Sensors Mag


February 9, 2006 By: Melanie Martella, Sensors

I've found two bird-themed sensor stories recently. One deals with a suggestion to implant chickens with RFID tags and temperature sensors to spot avian flu and the other tells the story of trained and instrumented pigeons flying out to spot pollution.

Let's take the chickens first.

How Do You Feel?

According to this news item, Digital Angel to Introduce Implantable RFID Chip for Avian Flu Detection, Digital Angel is introducing its Bio-Thermo combo RFID chip and temperature sensor to poultry producers and markets in Asia. The plan? To insert these chips into a flock of birds so you can (so the company claims) spot when birds experience a body temperature spike, one of the symptoms of avian flu.

With all the furor over avian flu and the struggles to contain outbreaks, this seems like a good use of technology to target a real problem. While avian flu isn't the only thing to cause birds' temperatures to spike, this approach is an improvement on having to spot external symptoms to identify an outbreak: changes in beak color, sneezing, diarrhea, and sudden death. (Yes, sudden death is a symptom of avian flu. Who knew?)

Anti-Pollution Pigeons

The second story, GPS pigeons to fly smog-watch sorties, tells of using trained pigeons to monitor pollution over California. Beatriz da Costa is an interdisciplinary artist and researcher at the University of California at Irvine. The flock of twenty specially selected pigeons—equipped with GPS, air pollution sensors, and cameras—are scheduled to begin their surveillance mission in early August. I hope the researchers figure out how to fit all the gear into a small enough package for the birds; I read the story and had Monty Python flashbacks. Is this approach as useful as scanning for pollution from a satellite? That I don't know. I do know that I find the project very appealing and wish the researchers every success.

A Humorous Tangent

During my chicken research I discovered Savage Chickens, a Web site of cartoons of chickens drawn on post-it notes. While it has nothing to do with sensors it is very funny.

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