism that uses magnets and a pendulum to amplify the small movements of the cows so as to be able to store energy every time the animal makes even a very small movement. This same energy produced by the animal is captured by the lithium battery and will come later reused to power the sensor.

The researchers placed this kind of smartwatch around the ankles and necks of the cows as they went about their normal activities. With satisfaction, they have verified that it is very sensitive and is able to record and store all the energy produced by the animal during the day. “There is a huge amount of kinetic energy that can be harvested in the daily movements of the livestock, during grazing, even during rest hours because the sensor also registers every imperceptible movement of the neck,” says co-author Yajia Pan , another energy researcher from Southwest Jiaotong University.

“With the development of 5G technology, the operation of the entire industrial chain of the food system will be more intelligent and transparent,” adds the researcher. In tests in humans, a gentle jog was enough to power the temperature measurement in the device, which the team described in the journal iScience. The researchers see future applications in sports tracking, health care, the smart home, and building human wireless sensor networks. “Kinetic energy is everywhere in the environment: leaves swaying in the wind, the movement of people and animals, the ripple of waves, the rotation of the earth – all of these phenomena contain a lot of kinetic energy,” concludes Zhang. We should not let this energy go to waste.”

 
  • A near-zero energy system based on a kinetic energy harvester for smart ranches. (cell.com)
 

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