The Internet of Living Things

The Internet of Living Things
Photo: James Duncan Davidson TED 2013
Photo: James Duncan Davidson TED 2013

One of my big dreams is to communicate fluently with animals.

I’m completely aware of how crazy that might sound. In fact, that’s why I almost never discuss or admit to it. It seems too far out there for most people.

But does it really seems that far fetched? When my grandparents were my age, I don’t think they ever could have imagined that they would be able to have video calls with someone halfway around the world or access to so much of the world’s information at the tip of their fingers. It’s impossible to predict where the technology might evolve.

Last week at TED, the interspecies communication movement recieved a huge boost. An unlikely team of Peter Gabriel, Vint Cerf, Diana Reiss, and Neil Gershenfeld (the intellectual godfather of the Maker Movement) announced their plans for an interspecies internet.

Their goal is to create a platform that will facilitate more cross-species communication. Which, at this point, means bringing some organization to the disparate groups and attempts of scientists and amateurs already working in this direction.

The next logical question: Is there a way for us makers to participate?

You bet! My friend Matt Crenshaw came to me a few months ago with an idea for a mesh network of open source animal computers using Zigbit radios. Here’s Matt’s description:

The first tag will be this main computer/radio module. With this gps.

We will add our own custom board that is being designed now by my dad to hold everything and do the power management. We are using a small lithium battery and small solar panel. The whole package will then be mounted on a collar. There are a few radios in this family to choose from and we can design a custom radio someday of course if we like. I just want to make a small, self-powered computer that can make a radio network with other little tags as well as bigger base stations that can bridge to cell phones or the internet.

Here is my cheesy diagram:

Screen Shot 2013-03-03 at 7.56.59 AM

That about sums it up, get radios with computers on the animals in a small package and build from there. Animals should share data between each other and with people using these devices and we will make it open of course. Our goal is to spread the tech to animals in a way that a closed source more profit driven company can’t do.

We’d really love for you to join the community of DIY animal communicators! Here’s the G+ page we’re using as a discussion forum.

(Hat tip to Julie Freeman for the “Internet of Living Things” phrase…)

6 thoughts on “The Internet of Living Things

  1. SLY (@sly_3) says:

    (sad seal eyes) “This internet tastes nothing like mackerel.”

  2. scubasonar says:

    I can’t wait to send my first text messages via outdoor cats.

  3. Jerry Carter says:

    And, like predators already exploiting the internet, the fox will have the 411 on the chickens in his area, the dogs protecting said chickens, and be able to organize a flash mob to overwhelm the chicken coop defenses and conduct a lightning raid. I like progress. Tastes like chicken.

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Co-Founder of OpenROV, a community of DIY ocean explorers and makers of low-cost underwater robots. Author of Zero to Maker. And on Twitter!

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