What started out as a project to help home brewers in Wollongong keep their beer fresh may be about to help save rhinos from extinction.

Binary Beer’s world-first technology – in collaboration with the Digital Living Lab, using the Internet of Things to track beer kegs – has come a very long way since it was founded by Michael Burton at the end of 2016.

Almost from the start, the project attracted intense interest from some of the world’s biggest brewers as the first device to measure location, temperature and how full the keg is.

Each smart keg is fitted with a durable sensor that includes an innovative audio transducer on the keg and wireless technology that allows it to transmit live data over great distances.

Phil O’Shea, Michael Burton and James Ruel

But a trip to Kenya in March is opening new possibilities well beyond the brewing industry.

“We were drawn to Kenya because their largest telco had just rolled out a world-leading Internet of Things network,” Mr Burton, a University of Wollongong graduate in electronics and computer science, said.

“We were contacted by a distributor looking for a solution to track kegs for a large African brewer, but it’s now turning out to be a really good partnership between the telco, the distributor and Binary Beer with many opportunities on the horizon.”

Mr Burton is now is in discussion with his distributor to explore other uses for the Smart Keg technology, and the idea of tagging rhinos to learn their migration paths and reduce human-animal conflict is now under consideration.

“We’re not considering this for publicity or for profit, but because it would be very rewarding to see our technology used for humanitarian purposes” Mr Burton said.

“Asset tracking is nothing new – it’s been used for a long time on high value items to track where they are and how they are being treated.

“What is new is that we can now do this far cheaper than before, thanks to the Internet of Things and initiatives like the Digital Living Lab, coupled with technologies like LoRaWAN and NB-IoT, which make it possible to track all sorts of things – from beer to rhinos.”

Binary Beer is currently working with Vodafone, Australia’s leading IoT provider and engaging with their global network of enterprise customers who are looking to use the network unlock new business opportunities.

Binary Beer operates out of the iAccelerate facility at the University of Wollongong and has developed their wireless technology with assistance from the Digital Living Lab with an IoT network provided free by the SMART Infrastructure Facility at the University.

The company is aiming to expand into Canada and Mr Burton is flying to Europe next month to visit the Vodafone headquarters and investigate expansion possibilities.

“Binary Beer is quickly becoming an IoT company with a global vision that goes beyond beer,” Mr Burton said. “We will lead the Smart Kegs revolution and continue to expand, but we will never forget that love for beer is what started it all”.