The Internet of Things is passé. We now look forward to the Internet of Living Things. Haryana’s animal husbandry department has taken a historic step by deciding to issue unique identification numbers to its indigenous cattle, a necessary step towards cattle connectivity. The present objective is the same as that of the Unique Identification Authority of India — the precise delivery of welfare — but Nandan Nilekani had an easier job. His challenge was only to identify the right pockets to receive direct cash transfers. Cows don’t have pockets or bank accounts. They need direct delivery of the real thing — fodder and medicines. And then there are fodder scams and letter of credit scams, and it gets incredibly messy.
The Internet of Living Things is already here. Every human with a smartphone is on it and can discover where other people are and what they’re up to, and the network knows even more than them. But the Internet of Things, a global cloud of inanimate objects that transmit their identity, status and even location to the network, is of a different order of complexity. It is sinfully easy to put cows on it, though.
With its unique bovine ID, Haryana has stolen a march over Maharashtra with a modern, quality of life approach rather than an impossible quest for the prevention of death. Now, one step more, please. For now, Haryana will provide farmers with little booklets in which they can scribble data about their uniquely numbered cows. But we anticipate the day when the farmers become legacy hardware and cows equipped with RFID and GPS chips stream data directly to dairies and markets. And, with a fresh line in their fabled essay on the cow, India’s schoolchildren will celebrate its new capabilities.