Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, as news today from AT&T about connected cows illustrates. In a development reminiscent of the 1960s sci-fi movie “Fantastic Voyage,” AT&T has inked a deal to provide wireless connectivity for smaXtec, developer of sensors that are swallowed by cows and remain in the first of cows’ multiple stomachs to provide biometric readings aimed at making dairy farms more efficient.
smaXtec is a European company that already has deployed its technology in Europe. The smaXtec system gathers and analyzes data from the sensors and alerts farmers to potential issues such as sick cows or cows that are ready to give birth. The goal is for farmers to receive this information more quickly than they would otherwise.
As an AT&T press release about the smaXtec deal explains, feed and medicine are some of the biggest costs for dairy farmers.
“Saving even 1% on feeding the herd can make a farmer’s business more sustainable, while an early warning signal of potential ill health allows for medical intervention and can help avoid the use of costly antibiotics to treat a sick animal,” AT&T said in the press release about the new connected cow offering. “Farmers try to limit the use of antibiotics as prescribing them means the cow must be removed from the production process, and then certified as safe by a vet before it can be introduced back into the herd.”
AT&T will provide LTE backhaul connectivity to a smaXtec base station/gateway via AT&T Global SIM and AT&T Global IoT connectivity, an AT&T spokesperson said in an email to Telecompetitor in response to questions from us. The gateway will communicate with the sensors via LoRaWAN technology known as Wirnet iStation from another European company, Kerlink.
From the gateway, data gathered from the sensors is sent to the farmer’s chosen cloud provider, where a smaXtec connected cow application resides, AT&T said. Farmers communicate use their regular PC, tablet or smartphone to use a smaXtec app.
Asked whether some farmers might not have connectivity to AT&T’s LTE network, the spokesperson noted that the company’s network has “outstanding coverage and performance” in the U.S. but in the unlikely event of poor coverage, AT&T provides various options to enhance LTE coverage at the farmhouse.
“Outside the U.S. the AT&T Global SIM can roam on over 500 networks in over 200 countries worldwide,” the spokesperson said. “In most countries, AT&T has multiple roaming partners, which enhances the coverage for the smaXtec LTE gateway . . . and even adds a sort of redundancy. If a local roaming partner network fails, the AT&T Global SIM in the gateway . . . will automatically switch to another available roaming partner network and connectivity will be restored.”
Supplying equipment and connectivity to support smart dairy farming is a fast-growing business. And sensors swallowed by cows are not the only smart dairy farm application that rivals what science fiction writers dream up. Another connected cow application involves facial recognition for the cows.