Animals 4.0

Posted on: March 31st, 2014 by Hermann Wimmer 1 Comment

Self-quantification – this term describes a phenomenon that is increasingly affecting our daily lives. More and more people make use of step counters, fitness apps or sleep diaries to learn more about their body and health condition, and ultimately improve their lifestyle. Day by day, developers surprise us with new tools for self-quantification that you can read about, amongst others, on the Quantified Self blog. Even Teradata CTO Stephen Brobst is going to dedicate his keynote speech next week at the Teradata Universe Conference in Prague to “the quantified self”.

What amazes me about this trend is that it’s by no means limited to us human beings! Modern technologies easily allow us to interconnect with and track other things and species, too. Just think of self-driving cars, smart homes or – animals. Yes, you got that last one right! At the US east coast, scientists have started to equip white sharks with tags that track their routes through the sea and even record their individual moves and behaviour.

With the help of three different devices that are implanted or attached to the shark, Chris Fischer and his crew at non-profit organization Ocearch are able to get unprecedented insights into the lives of these mysterious animals. An acoustic tag sends radio frequency signals to underwater buoys, while a “Smart Position or Temperature Transmitting” (SPOT) device connects with a satellite whenever the shark’s dorsal fin breaks the surface of the sea. These two devices allow a pretty concrete location of the shark’s route through the water. But what is most interesting, and most similar to our human self-quantification, is an accelerometer package. It tracks fine-scale data of the shark’s movement – similar to a Wii Motion Plus remote controller – along with external factors such as water depth and temperature. This device detaches itself after just a couple of days and floats back to the surface, together with tons of information stored in its memory that provide the scientists with valuable data.

"On average, we're collecting 100 data points every second – 8.5 million data points per day. It's just phenomenal," Nick Whitney, a marine biologist with the Mote Marine Laboratories in Sarasota, Florida, said in an interview with computerworld.com. "Second by second, we can pick up every tail beat and change in posture." With the help of this information, Whitney, Fischer and their colleagues want to get to know white sharks better; not solely for scientific reasons, but also to learn how to protect and preserve them. Best of all, the data is not only accessible to the scientists. Anyone interested can simply choose a shark and track its route through the deep blue sea on ocearch.org.

And sharks are not the only animals 4.0! Over at techcrunch blog, I recently came across this hilarious tool: iCPooch, “an internet enabled device that lets you video chat and deliver your dog a treat from anywhere in the world”. iCPooch basically is a simple plastic tower that can be filled with dog goodies. The trick is an appliance that allows you to attach an old smartphone onto the tower. So people can call their dog from wherever they are and have a “conversation” via Skype. The corresponding iCPooch app also includes a “drop cookie” button which you can push during the call and thus treat your dog with a little snack whenever you feel like it. iCPooch just reached its goal of 20,000 $ at Kickstarter two weeks ago and will now go from prototype to production.

These two cases clearly show that modern technologies and data analytics not only help us humans to improve our lifestyle and health condition, but also to support our friends with fur, feathers and fins. We can simply use them to calm our pets down when home alone or we can produce scientific studies to do greater good, for instance gather enough relevant data to maybe save an entire species. And who knows, perhaps they will even help to save our very own species, too?!

One Response

  1. Dirk Duden

    March 31, 2014

    So true! It so happens that I measure my daily sleep and activity level with Jawbone’s UP wristband plus App on my smartphone, having set (WHO) goals for each: 20’000 steps a day, 7:20hrs of sleep.
    Also contribute to a Manta Conservation Project in Raja Ampat Indonesia which tags and gathers data of these fantastic ocean creatures, thus helping to preserve their populations – which in turns shapes a divers’ and tourism industry.
    Selfquantify has many sides to it…

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