Students Demonstrate Ingenuity

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Alberta’s cattle industry is joining the ranks of a surprisingly diverse range of industries and organizations that owe appreciation to a group of Alberta technical students. And, the best may yet be to come: upcoming changes to the technology behind the students’ innovations may offer still more benefit to the cattle industry.

The students, who work in the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) lab at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), invent solutions to real-world tracking, inventory and management problems. To date, they’ve come up with applications for everyone from the RC MP and ambulance service to manufacturing companies.

Supported by the technical mentorship – and extreme enthusiasm – of SAIT’s RFID applied research chair, Glenn Kathler (who says, “I’m not a geek, but I do love technology!”), students lead RFID application development for industry partners.

The key to the students’ success is outside-the-box thinking, said Kathler. Students have no limitations placed on their innovation beyond necessary legal regulations, he said.

“If someone can think it, we can build it,” he said.

Students have dreamed up and then created everything from a RFID-enabled robot that acts as an unmanned porter in a manufacturing facility, to a key fob for RCMP that automatically tracks and assigns the assets an officer takes along on the job.

The “nextstep” inRFI D technology, said Kathler, is energy harvesting. In the near-term future, a cattle ear tag – powered by nothing more than the movements of the cow’s ear to which it is attached – could actively transmit information.

What information might it transmit? If RFID technology adds sensors, as Kathler expects in the near future, a tag powered by the flicking of a cow’s ear might send a farmer information about the cow’s temperature, heart rate or movements. The opportunities for the cattle industry are enormous. The first step is now.

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