Musings on an Internet of (Living) Things

We’re beginning to see the Internet of Things and the potential changes that will be begotten by ubiquitous and interconnected sensors tied to everyday objects. To what extent might that extend to connecting actual living things?

Recently some colleagues and I discussed the idea of an Internet of Living Things – a widespread connecting of living organisms to the Internet.

This isn’t an entirely new idea – for instance a Scottish firm has raised funds to create wearable devices/remote sensors for cattle. “It can detect oestrus, or when an animal is amorous, and when it has increased milk yield. Silent Herdsman has patents on delivering accurate health predictions that can yield better profits for framers.”

And it makes sense in farming for livestock where it would presumably relatively easy and cost effective to attach sensors to animals to monitor them and their health. But it might not stop there, as indicated to by articles like this where scientists are attaching micro-sensors to 10,000 bees in order to understand bee and hive health.

If we take the idea further (not to say it is a good or a bad idea), we could see it applying to other purposes, such as monitoring animal/wildlife populations. Logistical challenges might mean that sensors were placed on large trees (even to the extent of giving them email addresses) or landmarks rather than every living thing, with information gathered about the immediate surrounding environment.

Such an approach might mean having rich real time big data about ecosystems, giving better understanding of such systems and how they might react to events (e.g. fires/floods) and developments (e.g. land clearing) or whether populations might be at risk or an ecosystem of degradation. Such an infrastructure and data source might be used in fields from fisheries to forestry to environmental management to farming.

There would be obvious logistical challenges but perhaps no more than for the diversity of objects that are being considered for connection to an Internet of Things.

Are there other examples of the Internet of Things being extended to living organisms?

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