A pocket-sized piece of ‘rugged’ technology, described by its makers as ‘much more than a smart phone’, is making its mark with farmers across the UK.
In addition to being shock, water and dustproof, reducing the need for frequent and costly repair or replacement, the flagship Cat phone, the Cat S61, features thermal imaging capability, laser-assisted distance measuring and an indoor air quality monitor.
Farmers are finding the ultra-durable, all-in-one tool, with its extended (12+ hours) battery life and in-built accessible technology, is helping them tackle daily challenges to make life on the farm a little easier.
The phone’s rugged qualities mean it is well suited to tough on-farm conditions. It’s built to survive being dropped on concrete or in a wet and muddy field, to handle the dusty conditions of harvest or withstand a power hose-down, with no ill effects, and it can be controlled with wet hands or while wearing gloves.
Farmers and growers report using the inbuilt thermal imaging technology for tasks such as locating hot spots in grain stores, confirming mastitis in dairy cattle, checking for hypothermia in lambs, and on-farm fault-finding such as drafts in sheds, or faulty machinery wiring and radiator leaks or blockages. With winter approaching, the phone may also be a useful tool for locating sheep lost in snow or in the dark.
The phone’s developers, Bullitt Group, said interest in the phone from visitors to the LAMMA machinery show, where it was being showcased, surpassed their expectations. After seeing demos of the phone, many visiting farmers suggested additional uses for the inbuilt thermal imaging camera, such as detecting weak spots in potato stores, surveying calves for pneumonia and investigating how it can assist growers in glasshouses.
Linda Summers, Bullitt Group’s Chief Marketing Officer said: “We were delighted with the interest in the Cat phone at LAMMA ’19. It was fantastic to receive such great input from farmers about how they felt the thermal imaging capabilities of the rugged S61 smartphone might help them with their work day-to-day. We will be following-up on a number of the suggestions for how this phone can be used on the farm.”
On-farm, sheep and arable farmer, Rob Hodgkins, who owns and runs the 1,700-acre Cherry Farm in Stevenage, Hertfordshire with his wife Jo, is one of the many farmers embracing technology to find new ways to improve efficiency and profitability. He uses the S61 and its built-in thermal imaging camera, which he says has assisted the monitoring of his 1,500 ewes and their lambs.
Rob’s story features in a short film made by the Cat phones. During the shoot, he was alerted via his local farmer WhatsApp group of a dog bothering the sheep and discovered a lamb had become separated from its mother at night.
Using the thermal camera on his phone to scan the area, footage shows the lamb clearly visible on its display as Rob searches in complete darkness. The lamb’s temperature was checked and the thermal camera revealed it to be in the early stages of hypothermia. This instant insight and diagnosis enabled Rob to act fast, preparing a direct glucose injection. He then used the thermal camera again to check the formulation was at the correct body temperature for the lamb.
Once treated, the lamb was kept indoors overnight; Rob was then able to successfully reunite it with its mother the following morning.
Rob said: “Technology is changing farming in a massive way. Thermal imaging tools – which a few years ago would have cost thousands of pounds – are now just in my pocket.”
Peter Stephens, CEO of Reading-based Bullitt Group, global mobile licensee for Caterpillar said: “We have been working with farmers around the UK to find out how they are using their Cat phones and they have told us that the rugged qualities are helping make life a little bit easier during a long day on the farm. We are going to continue working with the industry as we develop the Cat phone range’s capabilities – events like LAMMA give us a great opportunity to meet with farmers and hear their ideas.