February 13, 2017

How to make herding cows easy with IoT

Bryan Hamilton_Head ShotBy Bryan S. Hamilton
Cloud Solution Architect
Arrow ECS

 

Imagine you have a herd of cows. Not just any herd of cows, but a BIG herd of cows. And imagine they are grazing on thousands of acres of land in the western plains. Sometimes they stray off your property. Sometimes they get sick, and you can’t find them. Herding, tracking and managing cows is like herding cats – it’s really hard to do!

But now in the age of the Internet of Things, herding cows and many other previously low-tech tasks have become easy!

Keeping Track of Bessie

As IoT and the cloud have become more pervasive, a new field has been developed called “agritech.” Agritech is defined as the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture with the aim of improving yield, efficiency and profitability. The SCR Dairy in Germanyy in Germany is one of the tech-savvy farms that has implemented a hardware and software digital tracking system for their dairy herds – all based on the Internet of Things. No longer do they have to search the farm to round up cattle. Now, via sensors, cellular connectivity and the cloud, technology is helping the farmers digitally track the cattle, monitor their health, reduce antibiotic use and generally provide better care for their cattle.

It’s all based on each animal having a special ID tag that allows it to be tracked and monitored. On Hemdale Farms in upstate New York, they collect thousands of data points daily that, together, provide an overall view of the health of a cow. If the animal’s profile is outside normal parameters, it’s added to a report the farmer can pull to see who is sick. Additionally, milk production has been increased by allowing the cows to “choose” when they would like to be milked, which has resulted in increased milking sessions. The same technology that tracks the cow’s health also tracks their readiness to be milked. All of the data is meticulously tracked in the cloud, and the farmer will know at all times where his cows are and what their condition is.

How It All Comes Together

How does IoT make this agritech technology work? First, the required field sensor devices that will generate data about the cattle are designed. As you can imagine, not only does this need to be a connected device, it also needs to be durable. And, speaking of connected, how do you connect thousands of cattle over thousands of acres to the internet? Current connectivity options include Long Range Wide Area Networks (LoRaWAN), Wi-Fi and LTE.

So now we have thousands of cattle over thousands of acres generating hundreds of thousands of messages about their location, health and other data points. This brings us to the next step in the process: collecting these data points and making them useful to the rancher.

The farmer will need an application to handle the collected data. Ideally, it will be accessible from desktop, tablet, smartphone or other mobile device. They’ll also need a middleware application to receive that data from the cattle and then sort, store and present it in the required format in the rancher’s application. Because this application of existing technology is so new, in most cases, a custom solution needs to be designed.

And finally, the farmer’s application needs to be hosted somewhere. SCR Dairy leverages Microsoft Azure cloud technology. It is a natural choice for this application given the need for geographically diverse, always available and scalable services.

Other Low-Tech Uses for IoT

As exemplified above, the cloud and IoT are not just for NASA, cybersecurity or air traffic controllers. IoT sensors can be used effectively for the most low-tech things in life, such as:

  • Detecting the sounds of chainsaws in protected rainforests
  • Monitoring the temperature of vaccines in hospital refrigerators
  • Alerting city services when a trash bin needs to be emptied
  • Keeping nursery plants fed based on their actual growing needs and conditions
  • Safeguarding the last 2,000 lions living in Southern Kenya
  • And, of course, keeping track of Bessie

The Art of the Possible

Sensors, actuators and networked intelligence are all working together beautifully now that we have the cloud and IoT. And then, when we layer the appropriate software on top, you have a well-oiled virtual machine that can result in huge cost savings, optimized operations and detailed reporting that was never available before.

Almost anything is possible now. If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.

Let Arrow “Moooove” You into the World of IoT

Governments, education, finance, transportation and, yes, cattle, are now being impacted by the Internet of Things. Are you ready to join Arrow in this leading edge of innovation? Contact us today at ECSCloudServices@arrow.com or 1.877.558.6677 to get mooooving.