Livestock and wildlife tracker monitors animals over long distances using Bluetooth LE and Nordic range extender


iSiTech’s iSi-TAG uses Nordic’s nRF52840 SoC and nRF21540 RF FEM to relay location and vital signs of animals over long range

South African company, iSiTech has launched a smart animal tracking and management system that is designed to combat livestock theft and wildlife poaching as well remotely monitor animal health and behavior. The ‘iSi-TAG’ devices are easily applied to the ears of livestock and wildlife and are equipped with temperature and movement sensors as well as GPS.

Once attached to the animal’s ear, the iSi-Tag device employs Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52840 advanced multiprotocol SoC to not only supervise the on-board sensors but also to relay the data using Bluetooth® Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) wireless connectivity to the ‘iSi-Gateway’, which in turn transfers the data to the Cloud and a web-based platform where farmers or conservation agencies can review the data. 

Battery life was a critical factor behind our decision to use the nRF52840 SoC
Diana Cezar, iSiTech

PA/LNA offers extended range

In addition to the nRF52840 SoC, the device also integrates a nRF21540 RF Front End Module (FEM), Nordic’s power amplifier/low noise amplifier (PA/LNA) solution for applications demanding extended range. The addition of the FEM offers a highly adjustable TX power boost up to +21 dBm, with the LNA providing +13 dB RX gain, enabling the device to relay data from the tag to a gateway over a line-of-sight distance of up to 3 km, according to the company. A series of gateways can be mesh-networked together to extend coverage further, or the solution is also available in a LoRaWAN version that provides range of up to 20 km.

From the web-based platform, users can set-up geofencing of feeding areas with go and no-go zones, as well as review captured sensor data to provide alerts if the animal’s behavior is indicative of any issues. For example, low movement could indicate illness, or if it is outside of the set boundary, the animal may be lost or have been stolen. The system can be configured to provide customized ‘real time’ alerts to the user’s smartphone, PC or tablet for rapid response to emergency situations.

Harvested solar energy

The tags are powered by harvested solar energy, and can last for more than five days without charge even when transmitting data every two minutes, thanks in part to the ultra low power operating characteristics of the Nordic nRF52840 SoC. The nRF52840 has been engineered to minimize power consumption with a fully-automatic power management system.

“Battery life was a critical factor behind our decision to use the nRF52840 SoC in this application,” says Diana Cezar, CEO of iSiTech. “It enabled us to offer a transmission frequency every two minutes, when competitive solutions are every one or two hours. As such iSi-TAG is the lowest power consumption, longest range Bluetooth LE animal tracking solution on the market. 

“Further, the stability and ease of integration of Nordic products is excellent, as are the development tools and reference designs, ensuring a quick route to market. As a result, we have decided to do all our future development using Nordic’s Bluetooth LE solutions.”