By: Brittany Bevis
Following the news of its creation in April 2015, NIGHTWATCH™, an invention being touted as the World’s first smart halter, received considerable praise. Forbes Magazine described the wearable, biomedical tracking device as “game-changing,” stating “none of the [other] 16 wearables can do what NIGHTWATCH™ does.”
In layman’s terms, one might describe the device as a kind of Fitbit® for horses. But according to Founder and CEO of Protequus LLC, Jeffrey Schab, NIGHTWATCH is so much more. Relying on patent pending technology, NIGHTWATCH is a smart breakaway halter or safety collar that’s designed to monitor equine distress and wellness and will alert a horse owner via text, phone call, or email at the earliest signs of trouble.
How could a halter possibly do all that? The secret is embedded technology placed within the crown piece. “All technology (sensors, batteries, PCBs, etc) is contained within a water and dust-proof, flexible endoskeleton that’s embedded into the padded all-leather crown of either a breakaway smart halter or safety collar,” Schab says. “We use ultra-wide band impulse radar to measure the physical displacement of the microvasculature around the horse’s poll to obtain HR (heart rate) and changes in the soft tissue of the upper respiratory tract to obtain RR (respiration rate). There is no need to move our technology to obtain both vital signs simultaneously, unlike other wearables in development that require you to physically move the clip-on technology to various locations to obtain certain vitals.”
NIGHTWATCH then interprets the data by assessing an Equine Distress Index™ (EDI™), a scale ranging from 0 (no stress=normal) to 10 (high distress=alert). The proprietary scale incorporates a horse’s vital signs, posture, and actions indicative of stress such as pawing, kicking, rising/falling, rolling, or thrashing. When a user-defined threshold has been reached, a wireless alert is sent.
Thanks to its cellular and Wi-Fi network capabilities, NIGHTWATCH remotely sends real-time data directly to your phone, computer, and smartphone application for further in-depth analysis. Perhaps one of the most exciting features is the halter’s ability to adapt to an individual horse over time “learning” their own unique patterns of behavior, which helps to differentiate between what’s normal and what might indicate distress such as colic or becoming cast.
NIGHTWATCH needs to be recharged every 5-7 days with a charge cycle estimated at 3-4 hours.
Also, a very exciting innovation is expected to be available by the 2017 foaling season. A specific algorithm for foaling is under production. In the meantime, NIGHTWATCH may still be of use on broodmares because the technology will detect changes in activity, motion, and posture that could be indicative of foaling.
How is NIGHTWATCH different from other health trackers?
“Our primary goal is simple,” Schab says. “We want to improve survival and quality of life outcomes in horses through earlier intervention of acute equine distress such as colic and stall casting.”
What makes NIGHTWATCH different from other wearables is its automatic alerts, cellular connectivity, adaptive learning, and integrated design. Instead of simply providing data that you must then interpret yourself, NIGHTWATCH operates much like an ADT system and will automatically alert you when it senses a problem. Also, many traditional wearables rely on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi alone, limiting their practicality. NIGHTWATCH uses integrated cellular connectivity and GPS technology so you can monitor your horse whether he is turned out in a large pasture or in a horse trailer on the way to a horse show anywhere in the US or Canada.
Inspiration rises from personal tragedy
NIGHTWATCH has been described as a “labor of love” by Schab. Inspiration for the invention came about after he and his partner, Wade Giles, lost their beloved eight-year-old horse, “Snoop,” to an overnight colic episode. Following the horse’s death, Schab relied on his knowledge as a biomedical engineer with 15+ years of experience in human healthcare to create a product that could make a real difference in the horse industry.
“We are passionate horse people solving real problems for horse people… we aren’t creating noise,” he says. “We are motivated by a personal and tragic loss determined to set the new reference standard within the equine industry.”
Online pre-orders for the NIGHTWATCH halter/smart collar have now begun, and widespread distribution in the US and Canada is expected by the summer of 2016.