U.S. technology company HerdDogg has released a suite of livestock tracking solutions designed to provide ranch operators with remote health and location data for the cattle in their herd. The range includes three ‘DoggTag®’ smart tags—‘TraceTag™’, ‘YardTag’ and ‘WelfareTag®’—as well as the ‘DoggBone®’ gateway which relays the smart tag data to a Cloud platform for review by ranch management.
The smart tags are applied to the ear of an animal using a standard tag applicator and record its proximity to the gateway at specific times. Ranchers can then use the data to determine, for example, if or when an animal visits a feed trough or a watering location, as well as maintain a location-based inventory of their herd. If an animal fails to visit a feed trough it could be a sign that the animal is unwell or of potential theft, for instance. The WelfareTag also includes temperature and light sensors as well as a MEMS accelerometer to record data about animal behavior. This data is gathered several times an hour and is stored in the smart tag’s memory until it can be relayed to the Cloud when the animal is next within range of the DoggBone gateway. This data can be used for estrus detection—identifying when a female animal is ready for breeding—as well as for health alerts for apparent lameness, fever or Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD).
The TraceTag and YardTag smart tags are powered by Nordic’s nRF52833 SoC, while the WelfareTag device employs the advanced nRF52840 SoC. The Nordic SoCs provide Bluetooth LE wireless connectivity between the tags and the gateway at a distance of up to 90 meters in standard operation. The nRF52840 SoC’s powerful 64 MHz Arm® Cortex® M4 processor with floating point unit (FPU) also supervises the WelfareTag’s sensors and accelerometer, while its generous 1 MB Flash provides ample memory to store the data until an animal moves within range of the gateway.
The DoggBone gateway employs two U-Blox BMD345 modules—which integrate the nRF52840 SoC as well as a Skyworks PA/LNA—to provide the long range wireless connectivity between the gateway and the smart tags. The nRF52840 SoC’s radio architecture with on-chip PA provides -95 dBm RX sensitivity (at 1 Mbps in Bluetooth LE mode), a maximum output power of 8dBm, and a total link budget of 103 dBm. In the U-Blox module the SoC’s sensitivity is boosted by the Skyworks PA/LNA to increase the link budget and further boost the module’s range. From the gateway, the data is relayed to the Cloud using cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity, where from the Web platform or app, users can access the data.
“The HerdDogg platform uses machine learning algorithms to help identify animals which may be in distress and alert the rancher,” says Jonathan Moyes, Vice President of Product Engineering at HerdDogg. “This allows them to take better care of their animals, and also turn a larger profit.
“The industry standard for animal tags is RFID, which requires the reader to be in very close proximity to the tag, and can provide only identification information. DoggTags provide this same functionality, but at a much greater range, as well as providing animal welfare, health, and location information.”
The tags each employ a CR2477 Lithium battery, and can last for up to five years between battery replacements (depending on the solution). This is thanks in part to the ultra low power operating characteristics of the Nordic nRF52840 and nRF52833 SoCs that have been engineered to minimize power consumption with a fully-automatic power management system.
“The awesome low power consumption and long range capabilities of the Nordic SoCs were a major selling point for us,” says Moyes. “Also our team has worked with Nordic technology for a long time and the company has the best support I’ve encountered among any of the Bluetooth LE chip companies. This made us very comfortable selecting Nordic as our partner.”