Of Mice and Mobile Apps

The government wants new technology to keep cows cool and mice under observation.

Sure, there are 10 more months to go until Cow Appreciation Day rolls around again, but the Agriculture Department is trying to help farmers show appreciation every day with a new mobile app to protect cattle from the dangers of heat stress.

The proposed app will alert farmers when their cattle are likely to suffer heat stress based on an algorithm that includes temperature, wind speed, humidity and solar radiation and using data from the National Weather Service. The app will deliver forecast maps to Apple and Android devices, according to a notice on the RFP-EZ simplified contracting website

Looking for a contract less bovine? The National Institutes of Health is on the lookout for a video-based software system to analyze the motions of lab rats and mice that have been exposed to drugs or are suffering from neurological disorders.

The system should be able to pore through hours of video and spot subtle changes in behavior such as head dips, stretched postures, and differing ways rodents investigate certain objects, according to the solicitation posted on Wednesday.

The solicitation is a good example of how new techniques to extract useful information from unstructured data, such as video feeds, are changing the way the government and private sector pursue basic research and expanding the type and depth of information they can obtain.

The video analysis system must also be able to monitor rodents’ behavior when they’re swimming and running through mazes, the solicitation states, and must note when they’re acting aggressively, acting socially, fighting, chasing, staring at or sniffing each other.