A team of Chinese researchers claim to have designed a kinetically-powered watch-type sensor capable of monitoring a cow’s movement, diet, oxygen levels, milk production, diseases and reproductive cycles.
Working out of Southwest Jiaotong University, the scientists are hopeful their creation will positively impact food security and the overall efficiency of the supply chain.
Wearables have become widely available to the public of late. With the cost of small sensory devices falling, we’ve seen them implemented into watches, running shoes, VR headsets and even jewellery.
There are already several examples where smart devices have saved lives. For instance, in early 2019, an elderly Norwegian man collapsed in his bathroom, hitting his head on the sink and fracturing his face in four places.
Fortunately, the 67-year-old was wearing a smartwatch that detected the fall and notified emergency services, who arrived at the scene within a half-hour.
Now scientists have found a way to incorporate the technology into the multi-billion dollar animal husbandry industry.
However, charging and recharging potentially many thousands of cow sensors presents a significant logistical obstacle.
That’s where the sensor’s self-charging ability comes in handy, said energy researcher, Yajia Pan. The Jiaotong University affiliate explained how the self-charging mechanism functions.
Inside the sensory device, a pendulum swings back and forth in accordance with the motion of the animal. The pendulum’s movements are enhanced by magnets that power a small lithium battery inside the system.
Yajia tested the device on human subjects and found that even an easy jog generated enough energy to carry out a temperature reading.
The cow would simply wear the device around its ankle or neck and resume its daily activities – even neck motion provides enough kinetic energy to charge the lithium cell, according to the scientist.
Each device houses a GPS sensor responsible for tracking the cow’s position, an accelerometer to monitor its speed and movement, a pulse transducer that will track the animal’s blood pressure and an infrared temperature sensor.
The network of sensory equipment will allow farmers to quickly assess the well-being of the herd. This will in turn lead to a reduction in disease and more efficient breeding, according to the team’s press statement.
Yajia Pan’s team believes their self-charging design could be adopted by other industries where wearable technologies are already prominent, like sports and healthcare.
Kinetic energy is all around us – whether it’s the wind in the trees or the perpetual movement of waves – and Yajia believes this is worth capitalising on.