By Nick Statt

The rollout of 5G in the US may be hobbled and scattershot, thanks to silly marketing gimmicks and a largely meaningless race to the be first, but the next-gen wireless speeds the standard promises are already arriving in full force across the Atlantic Ocean — for a herd of cows in England.

According to Reuters, Cisco is testing infrastructure for the eventual global rollout of 5G that could be used by various industries that are not traditionally in the tech bubble but are still dependent on increasingly sophisticated hardware and software. That includes farming. In this case, Cisco is trying out 5G in three rural locations by giving farmers access to 5G-connected cow collars and health-monitoring ear tags that can transmit biometric data and help workers monitor the herd from afar.

One of the three sites participating in the test is the government-funded Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation Centre, or Agri-EPI Centre, in Shepton Mallet, a small town in southwest England. The farm has nearly one-third of its 180-cow herd fitted with the 5G collars and tags, Reuters reports.


It makes a whole lot of sense when you think about it: farms are large and spread-out spaces, and cows are often shuffled between grazing grounds and areas of the farm where they can be more easily milked and checked on. With the 5G collars, Cisco says farmers can keep tabs on the animals at all times of the day without having to physically trek out to observe the cows up close.

Additionally, the 5G smart collars help automate the milking process by wirelessly communicating with a robotic milking system that lets the cow approach the station at its own leisure, pass through the gates after an ID check, and hook up to the robot all with little to no human intervention. The future is wonderful and weird, and farmers have access to it before you and I because without them, we all starve.

“We can connect every cow, we can connect every animal on this farm,” Cisco’s Nick Chrissos told Reuters, in what may be the strangest boast a Cisco executive has ever uttered in public. “That’s what 5G can do for farming — really unleash the power that we have within this farm, everywhere around the UK and everywhere around the world.”


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