Animal Tracking: Cellular IoT In The Field

By Kristoffer Rist Skøien October 30, 2019

connected-farming-field

The introduction of cellular IoT technology has helped transform animal tracking solutions from a nice-to-have to an efficient solution that will save farmers time and money.

Since we declared 2019 to be the year of cellular IoT, we have been on the lookout for interesting use cases. Farming and agriculture seem well suited for an IoT-led transformation, and given its inherent long-range requirements, cellular is a perfect match. Now, we are starting to see exciting devices come to market.

Taking animal tracking to the next level

There is little new about tracking herds of animals via tags. Previous iterations of the technology have often been large and heavy, and needed to be hung around the necks of cattle or other animals. Needless to say, this is not a cost effective solution for many use cases.

Thanks to low-cost, small cellular IoT technology, things are changing. Finnish startup company Anicare has launched a tracking device that can be attached to an animal’s ear.

Read more: Smarter Farming with Connected Cattle

The benefits are many, from reduced physical impact on the animal to lower cost and reduced resource usage. Other solutions may require the setup of a custom base station or gateway to communicate with the tags in the field. By using the nRF9160, coverage is provided using existing cellular infrastructure.

Perhaps best of all, the Anicare Healtag also monitors the health of the animal, not just the location.

New possibilities for health monitoring

By using Nordic’s multimode cellular IoT module to send data to the Cloud, the herd can be remotely monitored and any animal that requires treatment can be quickly identified and located. Despite its small size, the tag incorporates both an accelerometer and thermal sensor to measure activity and temperature on an hourly basis. Any significant changes can indicate illness, injuries or possibly a predator attack. Such changes are reported via NB-IoT, with GPS providing location information.

There are also time and cost savings thanks to the low-power nature of this device. Previous tag solutions often consumed significant power, resulting in frequent battery changes. The low energy consumption of Nordic’s compact nRF9160 system-in-package contributes to the Anicare Healtag offering a battery lifetime of up to two years.

The business case for connected farming

Managing hundreds or even thousands of animals with limited time and resources presents a severe challenge to livestock farmers. As modern farmers have to rear more animals to make a profit, the reduced personal attention may result in health issues going unidentified and untreated. This is not desired from an animal welfare nor a financial perspective.

Connected farming may also aid in determining the cause of animal casualties. Using the last known position allows farmers to find perished individuals and determine cause of death. This may aid in reducing fatalities and simplify reporting to the government for statistics and compensation purposes.

In all these cases, cellular IoT-enabled solutions such as Anicare’s Healtag can make a real difference.

 

Get started with cellular IoT - the nRF9160 SiP

 

Topics: cellular IoT


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By: Kristoffer Rist Skøien

Kristoffer is a Senior R&D Engineer at Nordic Semiconductor. His main responsibility is embedded firmware development in the Applications department. He holds a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in cybernetics from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

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