Remote sensing in agriculture is not new, it dates back decades. But recent technological advances in smart sensors and wireless networks are bringing new levels of monitoring into raising livestock.
In particular, deploying sensor networks to remotely monitor horses, indoors or outdoors, can help prevent illness and reduce costs in equine management. For Spanish technology start-up company EOIT, remote sensing presents a new business opportunity featuring horses, stables and equine management.
The horse industry plays a part in national, state and local economies in Europe, North America and South America. The equine sector is diverse, involving agriculture, business, sport, gaming, recreation, medicine, and generating specialised skills and general employment across the board. Breeding, competition and leisure activities involving horses are important business concerns, and while horses are no longer used for primary transport they remain important assets.
In the EU, at least 6.4 million people practice equine sports – two percent of the population of member countries. The region counts over 4.4 million horses, or about 12 horses per thousand habitants.
In Spain, horses have long played a vital role in building cities and extending empires. Iberian sport horses figure among the most talented, popular breeds and today train and compete in elite events all over the world.
WSN: Monitoring horses and equine farm management
Seeing opportunity in an under-served market, Asier Gonzalez Gomez and a fellow engineer co-founded EOIT, one of a cluster of new technology start-ups from a programme sponsored by the Basque provincial council. EOIT, an acronym for “Eyes on Inspiring Technology,” is an entrepreneurial company that views wireless sensor networks (WSN) as an opportunity for technology to improve agriculture, at a local level and internationally.
Harnessing technology with sensor nodes, connecting agriculture and technology for cost benefits and energy savings
EOIT developed Smart Horse – an integrated technology platform that uses wireless sensor networks to monitor horses’ health, to control the condition of barns and stables, and generate alerts in real time. Smart Horse is part of a Smart Farm application that brings together sensor data collection, alerts, and data analysis for use with other information management systems.
An avid equestrian, Asier used his background in telephony, information technology (IT), to create an equine monitoring system for use in horse stables, to monitor horses’ condition and fitness from anywhere in the world. Sensor nodes and wireless networks would provide surveillance automation for barns, outbuildings, and paddocks.
Smart Horse and Smart Farm are modular solutions, allowing EOIT to propose a complete operating system for equine farm management, to combine sensors with wireless communications. “I wanted to work with horses and saw a way to put electronics and telecommunications into play on IT projects that reach the equine market,” said Asier.
Waspmote: Connecting sensors to the Cloud
Using Libelium’s Waspmote allowed EOIT to focus on the Smart Horse and Smart Farm applications, rather than spending time and money on trial-and-error design and hardware development. “We compared various solutions and narrowed down our choices. All of Libelium’s awards for their hardware meant that they were doing something really well,” said Asier.
Stable owners and equine facility operations are interested in horse monitoring and facility monitoring to save costs, save water and save energy. High technology and low power sensors add business value to the horse business, and to livestock industry in a number of ways.
Applied to horse management, Smart Horse offers a mix of applications for health care monitoring, sports training, asset tracking, as well as data collection and analysis.
Smart Horse – how it works
Smart Horse is based on Waspmote OEM and includes up to six calibrated sensors, to measure temperature, humidity, water flow, liquid levels, door and window open/close status. The sensor nodes collect, transmit and can store data. For Asier, the principal advantage of building EOIT’s product line on Waspmote was the fast time to market it afforded for the project: “Libelium technology is well documented, and Waspmote is based on Arduino pin-out so it was easy to learn and set up.”
Energy management was one of several chief requirements for the system: Waspmote nodes are ultra low power devices that can be installed anywhere in the horse facilities, indoors or outdoors. The modularity of Waspmote, in terms of sensor integration and radio connectivity, allowed EOIT to provide a final product to their customers in a short period, with sensor networks up and running quickly, and capable of sending alerts as needed.
For Horse Mote to identify any abnormal behaviour, biometric sensors are placed on the horse’s body to monitor sweat, position/movement, pressure, heart rate. Libelium e-Health sensor platform is a good alternative for such biometric parameters monitoring projects, but EOIT decided not to use it in this particular case due to they needed specific sensors for big animals.
With Box Mote, environmental sensor nodes collect and transmit data from their position in the stall, in the barn, in the veterinary hospital.
The encapsulated sensors monitor temperature, humidity, water levels, status of doors and gates or other controls. The nodes connect wirelessly with an Internet gateway; values and results are easily read on an end-user application for real-time control of the sensing parameters.