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IBM to Host RFID Cattle Tracking Solution

TekVet LLC, a Utah-based developer of agricultural technology, has selected IBM to host and manage the data centers for its RFID-based cattle tracking and temperature monitoring system. The livestock tracking system allows cattle producers and investors to remotely monitor animal location via the Internet in real time.
Aug 24, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

August 24, 2006—TekVet LLC, a Utah-based developer of agricultural technology, has selected IBM to host and manage the data centers for its RFID-based cattle tracking and temperature monitoring system.

TekVet (formerly known as COLT Technologies) developed its TekSensor devices in 2003. The livestock tracking system allows cattle producers and investors to remotely monitor animal location via the Internet in real time. Unlike traditional cattle tracking systems, however, the TekVet solution also tracks core body temperature. Using temperature data, owners can monitor the health of the herd, and medicate or quarantine sick animals much earlier than would otherwise be possible. This can lower the cost of care and increase the profit-per-animal for feedlot operators.

IBM will provide worldwide hardware support and maintenance, storage, helpdesk services, security management and network support.

TekVet has already chosen a hosting site for its initial U.S. launch, and has made contact with IBM's Argentina branch for its planned expansion into Latin America.

The TekSensor is based on 413 MHz active RFID technology, and includes a flexible thermometer. Attached to the ear of a cow, it can transmit data from between 300 and 500 feet to wireless receiving stations on the producer's lot. The data is then transported via a private satellite network to TekVet's data center, where IBM System x servers will process information for millions of cattle at a time. The system also includes the TekVet network infrastructure and application software.

Although most existing cattle tracking systems utilize passive RFID, TekVet is one of a number of companies promoting active RFID for these applications. Active tags typically cost more but don't require livestock to come in close proximity to a reader.

"Active RFID has a much greater range than current passive technology," says Tali Haleua, president of TekVet. "We're dealing with a very unique product here; a cow has a mind of its own, and it wanders. With our mesh networking technology, we can cover a large area (which would be typical of a feedlot scenario) and provide constant monitoring.

"If you are monitoring the health of the animal on top of the historical tracking, then you are only capturing the animal's temperature when they come into a high-traffic area like a feed trough, where readers are typically located in a passive RFID system," he adds. "The problem with that is that sick animals do not eat or drink, and they usually stay away from those congested areas."

The $20 tags have been redesigned with a more rugged casing and longer lasting battery. According to the company, they can be used in as many as six different animals over a two-year period. As TekVet expands into other regions of the world, Haleua says they will migrate to 433 MHz RFID technology, which is more widely accepted for RFID applications in Europe and Asia.

TekVet is also developing sensors that can monitor blood pH, heart rate and other vital signs. "We're still in the research and development phase on those capabilities," Haleua says. "We focused on core body temperature first, because that's the one key feature that normally represents the first signs of sickness."

The company will also test the product for use with swine, goats and other types of livestock.

In May, TekVet announced that it had signed deals with major feedlot operations in Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah, as well as several foreign producers, to implement the system. According to Haleua, the company expects to deliver between three and five million tags in the next four to eight weeks. The company has contracted Nationwide Electronics Inc. in Florida as its manufacturing partner.

"Right now, demand for the product is our biggest challenge," Haleua says.

The company has also established a TekVet System Research and Development Grant Program to provide education and non-profit research institutions free TekVet Systems for research efforts with beef, dairy and other large livestock animals. Utah State University's College of Agriculture was the first announced recipient.

Read the announcement from IBM and TekVet
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