Digital transformation (DX) is the adaptation of digital technology, the transformation of services and business processes to replace manual or outdated non-digital processes. However, DX is much more than the integration of digital technology. DX might even move technology and processes to the edge of what is currently possible, the last mile where technologies meets, where process collide. An area for any business destined for improvements.
But what has that to do with the equine world?
DX takes place in other areas, not just high-tech; the veterinary world is just one example. Technology has been used to monitor performance during horse racing for years, but with DX in addition, opportunities seem endless to improve equine health and wellbeing. Although it might mean to walk away from more traditional thinking or long-standing processes, there are advantages that can only be realised by taking DX seriously. DX might be simply a piece of technology such as a sensor, or it could be a piece of software to monitor heart rate or data analysis presented in real time. The ability to adapt quickly is one of the challenges in business, but also one that can be addressed by DX; the equine world is no exception.
There are only a few animals close to humans that represent beauty, agility, strength and sometimes freedom quite in the same way as horses do. Although the place and role of horses has changed over hundreds or even thousands of years, horses have demonstrated their adaptability from farm worker to athletes. But did technology advance with them in a similar way?
Example: pressure sensors
For a long time, humans “experimented” with different types of saddles, but without taking into account the horse’s comfort, health and agility. The somewhat heavy and more sturdy western saddle for example could weigh up to 30kg, in contrast the traditional English saddle is lighter and more flexible. However, most saddles were made with the rider in mind; they were designed to provide comfort for the rider and the ability to control the horse with ease, sometimes for going long distances. But what about the horse?
With DX taking place, new technology in the form of pressure sensors has been developed, allowing measurements with greater accuracy and in a timely manner. At long last, it will be possible to determine whether a saddle fits too tightly putting unnecessary pressure on the horses back and making it uncomfortable; or checking the saddle is only using a fraction of its surface creating undesirable effects. However you look at it, getting a better understanding of the optimal fit will benefit the rider as well as the horse leading to a much better partnership.
Example: 3D printing
Another example is 3D printing. The 3D printing process creates a three-dimensional “object” by building successive layers of “objects” produced for example by CAD (computer-aided design) drawing or an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Image). 3D printing is already widely used in healthcare for example by dentists to create crowns in a fraction of the time it takes a lab relying only on manual labour. The flexibility of 3D printing allows the alteration of the final “object” more simply. Personal devices are another good example for 3D printing as these devices can be matched to each patient’s physique.
But how might 3D printing benefit the equine world?
3D printing could be used to create bespoke horseshoes where accuracy is of higher importance than speed of application. 3D printing would enable a farrier to create horseshoes on the fly with minor alterations possible even on the day. Perfectly fitted, lightweight racing shoes made (for example) from Titanium are already been produced. Other areas of application would be for bone substitutions, a welcome change to the historic euthanasia in the case when a horse suffers an unfortunate bone fracture.
Digital Transformation (DX) is not only happening in high-tech companies, it will have an impact on many businesses. DX will help in many areas such as Regulatory Information Management via sensors to 3D printing by expanding via the use of leading-edge technology and processes to improve everybody’s life, including that of horses.