Internet of Things (Io T) devices are revolutionizing the world we live in. Even on farms, we see cows with
Io T fitness trackers around their legs to
help monitor their location, health and
estrus cycles. Connected cars, smart
cities, ocean buoys and smart farms
are just a sampling of where Io T is
changing the world.
Today, Io T is at the top of the list
of disruptive technology. According
to Gartner, a leading research and
advisory company, 25 billion Io T
devices will be installed worldwide by
2021. In 2018 alone, more than $3.5
trillion dollars was been spent on Io T.
How does Io T fit into your animal
research lab? We will introduce some
of the technical, operational and
financial issues to keep in mind as you
consider an Io T future.
What is the Internet of Things?
Gartner defines Io T as a network of
dedicated physical objects (things) that
contain embedded technology to sense
or interact with their internal state or
the external environment. This excludes
general purpose devices, such as
smartphones, laptops and tablets, as
they are general purpose computers
designed for human interaction, not
specialized devices that monitor or
interact with the environment.
Io T devices are typically small
sensors that communicate directly
via Wi-Fi, cell signals or through a
personal area networks (PAN) with
specialized Internet gateways. Io T
devices can also include artificial
intelligence (AI) algorithms that can
make decisions to send alerts, control
valves or toggle switches.
Io T devices are said to live on the
edge where they form the interface
between the physical and cyber
universes. This interface between
the edge and the cyber universe is
modeled after biological systems.
Humans, for example, have five
senses with many neurons attached to
Similarly, you can think of Io T
systems as sensors connected to a
computer brain. In this model, the
computer networks act as neurons that
transfer the information to the brain.
Some sensors can respond instantly
to hazards, like closing a valve if
water is detected in a cage. Some
simply capture data from sensors
and transfer the sensor data to the
cloud. Io T systems connected to large
computational “cloud brains” are now
at a technological stage of maturity
where they can be deployed for
Cases that justify the expense
of purchasing and maintaining Io T
systems are easy to find—however,
there is still a high risk of failure if not
planned and executed carefully.
Io T in animal rooms
Animal cage cleaning is a regular
occurring event that is stressful
for research animals. Rodents, for
example, are sensitive to odors and
pheromones introduced into the microenvironments when animal caretakers
Stress induced by frequent cage
intrusions can also lead to aggressive
behaviors in mice, decrease their body
mass and increase pup mortality.
Cage cleaning is also a drain on
research resources and increases
health risks to both the animal
caretakers and the research subjects
who may be exposed to infectious
On the other hand, cages that are
not cleaned frequently enough may
accumulate high levels of ammonia,
which can have adverse physical
health effects on the animals.
The costs of labor, bedding and
autoclaving, along with scientific and
animal welfare concerns, are driving
research organizations to develop data
driven approaches to cage cleaning.
Io T sensors are a solution for
automating cage condition monitoring
and developing principled metrics
for cleaning cages. Smart cage
manufacturers have shown that cages
equipped with sensors can detect
unhealthy ammonia levels, humidity
levels, temperature, light and sound.
The cost of Io T technology is
dropping rapidly, and it will soon be
possible to equip individual mouse
cages with sensors connected to smart
“things platforms” that integrate Io T
data with scientific study data. With Io T
prices dropping rapidly, we can expect
a quick transformation from calendar-based cage changing schedule to Io T
data driven scheduling.
IoT in the Animal Lab
How the Internet of Things is changing the future of preclinical research.
By Chuck Donelly and Julie Morrison, RockStep Solutions, Inc.
INTERNET OF THINGS
One Io T deployment can impact finances, science
and animal welfare.
“The cost of IoT