Microsoft showcases the French-based Arioneo 's IoT device, a saddle with an attached accelerometer. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: The wave of new technologies making today’s headlines can be confusing. Artificial intelligence. Blockchain. Internet of Things. And the list goes on and on ...

It can be even harder to understand how these technologies work together and what they mean for businesses. Microsoft is offering a demonstration at this year’s Gitex that explains it all using an ancient “technology” — horses. Microsoft and its partners have developed an apps that uses these technologies to make caring for these animals easier.

“Even though horses are quite big and powerful, they’re actually very fragile,” said Sayed Hashish, Microsoft Gulf’s General Manager. “They spend a lot of their time in confined stables and in many cases they get a lot of injuries that can be fatal.

“So today, we’ve showing through IoT and through computer learning how you’re able to look after horses; how you’re able to identify stress signals; how you’re able to know why the horses in the stables are anxious or got hurt and immediately attend to it. It showcases what the technology can do for something other than the usual productivity gains.”

Best use of time

Caring for horses has always been a time-consuming endeavour as they require training, health checks, food, and constant monitoring. The first step in building a software solution is to get data from the horses. Microsoft’s partner, France’s Arioneo, has created an IoT device — basically a saddle with an attached accelerometer — with the same technology that comes in most smart devices to tell when you’re moving and other recording equipment.

That device can monitor the horse’s heart rate, EKG (electrical signals from the horse’s heart), body temperature, location, speed, gait and other data, which is then uploaded via a mobile connection to Microsoft’s Azure Cloud where it is processed using artificial intelligence.

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Know everything about your horse... with a little bit of help from tech. Image Credit: Clint Egbert

Arioneo’s CEO Valentin Rapin said the devices were developed with input from trainers and veterinarians. The information can be transmitted directly from the saddle to Microsoft’s cloud using standard wireless technology.

“Once you capture the data, this goes to the Azure back end; your partners who have the solutions and own the algorithm ingest this data and comes out with the insights,” Hashish said.

Instant feedback

Along with the health and movement data, there is also video. It’s expensive to hire humans to sit there and monitor hours and hours of video, but video of the horses can also be uploaded to the cloud. The AI can scan it for information in a fraction of the time that a human would take.

All of the information can then be analysed, broken down, and displayed in an easy to use app, which then can let the owner know if the horse hasn’t been eating right, is being over-trained, or has any other health problems.

Blockchain also plays a roll. Since medical records are important in dealing with horses, accuracy is key. Microsoft’s technology allows the user to employ Blockchain to make sure that every entry is permanent and no previous entries can be erased or tampered with.

“You will be able to trace the horse throughout their life and be able to understand their medical histories despite the owners they’ve had or what countries they’ve moved to,” Hashish said.

Managing horses isn’t just a one-off use case, either. Microsoft is also using similar technology to monitor snow leopard populations in central Asia and combat poaching in Africa, part of Microsoft’s AI for Earth and the UN’s AI for Good initiatives.

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Sayed Hashish of Microsoft at Gitex.

Microsoft Gulf’s General Manager Sayed Hashish says the company is pleased with the uptake in customer adoption since it launched data centres in the UAE in June.

“It’s over-exceeded our expectations,” Hashish said. “We’ve been a lot of interest, which we expected, from governments and regulated industries, whether we’re talking banking, health care or education — industries that require their data to be in [compliance].”

The Redmond-based company is seeing equal amounts of interest from within the UAE and as well from outside. “A lot of our customers from around the world today want to leverage the data centres because they want to be closer to their customers,” he said.