Getting Smart at the Barn

As a member of the Tech Equestrian Advisory Board, our Founder & CEO is asked monthly questions about technology in the horse world. In March 2019, the question of the month was how technology can help equestrians get "smart". The  concept of smart technology seems to be reaching more parts of our lives every year. Think about it... you get updates when packages are on their way, your home can learn what temperatures you like at certain times of day, you have the internet in your pocket. Smart tech is everywhere!

Smart devices have come a long way since 1992 when IBM introduced Simon (Simon Personal Communicator), the world’s first smart device. Three years later, AT&T coined the term “smart phone” which ushered in a new era of smart handheld devices ranging from the Blackberry of the early 2000s to the iPhone of 2007-present. Today, it feels like everything is being called a smart device. However, three basic types of smart devices have been suggested:

  • Smart device: A device that provides some level of automation and can be programmed for a specific use (eg, smart coffee maker).
  • Connected device: A device that is remotely controlled and monitored through a Bluetooth, cellular, WiFi, or wired connection (eg, app on your mobile device to control and receive alerts from your smart coffee maker).
  • IoT device: A device or multitude of devices with robust programmable software for acquiring, analyzing, and applying data for improved outcomes (eg, a smart coffee maker that automatically brews the perfect cup of coffee at the optimal temperature based upon your sleep patterns and wake schedule).

The term smart originally comes from the acronym for “Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology” used to protect and prevent errors in hard drives. Since then, the term smart has been broadly associated with any inanimate object that interacts with humans and guides our behavior. For example, smart phones, smart cars, smart thermostats, smart doorbells, smart locks, smart refrigerators, smart speakers, and so on.  It was therefore only a matter of time before smart technology would come to the horse world, and that’s exactly what happened in 2013 when our team began research and development of the world’s first smart halter, NIGHTWATCH.

NIGHTWATCH is a sophisticated early-warning system for horses that alerts caretakers via text, call, and email at the early signs of a possible problem, such as colic, foaling, and being cast. Because no two horses are the same, this patented IoT-enabled smart device actually learns your horse’s unique physiology and looks for deviation that correlates with pain/distress. On top of those automated alerts, caretakers have an App on their phone where they have access to objective insight. This helps owners, trainers, breeders, and veterinarians alike make better decisions for our beloved horses. In short, this smart wearable device collects and analyzes biometric and behavior data on your horse to make the decision of when to alert you to a possible problem.

The advent of NIGHTWATCH not only has the potential to save the lives of many horses through early intervention and referral, but also revolutionize how equine insurance companies manage risk, how veterinarians practice telemedicine, and how researchers design better comparative studies.