Pig Brother is watching you: smart technology monitoring for animal welfare and human health engineering

In the same way that sleep apps and health monitors can help us track our wellbeing, the Internet of Things can also enable the monitoring of animals’ behaviour, diet and movement, helping veterinarians to be more effective in their treatment and farmers to be more productive.

Spotting early signs of illness through continuous livestock monitoring can help keep diseases away from farms and from the food supply, as well as maximising efficiency of feed and other resources.

But most importantly, it can help uphold welfare standards by measuring animals’ vital signs consistently and objectively throughout their entire lives to pick up on the first sign of any change.

Researchers at KU Leuven in Belgium, for example, have developed a microphone and algorithm system using sound monitoring and analysing technology that is able to identify the sound of a pig coughing distinct from all other noises.

The technology, which has its roots in collaborative EU and national research led by the Measure, Model and Manage Bioresponses (M3-BIORES) team can accurately identify pigs’ coughs, which can be a sign of a respiratory infection. When tested against human observation, we also found that the sound recognition system detected disease up to two weeks before a farmer raised the alarm.

As an early warning system, this means farmers and veterinarians can intervene sooner and reduce the animal’s risk of suffering from a serious, prolonged illness and reduce the eventual use of antibiotics. Think of it like a digital version of the daily ward visits by hospital nurses, who pick up on any early symptoms of illness when it is easier to treat.

The connectivity of devices allows the system to be set up to send alerts to farmers and veterinarians either by SMS, through a web-based app or on a digital dashboard, instantly notifying them of a potential underlying health issue.

And in future, the technology could also be connected to a climate controller to adapt the conditions as part of a therapeutic response to a health problem.

But as well as helping farmers and veterinarians to spot early signs of disease, sensors and cameras could also be used to monitor animal welfare against healthy benchmarks like weight, aggression levels and movement.

This offers a cheaper, continuous and more accurate way of monitoring the condition of animals, and can be scaled up to allow large numbers of livestock to be tracked over their entire life cycle. It could, for example, be used to generate data for inspection by regulators

Lire la suite: www.scitecheuropa.eu

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