RFID Tagged Cows Start Tweeting
A herd of dairy cows from the University of Waterloo might be the first of the bovine species to use Twitter. The cows brag about milk production, RFID transponder glitches, eating habits, technical issues with the “Mr. Terminator” milking machines and the specific nuances of which teats perform best.
Some of the cattle even let loose with an occasional literary quotation from Virgil. We’re hoping for Twitpics soon.
The tweets are actually a project from the University’s Critical Media Lab (as whimsical as we like to be at Mashable (), we know cows lack the necessary opposable thumbs for tweeting). Lab members Ron Broglio, Marcel O’Gorman and Pouya Emami have teamed up with dairy farmer Chris Vandenberg and a dozen of his favorite milk cows on Buttermine Farms in Brant, Ontario.
The data for the tweets comes from a modern, computer-operated and cow-initiated milking system. The team explained:
Each cow wears a RFID tag that is used to coordinate her activities with a central computer. As a cow approaches the robotic milking pen, the computer reads the tag and determines whether or not the cow is scheduled to be milked, based on her stage of lactation and average daily output. If the cow is ready for milking, she is allowed into the pen. Once inside, a robotic arm washes her teats, latches on, and extracts the milk while the cow eats high-grade feed to make her happy. The milk output and feed input is recorded by the main computer and stored in a database, along with the total milking time, time/teat, and total time in pen.
Fascinating, isn’t it? The cows basically milk themselves, and the amount of information this system generates is enough to power a Twitter-based stream of data on milk production and dairy farm life.If you’d like to take a closer look at the project in action, check out this Twitter list of the 12 dairy cows on Twitter. I feel that I should close this post with a cow-related pun, but I’d rather simply say that I think this is a pretty sweet idea and wonder what other kinds of fascinating data could be auto-tweeted with a “human” voice