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Cows, calves and drones: how IoT is redefining the art of the possible

As of July 2018, more than 4.2 billion people worldwide were active internet users. Most of us regard those occasional instances of not being able to connect as an irritating nuisance.

But as new and exciting technology is being developed, the need for a reliable connection becomes even more important. Everything from autonomous vehicles to sensors in smart buildings are developed with the presumption that internet access will be available instantaneously, every time.

Which got us thinking – with more reliable connectivity, what’s becoming possible that we could have only have dreamt of before? No one would have imagined being able to videocall the other side of the world from a mobile phone a couple of decades ago.

What else have we got in store for the future? Here are three use cases we’re excited about.

Connected cow

As is the case for many mammals – we humans included – giving birth is not always a smooth process for cows. Research suggests that difficulty during calving is responsible for as many as half of all calf deaths within the first 24 hours after birth. Being on hand to guide the dam through labour is an obvious way to minimise problems with birthing – but it’s not always easy to know when that process will begin.

Moocall - Vodafone IoT

Among other things, it’s been observed that when a pregnant cow is ready to give birth her tail will swish more than usual. It’s this tell-tale sign (or tail tell, perhaps) that the developers behind Moocall are interested in.

A tail-mounted sensor, Moocall measures patterns in the tail’s movement to predict when a cow is within an hour of giving birth. At this point, the device sends out an alert to the farmer via our dedicated Internet of Things (IoT) platform– allowing them to arrive in time to give their cow and calf the best chance of success.

More than 25,000 Moocall devices are currently in use all over the world, helping to bring over a quarter of a million calves safely into the world. You can find out more here.

Getting people back on their feet

For some stroke and spinal cord injury patients, getting back on their feet becomes a life ambition.

In the past, a combination of physio, human assistance, and functional devices like walking sticks and frames were about all that was available in helping that ambition become a reality. Today, a revolutionary exoskeleton designed specifically for patient rehabilitation provides entirely new possibilities.

Ekso Bionics Robotic Exoskeletons improve patient mobility with Vodafone IoT

The EksoGT robotic exoskeleton not only supports patients learning to walk again, it also enables doctors to understand their progress and adjust their treatment to speed up the recovery process. This is made possible by Vodafone’s IoT technology which feeds back data in real time.

And the more the EksoGT is used by doctors and patients around the world, the more the available dataset on the recovery process grows – helping both the machine and its users learn faster and improving understanding of how the human body can overcome serious injuries.

Future fly zones

Depictions of the future – particularly those involving humans, and what our societies will look like – are awash with flying cars. Along with robots and jetpacks, they’ve become something of a shorthand for cliched visions of an imagined next century.

In reality, our skies are more likely to be filled with a different flying object: drones.

Last Christmas alone, sales predictions for drones in the UK were as high as 1.5 million units, leaving the Civil Aviation Authority to grapple with how to regulate the airspace these drones will take flight into. Clearly, rising numbers of drones increases the risk of in-air collisions and the fallout they can cause.

Can drones deliver?

That’s why we’re using the UK’s mobile network and 5G to develop a new low-altitude air traffic control system. By fitting drones with SIM cards, it will be possible to keep track of (and, if needs be, control) drones as they’re flown by everyone from enthusiasts to commercial operators.

From cows to bionic exoskeletons, drones to self-driving cars, we think it’s easy to see why a digitally connected future is exciting. To hear more about what we’re working on, take a look at our ebook – ‘Transformation in Progress’

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