Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

GA, 1248 launch farm-animal health-monitoring service

Iain Morris
May 28, 2014
Farmers are being offered a service that lets them monitor the welfare of pigs, poultry and other livestock, providing early warnings of transmitted diseases to prevent infections from spreading.

Developed by General Alert (GA) (Saffron Walden, UK) – which specializes in the use of sensors and monitoring technology on farms – and M2M database developer 1248 (Cambridge, UK), the service gathers data from multiple sensors on parameters such as temperature, drinking water flow, animal feed rate and humidity.

Using in-vivo RFID and temperature tags implanted in pigs, the technology effectively turns the animal into one of the ‘things’ that make up the Internet of Things (IoT), say the companies.

The service should ultimately help farmers to manage productivity and health and wellbeing, as well as improve operational efficiency.

Used on a national and international level, it would also be able to provide early warning of diseases such as foot-and-mouth, which can cause devastating livestock and financial loss.

The GA system uses a large number of sensors, each of which collects thousands or millions of readings via the mobile phone network or internet.

These can then be stored and queried to provide meaningful and useful information.

A change in drinking behavior, for instance, could indicate illness or a source of animal stress that could be quickly resolved.

“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, the 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.”

“We are already working closely with veterinary, agricultural research and farm management companies and looking to expand the range of applications,” added Dodge.

The service uses a 1248-developed database technology called Geras, which is based on open standards and accepts data “trickling in” from many devices.

“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, 1248’s chief executive. “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.”
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