When Google staerted toying around with the idea of using fleets of balloons to deploy internet to rural areas people thought they were completely nuts. Well low and behold they are actually doing that in parts of New Zealand, and they’re testing that technology at an old navy base in California.
Well scientists are working on other alternative ways to get internet access to other rural areas in other parts of the world.
The Atlantic reports that Gordon Blair, a professor at Lancaster University is leading a research effort that was just awarded $250,000 to study “digital smart zones” in rural areas and other ways to create them. In Blair’s case they are looking at sheep and other animals as possible ways to bring internet access to rural areas, and specifically farms.
That concept may seem a little far fetched but an experiment with fake sheep being used as hotspots at the Glastonbury Music Festival in the UK proved to work well. While those fake sheep weren’t mobile, engineers were able to draw from the experiment, that they would be able to use the collars of sheep as wifi access points. This wouldn’t be the first time that sheep were cross bred with technology, during the last Tour DeFrance cameras were mounted onto the collars of sheep so that they could film the racers as they rode through the hillside.
“Doing this work in in the rural environment is tremendously exciting,” Blair said. Using animals, specifically sheep actually seems like it may work. Animal rights advocates shouldn’t have a huge problem with this idea as the wifi hotspots would go on the animals collars and wouldn’t be injected into them or anything like that.
Sheep have also been instrumental in other technology studies. For instance, sensors have been deployed on sheep in areas where there are problems with dogs. GPS and movement sensors have been placed on the sheep giving farmers and shepherds critical information they need to know as wolves and dogs approach sheep. As these farmers find out the signals that the sheep are in trouble they could protect sheep from feral dogs which is a huge problem for shepherds in Australia.
Greg Cronin a professor of animal welfare has said that if the sensors or other electronics weigh less than 2% of the animals body weight than they won’t be affected by it. As long as scientists and engineers are responsible and respectful of the animals technology like this could be used for a lot of applications.