The Internet of Pigs

27 May 2014
By Edd Gent
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In-vivo RFID and temperature tags planted in the pigs effectively turn them into connected devices on the IoT network

In-vivo RFID and temperature tags planted in the pigs effectively turn them into connected devices on the IoT network

Internet of Things (IoT) technology is providing real-time information from sensors implanted in pigs to improve their welfare and predict disease.

British firm General Alert (GA), a pioneer in the use of sensors and monitoring technology on farms, is using an IoT database and publishing solution made by Cambridge company 1248 to collect data from multiple sensors to manage the productivity, health and wellbeing of pig farms’ livestock.

In-vivo RFID and temperature tags planted in the pigs effectively turn them into connected devices on the IoT network and this information is combined with feeds from sensors capturing data on air temperature, drinking water flow, animal feed rate, humidity, CO2 concentration, ammonia levels and pH.

Changes in these metrics can help farmers spot problems before they become serious, for example, a change in drinking behaviour could indicate illness or some other source of animal stress that can be resolved quickly before it spreads.

“Rising global population and standards of living are increasing the pressure on food-animal production, which leads to an increased requirement to manage animal productivity, health and wellbeing effectively,” said Chris Dodge, IT director at GA.

“Sensors, electronics and communications technologies have reached a price point that is making it possible to deploy IoT systems that deliver real commercial benefit.”

As well as increasing the efficiency and productivity of farms, the technology could provide early warning of diseases such as foot-and-mouth by monitoring data on a national or even international level.

But the GA system uses a very large number of sensors, each collecting thousands or millions of readings via the mobile phone network or Internet, which need to be stored and queried to provide meaningful and useful information.

To deal with this the company has employed 1248’s Geras service – a piece of infrastructure which solves a common IoT problem based on open standards. It accepts data trickling in from many devices, stores it and then allows applications to quickly answer high-level questions from it.

“Geras is designed to allow companies like General Alert to focus on what they do best – in this case, developing and deploying livestock technology,” said Pilgrim Beart, CEO at 1248.

“Companies looking to rapidly harness the opportunities presented by the IoT need to partner with experienced providers who understand how to build scalable architectures and are committed to open standards.”

GA’s Dodge said the firm is working closely with veterinary, agricultural research and farm management companies to expand the range of applications, and that Geras is a “core building block” of their service.

He added: “1248’s founders are well known in the IoT area, with a track record of successful companies, including sensor related work, which gave us the confidence to base aspects of our infrastructure on Geras.”

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