Throughout history, the horse was – in reality – man’s true four-legged best friend. Because without the horse, man couldn’t have conquered the world.
By nature, horses are mostly non-aggressive and forgiving, which made them easy to domesticate 5,000 years ago. Once tamed, they helped man explore, conquer and create new civilizations. Essentially, we couldn’t have done it without horsepower.
But today in the 21st century, horses don’t have to carry the world on their backs and now are mostly appreciated for their beauty, nobility, grace and power. Nothing is more inspiring than watching a horse charge across a field with its mane and tail flowing in the wind.
The Horse Industry Today
Horses are still a part of our lives; however, they are primarily used for sporting or pleasure – which, of course, means they will need to be fed and cared for. As a result, the business of managing horses is booming. At the end of 2016, the horse industry was bringing in approximately $39 billion in the U.S. alone and supporting 1.4 million full-time jobs across America.
Because horses are so beloved and making such a strong economic impact, it is only logical that technological advances have started cropping up around them – essentially disrupting how we have traditionally cared for and trained these beautiful creatures.
Following are the top eight newest internet of things technologies being trotted out in the equine industry.
Top 8 Equine IoT Disrupters
1) 3D Printing and the Horseshoe
CSIRO in Australia has developed 3D horseshoe printing technology that uses imaging software to closely analyze the hoof in order to provide shoes with a superior ergonomic fit. 3D printing can also be used to create casts, splints or even prosthetics for animals with injured or broken bones. So now, if a horse breaks its leg, it may not have to be put down like in the past. It can possibly be save using these cutting-edge 3D printing technological advances.
2) Robots, Horse Lifting and CT Scans
For sick or injured horses, robots are now being created to carefully lift a horse that controls weight distribution and reduces the risk of hurting horses in operations that could be life-threatening, such as broken legs or laminitis. In addition, getting an accurate scan of an animal as large as a horse can prove quite challenging; but robotic CT scan devices, such as Equimagine can scan the entire horse in 90 seconds, taking over 900 images and producing high-quality, multi-planar 3D (or even 4D!) images, all while the horse is awake and standing – no need for tranquilizers or heavy sedation!
The Bureau of Land Management is considering using drones to monitor the population and movements of wild horses, without the requirement for scary helicopters. It is also possible to imagine a future in which they could be used to deliver vaccines, antibiotics or other medical needs to veterinarians treating wild horses.
4) Wearable Sensors
More than 80 companies now provide wearable sensor IoT technology for horses that offer insight into the daily condition of their horse using real-time data. This valuable information can give veterinarians the ability to analyze and interpret massive amounts of information about individual horses and the species as a whole.
Here are a few examples:
- Seaver is a wearable girth that monitors a horse’s heart and breathing rate and uses algorithms to determine the animal’s movement when jumping to provide measurable data regarding its vertical and horizontal aspects.
- Well-known saddle maker Voltaire has developed the first smart saddle with a chip that collects information about the horse, such as time spent in each gait, direction, quality of the horse’s symmetry, number of jumps, and more. This information is collected for review later by the rider. (Photo Credit: Voltaire Saddlery)
- Another smart, wearable gadget is the Nightwatch Smart Halter by Protequus, which uses microprocessors and sensors to provide 24-hour monitoring. If a horse is in distress, Nightwatch can contact the owner via text or phone call.
- For sport and riding horses, GaitSmart Pegasusis a wearable designed to analyze a horse’s movements and produces a report within minutes.
- The incredible high-tech “camera pill” allows veterinarians to see directly into the gut of the animal, thereby allowing for better diagnosis of disease, general health status or examination of surgical sites.
5) Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI can gather vast amounts of data from sensors and other collection devices and translate it into logical and meaningful conclusions – thus eliminating the possibility of human error. Equimetre is an AI-powered wearable that offers insight to trainers in the horse racing industry and provides an analysis of the animal while also collecting data about the conditions of the track, temperature, humidity, etc. In evaluating all this data through AI, the company can provide analyses and recommendations to trainers that will best suit the horse.
6) Augmented reality (AR)
Equine thermography uses a camera that detects infrared waves on the horse’s body surface that are invisible to the human eye. Veterinary Thermal Imaging, Ltd. uses this same information to detect issues in horses’ backs, ligaments and tendons, muscles, bones and nerves, often weeks before the animal is even showing signs of pain or injury, allowing for the opportunity to preventatively treat the animal. Additionally, the future of horse racing betting could easily benefit from this type of technology. Using AR, bettors could more easily see what is happening on the track using devices, such as goggles; and real vision could be supplemented with information, such as speed, placement and market/betting information. (Photo credit: Inspiritus Equine, Inc.)
7) Virtual reality (VR)
Complicated or rare surgeries for horses could be practiced in a virtual reality classroom, thus minimizing the risk to students, technicians and teachers. Although expensive, VR can greatly reduce other costs, such as time and energy, as well as potentially saving an animal from enduring invasive procedures for learning and training. VR is also being used for equestrian-related entertainment. William Hill unveiled its latest horseracing prototype called “Get in the Race,” where users can experience a live horse race (from the back of the horse!) in a 3D virtual environment. Unit9 has developed a polo playing experience using software such as Google Cardboard.
Blockchain technology is a secure global database technology that uses a decentralized system of information management, thereby making it difficult to corrupt the information. The horse industry can use blockchain from all over the world to store valuable and trustworthy information about horses, prices, treatments, scientific studies, feeding and technology, and much more! Essentially, any equine company can access the database and register anything about horses such as birth, surgery, injections, veterinary visits, injuries, height and weight, treatments and more. Increasingly, more equine federations are requiring microchipping in horses, and the information collected about each horse from these chips allow prospective owners, veterinarians and anyone to access information about specifics animals if this information is housed using blockchain technology.
Rounding It All Up
The times they are a changin’. And the traditional ways of managing horses are being drastically disrupted by the mind-boggling possibilities of IoT. Essentially, if you can put a sensor on it, IoT will collect the data and spit it out for you.
GMAX is already using IoT technology to connect equine technologies and provide vast amounts of data, analyses and recommendations. And EquInnolab offers educational opportunities for collaboration and learning involving these technologies within the equine industry.
Not since we first tamed these beautiful creatures so long ago have we had an opportunity to dream up so many new and exciting ways to care for them. We are just now rounding the curve to a new world of equine technological advances that we never thought possible. Giddyup!
If you want to introduce some creative IoT solutions to your business, why not contact Arrow and brainstorm your ideas with our IoT specialist, Kirk Bohn. His expert advice can help you get your project galloping down the home stretch in no time!
By Kirk Bohn
Last modified: May 2, 2019