Sprint Accelerator welcomes connected cars and connected cows to Kansas City

HerdDogg’s round blue DoggTag in this cow’s ear takes the animal’s temperature, tracks its activity and relays the information, along with other data, using Bluetooth technology.
HerdDogg’s round blue DoggTag in this cow’s ear takes the animal’s temperature, tracks its activity and relays the information, along with other data, using Bluetooth technology. HerdDogg Inc.

Connected cars and connected cows arrive in Kansas City on Monday as the newest Sprint Accelerator class starts its intensive three-month program.

This marks Sprint’s fourth year working with startup businesses to help them speed their development. The first three classes involved Techstars, which now has its own accelerator in Kansas City. Their joint effort had attracted 10 companies with a mobility focus to Kansas City each year.

Sprint Accelerator’s 2017 class has seven members and two themes — digital transformation and ag-tech. Kansas City-based Dairy Farmers of America has teamed with Sprint to work with the startups.

One of those is HerdDogg Inc., a Colorado company that sells ear tags for livestock. The devices are Bluetooth-enabled DoggTag ear tags. They track an animal’s temperature and activity (by counting its steps, really), as well as its environment.

“You often hear about the Fitbit for cows,” HerdDogg founder and CEO Melissa Brandao said. “We legitimately fit into that category.”

In addition to collecting biometric data on cattle with the tags, HerdDogg tackles the job of rounding up that data.

The 2017 Sprint Accelerator brings in new corporate sponsors including the Dairy Farmers of America. It also seeks more-established startups than in years past.

It does that with DoggBone, another Bluetooth device it sells. Dairy farmers and ranchers can set a DoggBone near the entrance to a milk barn or at the water trough for livestock. As each animal passes within 30 feet, DoggBone collects and stores the data from the DoggTags.

Later, the farmer or rancher can use a smartphone to retrieve the data from either a DoggBone or at any time from an individual animal’s DoggTag. The company also has put DoggBone on a drone to remotely monitor free-range livestock.

From the cow’s perspective, its unobtrusive. No need to capture, confine or restrain the animal to get its information.

“This is what’s magical about what we do,” Brandao said. “They don’t even know anything is going on with them.”

Humans, however, will know a lot. An animal’s temperature may be elevated, but DoggTag also tests the temperature outdoors to know it’s a 90-degree day. A DoggBone near a tagged animal’s water source will reveal that it is not drinking, a sign of possible health issues.

Brandao said working with Dairy Farmers of American and the accelerator program will allow her and David “Duppy” Proctor, the chief technology officer, to take a “deep dive” with customers. She sees HerdDogg’s offering as a great product ready for refinement to better meet users’ needs.

Brandao also said she is excited to experience Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and work with the other companies at the accelerator.

“I think its going to be a lot of fun,” she said. “We’ve got a really good group.”

One of the other companies is Michael Chow’s DART Technologies Inc. Instead of roaming the range for data, it navigates the streets of New York with DART Discover.

Chow describes DART Discover as providing a hyper-local media platform for connected vehicles.

In practice, it has involved mounting an iPad in the back of taxi cabs and ride-share vehicles. The iPads run only DART’s app that streams information for riders.

Tell the app where you’re heading, and it will offer content keyed on that location, including interactive billboards and a directory of retail venues at that locale. Its suggestions also consider the time of day, the day of the week and the weather, Chow said. Think of a tip on a restaurant near your destination that is offering hot soup on a chilly, raining day.

DART Discover also offers programming, including one- or two-minute video clips and online content from ESPN.

All of it, Chow said, is designed to be interactive with the rider.

Chow said the iPads came from the Sprint store in Manhattan’s Flatiron Building, which is up the street from where he lives, and run on Sprint data connections. He started working with Sprint “because they’re investing pretty interestingly in the New York market in that 5G spectrum.”

5G is an emerging high-speed wireless technology aimed at serving new uses of internet connections, such as cars that drive themselves. It relies in part on a more dense array of cell sites, for example adding small cells to an existing network of cellular towers, and other technologies.

DART Technologies already operates what Chow said is a profitable digital studio. It helps client businesses with digital marketing and creates apps for them. It also creates apps for DART Technologies.

Chow sees the Sprint Accelerator in part as a rare opportunity to expand the strategic relationship between tiny DART and gigantic Sprint. DART would benefit from a point person to navigate Sprint’s complex of businesses, from its mobile data company, Pinsight Media, and its in-house advertising agency, Yellow Fan Studios, to its product team and others.

Other companies in the 2017 accelerator program:

▪ AgVoice, Atlanta, provides a mobile, voice-interaction service for food and agriculture professionals.

▪ My Dairy Dashboard, Frisco, Texas, aggregates data on herds, feed, milk and weather through a visual dashboard to make dairy decisions better and faster.

▪ TradeLanes, Miami, digitizes and automates the supply chain for shippers, merchants and traders.

▪ Centiment, New York, is an advertising platform that uses second-generation artificial intelligence to analyze emotion, going beyond current sentiment analysis.

▪ Oodles Rewards, Austin, Texas, is a marketing and analytics platform connecting brands and retailers with local shoppers.

Mark Davis: 816-234-4372, @mdkcstar