Milkalyser, 5G RuralFirst, and Augmented Reality
Over recent months Milkalyser has been part of an exciting project exploring the potential benefits of 5G to rural industries and communities. Led by Cisco, this project has been a fantastic opportunity to work with a number of exciting partners. For our team, this has been a great chance to investigate the potential of 5G in the dairy industry, and the impact 5G could have on new technology in the industry.
The aim of the 5G RuralFirst project is to test 5G in rural communities and explore the potential benefits for rural industries. For Milkalyser, this gives us the chance to explore animal health applications which would previously be impossible due to poor internet connectivity. One concept we were particularly excited about developing further was an augmented reality (AR) solution for dairy farms.
As we began the project, we visualised an AR system that would allow the farmer to walk through the herd and receive real-time health and management data as they approach each cow. This would connect to existing systems on farm, including Milkalyser and the eCow bolus, displaying relevant information such as fertility data, rumen pH and temperature. By using an AR device, the user has their hands free, so they can act immediately on any health problems highlighted by the system. If the user cannot solve the problem, 5G would allow HD veterinary instruction videos to be streamed to the AR system.
For us, one of the first steps in any development project is establishing the user requirements. Using a group of potential users, we investigated their needs and discussed whether AR could be a useful solution. Following conversations with both farm workers and vets, the overwhelming consensus was that in general AR was not the most effective solution to the problems faced by our users. Although some of the negative feedback regarding AR may be due to an inherent wariness of new technology, many comments also questioned the practicality and safety of using an AR device around animals and on farms.
The majority of our potential users felt that AR was an additional complication which was likely to be more of a hindrance than a help. As the dairy industry becomes increasingly overwhelmed with data, perhaps what is really required is a system which integrates different data sources. Using these different sources of data, a clear management strategy can be produced to improve farm productivity and efficiency. It has really become apparent to us that perhaps the latest technology isn’t right for every situation, and sometimes the simpler solutions are the most effective.
It has also become clear to use that data integration is vital in making our technologies as effective as possible. Milkalyser can utilise data from a variety of existing technologies already in place on farms. This means a detailed background for every cow can be produced, allowing the Milkalyser algorithms to produce in-depth management actions. By investigating our users needs we have been able to refine our focus, ensuring we only produce technologies which are going to real-life problems and are not just a gimmick.