Now here's an unexpected application of modern wireless technology: bovine reproduction. Swiss academics and farmers have come up with a new sensor system that can detect, with an accuracy rate of roughly 90 percent, when a cow is ready to mate — and then send out a text message alert. Relatively recent changes in dairy farming methods, including diet supplementation with extra protein and vitamins, have apparently been playing havoc with cows' metabolism and causing them extra stress, which has led to reduced reproductive activity. That's made it ever more critical for farmers to recognize every chance they have to successfully inseminate their cattle.

A company, Anemon, has been set up to try and commercialize this heat detector and take it to market next year. The technical details are relatively simple. A small thermometer is inserted into the cow's genitals and transmits its temperature to a collar-mounted unit that also measures motion — cows in heat also become restless, so the data is fed through an algorithm to calculate a given cow's reproductive readiness. Should it be deemed ready, a text message is sent out. The cost is expected to be around $1,400 per heat detector unit, leading local Swiss farmers to wonder if it would be worth it monetarily, but there appear to be few doubts about the tech's effectiveness.