back to article Govt spaffs £170k to develop the INTERNET OF SHEEP

Computer boffins at Lancaster University are concerned that the countryside is feeling left out, so they are investigating ways to include nature in the booming world of technology. Professor Gordon Blair is thinking of ways that the countryside can benefit from joining the Internet of Things (IoT) hypewagon, and has received …

  1. Richard Jones 1

    More Useful than a Chatty Fridge

    This appears a much more useful idea than the chatty fridge. Dumb fridges can last anywhere from 5 to 40 yearsanyway and managing the addition and removal of food items will be prone to error - at least in my house. Environmental sensors are usually installed to perform a wanted task and are likely to be far less chatty than a family fridge - which may well not be updated before about 2030 anyway.

    I am already aware of such telemetry being used on rare breeds.

  2. Ole Juul

    Rural perspective

    So, Professor Blair wants to come 'round and plant electronics everywhere. Well we've got enough pollution and crap left by city folk who come out here and figure they own the place. What would be better is if Professor Blair could find something to do at home. Don't worry, we'll be fine without him.

    1. Ilmarinen

      Re: Rural perspective

      To which I would add that “The Countryside" seems to be what Townies call anywhere that isn't "The Seaside" or a town/city. And we don't need any mad professors round 'ere bothering our sheep, thank you very much.

      1. Anonymous C0ward

        Re: Rural perspective

        Yeah, you do enough of that yourselves.

  3. returnmyjedi

    Gordon Blair? Is this the Labour party's hideous attempt at eugenics to try and recapture the "glory" years of Messrs Brown and Blair, and to eliminate the bacon guzzling youngest spawn of Miliband with a pack of cybernetically enhanced baa lambs? I fear it may well be.

  4. Shadow Systems

    It's a ba-aa-aa-ad idea.

    I think he's trying to pull the wool over your eyes, shepparding you to his way of thinking, and making ewe give him money to hound you.

    Don't lay down around placidly for it, stand up, deny those barriers to your freedom, leap those fences and take your fluffy butts elsewhere.


    I'll get my coat.

    It's the one with the heavy woolen liner.

    *Runs away*

    1. Crisp

      Re: Sheep puns?

      Get the flock out of here.

      1. Ralph B

        Re: Sheep puns?

        Hope it's got good baaandwidth.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Who pays?

    I gather farmers make bugger-all per sheep as it is, so I doubt they'd be able to afford to pay for the trackers and, I presume, the infrastructure needed to support them.

    Pet sheep, on the other hand, might benefit from it, I suppose.

    1. Trygve

      Re: Who pays?

      Indeed, they make so little per sheep that they can't afford the time and diesel to go and check that the sheep are still in the fields where they were left. Hence the plaintive notices in local papers that 50 sheep went missing from a specific field 'between May 15 and June 23" or whatever. On top of that there is (or is supposed to be) a huge amount of admin around moving cattle (following the foot & mouth debacles) and it's not as if the legally-mandated electronic eartags+register are cheap either.

      Check this out for an example of what your straw-chewing yokel is working with these days -

      So if the boffins can somehow deliver networked beast-tracking to the pasture (and ideally through to the abbatoir) it would indeed be a damn sight more useful than the network fridge. Although conceptually if the abbatoirs, meat processors and supermarkets upped their game it might then be possible to track a piece of beef from calving all the way through until you took your chilled lasagna out of it's RFID-tagged packaging - making even the network fridge useful....

    2. dogged

      Re: Who pays?

      You can make a few quid (by "a few" I literally mean three or four) on meat but wool fetches less money than it costs to shear it so, swings and roundabouts.

      Personally I think the Prof needs to amend his quotes for truth. This for example, is a fixed version -

      "“The possibilities of bringing the Internet of Things to the countryside are worth £170,000 of public cash for my tenure,” enthuses the prof.

    3. Ole Juul

      Re: Who pays?

      Pet sheep, on the other hand, might benefit from it, I suppose.

      Suppose indeed. :) But you are on the right track. There is no practical use for the professor's technology when dealing with a herd. He's trying to scam people. As for the price of sheep, that does vary from year to year. Around here the high quality ones actually fetch a decent price right now, and there is a demand for quality breeding stock.

      Perhaps in the UK there is a need for idea men to come out from the city and tell sheep farmers how they need to run their business, and the way we do sheep farming here in Canada could also be different. This technology is not of use here. We use a sheep dog and no sheep get lost. Often a Llama is uses as well because they bond with the sheep, are dangerous to predators, and eat the same diet as the sheep. The professor is just trying to sell stuff to people who he thinks are gullible. We are not. I am indeed rural and involved with these kinds of issues. Also, I see I got a couple of down votes above (presumably from a couple of city bumpkins). That's fine, but I bet you don't know anything about animal husbandry and rural economy.

      1. Marcus Aurelius

        Sheepish grin

        I was wondering why my area seemed to have gained some llamas. I thought it was something to do with fetching a better price for wool/meat products...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sheepish grin

          Oh you've had some sheep nicked eh, you''l have to get a Llama installed or your insurance will rocket.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who pays?

        Most farmers round here would fall off their shiny tractors on to their brand new 4X4's at the thought of spending money

        never seen a farmer on a bike, yet they claim to be so poor, the EEC has to pay them not to grow stuff

        1. dogged

          Re: Who pays?

          Then you've never seen a tenant farmer. Land Barons with thousands of acres do pretty well out of a system designed to maintain small farms and rural habitats (see also France) but the way the UK has implemented it is much the same as the way the UK implements every other bloody thing that comes along - you can do very well at it if you happen to have a metric fuckload of money.

          You're in East Anglia, right?

  6. FunkyEric

    The man is clearly madder than a bag of hamster on acid

    1. Richard Taylor 2

      Surely aa bag of acid on or in hamster? Where is QC these days?

      1. PNGuinn

        I'll get my coat

        In which case wouldn't it be better to call a VET rather than the aa?

  7. Anonymous Coward


    If you did this, you'd need to improve connectivity somehow and a cellular mesh approach would make sense. Also each node in the mesh could collect other environmental data which might prove useful in weather- and climate-guessing. Lastly, it might even help with Not Spots.

    At what price? Lots of funding in those pools so the poor farmer won't have to chip in. Just grant access.

  8. Paul Webb

    It's tractors we need, not trackers

    No chance of IoT thingies talking to each other if they can't understand the local dialect.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    At last what people have been waiting for.

    Grindr, Welsh Edition.

  10. Tom 7


    As someone who keeps a small herd of sheep and am still reeling from the uselessness of RFID ear tags - which often cost half the annual 'profit' on an animal I think this is probably a complete fucking waste of time and money,

    Sheep have such a low profit margin that anything that costs more than about 50p can just fuckoff. Currently we have to put two ear tags on an animal and 30% of animals lose one in the first week - sheep will stick their heads through fences (cos they probably itch like buggery) and pull them out.

    As for river flows - well currently we are encouraged to grow lots of things near rivers and streams to prevent pollution getting into streams - which are ... you've guessed it in hollows so wireless is going to be useless from the device and will need to be placed on structures which - judging from the normally 1' wide stream at the bottom of my field which is currently 3' deep and 20' wide - will cost thousands.

    If you really want to get the IT hypewaggon rolling in the countryside I think two or three school children wielding a laptop with scratch on it could do a better job than whoever's fucking up the steam powered government web sites.

    1. Chris G

      Re: WTF

      Doesn't sound as though Prof Blair has been out of his lab much, I wonder how the hell the gov' can give 170K to someone who views the countryside as 'That green place we drive through at the weekend'.

      The river thing has already been done in a few places so nothing new there and the EC abolished set aside in 2008 so farmers are not paid to grow nothing.

      When I lived in the UK and had a small involvement in agriculture I always used to love the families of walkers, they would come into a field 4 abreast through a field of barley or some other valuable crop, smart enough to read a map to find the footpath but too dumb to know the Right of Way through a crop is only 1 metre wide. Also too dumb and full of exercising their rights to have any respect for someone elses property. IoT footpath cameras, I say!

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: WTF

      So for £170k you reckon this could be sheep at twice the price?

  11. Aging Hippy

    Let me be the first to suggest


  12. dwrjones87

    Jesus christ, I live 2000ft from the centre of the biggest town in Conwy, and still have trouble getting a 2G signal, let alone 3G. They really they're going to have much luck with this?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe they should 3G/4G masts to the backs of sheep to increase coverage. It would also increase the range in which they could be tracked. Plus, farmers could also earn money from the mobile networks.

  13. wabbit347

    IANA Reservation

    Wonder if it's possible to get BAAA::/16 reserved for this?

    1. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: IANA Reservation

      > Wonder if it's possible to get BAAA::/16 reserved for this?

      Only if someone writes an RFC on "Standard for the transmission of IPv6 datagrams on ovine carriers."

  14. Richard 26

    Wi-fi enabled sheep are clearly a brilliant idea

    Mais... où sont les bagages? Où est les voyageurs?

  15. Alan J. Wylie

    > sensors on riverbanks could measure the flow of rivers

    Do they mean like this:

    Really useful if I'm thinking of going caving

  16. John Styles

    Was the software...

    ... written in sheep lust lust?

  17. Detective Emil

    Electric sheep!

    What? I arrive late, and nobody's mentioned Blade Runner yet.

    Better leave, then. I must be in the wrong place.

  18. Elmer Phud


    What sort of porn will the sheep be watching?

    Is One Man And His Dog a horror film?

  19. RosslynDad

    What Exactly Are the Commercial Possibilities of Ovine Computation?

    A fair question, and one that in recent weeks has been much on my mind.

    This idea didn't so much fly, as plummet.

    There's nothing worse than a clever sheep.

    Hat-tip to Monty Python.

    1. Chris G

      Re: What Exactly Are the Commercial Possibilities of Ovine Computation?

      "There's nothing worse than a clever sheep."

      Unless it's a clever sheep that has just taken your job.

      Or won't kiss on a first date!

  20. Jonski

    IoT security

    Given the fact that security is an afterthought in the Internet of (woolly) Things, I expect it will be trivial for a) a rustler to be a hacker and make off with the sheep without the farmer suspecting a thing, and b) the farmer faking their sheep's credentials and getting whatever EU credits they can and are not eligible for.

    This also means that farmers will have to carry the burden of proof when their sheep start downloading sheep-shagging videos under extreme porn laws.

  21. Greencat

    Perhaps not completely bonkers

    Measuring river flow could perhaps be useful given the number of hydro-schemes potentially in the offing in North Wales as well as provide early warning of flooding.

    I can just imagine a group of walkers chasing after a bunch of sheep to improve their mobile wireless connection through a PAYG mesh network or something. Even so, I wonder if there are that many sheep out there to make one viable. But agreed the margins on sheep are so horrifically poor, the farmers would basically have to be paid to put the devices on the fluffy critters.

    Landline based broadband is improving quite a lot in North Wales. My village not too far from Conwy now gets a reliable 36Mb/s. Mobile, however, is still an absolute shocker even immediately outside of medium sized towns.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So it'll be a case of ...

    While shepherds browsed

    their flocks by night

    their Huddl passed around

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