BARCELONA: Cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable technology are not normally mentioned in the same breath as cows. But Fujitsu has effectively created an ‘Internet of Cows’ in a bid to create IoT products that put big data at the front of IoT deployments.
V3 was given a tour of Fujitsu’s stand at MWC 2016 in Barcelona and shown the fruits of the company’s work to create IoT systems that offer practical uses for the data, connectivity and hardware that forms the technology industry’s most prevalent trend.
The GyuHo system comprises a rugged pedometer that straps to the calf of a cow. It feeds step data to a receiver installed in the cow’s barn, which then sends the information to an analytics system built on top of Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.
The data is crunched and analysed, and then fed back to a farmer's or vet’s smartphone, tablet or PC to track the health of the cow.
GyuHo, which means roughly ‘cow step’ in Japanese, is being used at farms in Japan and South Korea, and in trials in Europe, and is predominantly used with cows that are on heat, or 'oestrus' as it is called in the bovine world.
Oestrus cows are up to six times more active than at other times, and take more steps. The data therefore allows farmers or vets to determine when cows are ready for insemination. Getting the timing right can improve rates of conception and help farmers manage milk yields that fluctuate when cows are on heat.
The timing of insemination influences the gender of the cow. Generally, earlier insemination produces females while later insemination produces males.
The GyuHo system effectively gives farmers a degree of control over a herd in terms of gender, which in turn leads to a more profitable business.
GyuHo was arguably the most intriguing element of Fujitsu’s stand, but was only part of the company’s IoT efforts on display, nearly all of which are available for deployment today rather than showcasing concept technology.
James Maynard, managing director of Fujitsu's global IoT and innovation division, told V3 that part of the company’s mission is to combine multiple elements of the IoT, from hardware to software and networks, and create technology that solves problems or industrial challenges in a practical way, rather than offering individual components or a jack-of-all-trades system.
“The IoT as a whole is less about the individual components that collect the data, and more about the [systems] that we can deliver. It’s how we analyse and take value from it to deliver vertical [systems],” he said.
Other examples of this can be seen with the company’s connected van, which uses RFID technology to track packages being loaded and unloaded and also acts as an internet hotspot for engineers conducting field work in areas with poor mobile broadband coverage.
The van contains a box that combines high-gain antennas and a SIM card to act as a boosted mobile hotspot, giving engineers the ability to receive and transmit data more effectively when on a job.
Fujitsu's industrial augmented reality headset, meanwhile, can provide workers with data piped from the cloud on anything from component faults and machine diagnostic data to sales orders and warehouse stock levels.
The smart part of the headset is the ability to input data through voice control provided by Google’s Android operating system. This leaves workers' hands free for other tasks rather than having to record data on a smartphone or tablet.
The headset also works with a rugged wrist-mounted keyboard and a prototype Bluetooth ring that can track a wearer’s movements and allow them to use their hand as a way to navigate the data being displayed on the screen.
Continuing with the theme of wearables, Fujitsu showed off other devices in its Ubiquitous Wear range.
The company has combined wearable sensors with custom algorithms to create a hardware and software package that can measure changes to barometric pressure, temperature, heart rate, humidity and the wearer's movements.
This can monitor a worker's health by detecting an accident, for example, and sending help if needed, or tracking for signs of heat stress based on body temperature.
Fujitsu is by no means the only company producing IoT systems, and the number of smart cities is growing, but the IoT is still in its relatively early days and a lack of standards prevents widespread adoption of data-collecting networked systems.
But Fujitsu has created IoT packages that make practical use of big data rather than just harvest it by combining smart systems, the cloud and rugged hardware. This vindicates the IoT as something that offers benefits across a business, from the field worker to the boardroom.
Simply put, the IoT has outgrown the era of smart fridges and vanity projects.
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