The Internet of Cows Is Real

Cloud computing meets animal husbandry.
April 10, 2016, 2:00pm

Something I learned today is that cows tend to start walking around a bunch when they become fertile and "sexually receptive." This is actually true of a range of different mammals and has to do with related increases in estrogen secretion. The mood hits one evening and a fertile cow starts cruising the barn—the rest is nature.

Well, the rest is nature but it's also big business. Ranchers are just as interested in cow procreation as the cows are themselves (maybe more so?) because baby cows equal grown-ass cows and grown-ass cows equal cash money. As it turns out, using information technology to detect cow fertility/receptivity (estrus, properly) is an area of active research and innovation. Cow estrus can pass in as little as six hours, and it usually occurs in the middle of the night. It's an easy thing to miss, in other words. And missing your chance to knock up a cow is like flushing money down the toilet.

You can buy a cow pedometer for this purpose, but IT solutions to cow fertility detection are just getting started; recording cow hoofsteps doesn't mean much if you're not also sending that information somewhere useful. Fujitsu Kyushu Systems has your solution: the cloud. In February, the ag tech firm presented its cattle breeding support service, aka the Connected Cow, at Mobile World 2016, touting an jump in single-attempt fertilization rates from 44 percent to 90 percent.

The Connected Cow is really more than a mere Internet of Cows—it's a Cow Cloud. That is, Fujitsu is offering its technology as a cloud service, or, more specifically, what's known as Software as a Service (SaaS). The dairy farmer or rancher doesn't actually do anything with the data themselves; instead, it's beamed directly back to Fujitsu, which performs the data analysis and sends back the raw thumbs or thumbs down on this or that heifer to the farmer/rancher.

Once notified, said rancher/farmer can mosey out to the barn to play matchmaker. Profits ensue.