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Rural Broadband Solution Found, Put WiFi on Sheep and Badgers

Saturday, February 14th, 2015 (8:05 am) - Score 2,019

Is it April 1st? On any other day a story like this would surely fit right into the annual day of loony news, but in this case scientists working at Bangor and Lancaster University in Wales have decided to use £171,000 of funding to look at the very real possibility of fitting farm animals with WiFi. Not that we’re feeling sheepish about it or anything.

In actual fact there is a much more concrete case behind this most unusual interpretation of the Internet of Things (IOT) approach, with the core idea being to put sensors and other data gathering equipment on farm animals in order to monitor the local environment and health of livestock.

The kit itself could track everything from animal locations to soil quality, or even the spread / risk of TB from badger movements. Plus, since they’d be wirelessly data linked, then in theory you could also turn the animals into roaming WiFi hotspots. Queue comedy moment of hunting for a local sheep in order to get online when roaming around the countryside.

Professor Gordon Blair said (Wales Online):

Cities have been the focus of much of the boom in this type of technology – it has been used to keep traffic flowing on our roads, monitor air pollution and even help us find a parking spot. But the countryside faces challenges of its own, from subtle environmental changes to catastrophic events such as flooding.”

So far as wireless networks go, this one is fairly unusual and difficult to organise (without a sheep dog). Never the less the team say that their electronic collars will be able to transmit data over a range of 5km, although given the likely use of battery power we’re probably not talking high-speed data connectivity (the need for portability suggests a very low frequency solution with extremely slow or intermittent connectivity).

In other words sheep probably won’t be the solution for rural broadband connectivity woes, even if we all hope and know that one day they could be. I for one would welcome our new digitally connected sheep overlords; well they’d probably be better leaders than most politicians.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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