Horses aren't like dogs. Whereas the one is always around the house, the other spends much of its time off in a pasture. So, how is a horse-owner supposed to keep track of what their animal is doing? Well, a group of Swedish entrepreneurs believe that their HoofStep system is the answer.
Mounted within a head harness, the actual HoofStep device sits against the horse's forehead.
Among other things, it contains a GPS unit, a compass, an inertial measurement unit (which is an accelerometer/gyroscope combo), and a microprocessor. Utilizing this hardware, it tracks both the horse's location, and its head movements – based on the latter, it can reportedly determine what the animal is up to. Data is wirelessly transmitted by 3G cellular or Wi-Fi (depending on location) to a base unit, which in turn communicates with an iOS/Android app on the user's smartphone.
An artificial intelligence algorithm proceeds to learn the horse's normal behaviour. If the creature strays from that pattern, the owner is alerted by the app. According to the designers, the technology is capable of detecting things like colic, laminitis, foaling, stress, decreased activity levels, and pain.
Users can also utilize the app whenever they want, simply to check where their horse is and what it's doing – detectable activities include eating, rolling, lying down, walking and galloping. Additionally, the app keeps a record of how the horse's behaviour varies over time.
The head unit weighs 149 grams (5.3 oz), is IP67 water-resistant, and is claimed to run for about 21 days on one three-hour charge of its battery. The base unit runs for eight hours per charge, although it can also just be plugged into a wall outlet – it can manage up to four head units at once.
Should you be interested, HoofStep is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. A pledge of SEK 2,499 (about US$270) will get you a single-horse system with a 12-month data subscription, assuming it reaches production. Retail will be 55 percent higher.
A somewhat similar system, developed by French startup Equisense, additionally tracks the performance of equestrian horses.
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