Cattle Tracking Challenge Accepted: Connecting New Mexico Cows and Desert Ranches with Abeeway

featured image for cattle tracking

THE ACTILITY BLOG

Cattle Tracking Challenge Accepted: Connecting New Mexico Cows and Desert Ranches with Abeeway

July 23, 2019 | written by ALAYKKA FOWLER

Globally, there is a widening gap between the supply and demand for livestock products as consumption increases (particularly in developing regions) while productivity levels are dwindling. In order to address this disparity, ranchers all over the world have chosen to integrate cattle tracking and management systems into their operations.

cattle tracking with abeeway

These do not only guide them in ensuring that they are able to tackle the growing global demand but also guarantee livestock productivity and security as herd sizes increase. IoT is one of the main players in enhancing ranch efficiency and productivity through reducing manual work and providing devices and platforms for better farm management.

In New Mexico, the dairy and beef industry make up the highest food-related cash receipts. But livestock businesses can face a lot of risks especially when it comes to tracking the overall state of cattle. For this reason, ranch owners recognize the need to implement effective monitoring of their herd and protect them from unanticipated events, such as theft, sickness, and malnutrition.

The explosion of innovation across tech industries presents endless opportunities for sectors, like the cattle industry, to address their problems.  One solution that people in this field turn to is using connected devices. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how New Mexico State University (NMSU) and USDA ARS Jornada Experimental Range (USDA ARS JER) are helping ranchers solve and prevent problems in cattle tracking using Abeeway’s IoT tracking devices  and Actility’s LoRaWAN connectivity.

‘The struggle is real’

Ensuring close cattle tracking is a challenge for most ranchers as a sizeable amount of cows roam in vast areas, especially when the feeding style is free range.

In Southwestern America, ranches house up to 7,000 cows and span for about 10,000 to 20,000 hectares. Some of them even cover up to 90,000 hectares of land. For this reason, it is quite difficult to not only pinpoint the location of their cattle, but also knowing the state of their health and water supply.

The distance is so wide that sometimes cars cannot access them which is why ranchers resort to riding horses to check on the cattle. At the same time, they must spend a lot of time doing so because it can take them half a day searching for the herd in wide areas. Additionally, they need to regularly check the drinking water levels in the dedicated water tanks for the cows since a huge part of Southwestern ranches are deserts.

This prevents them from dehydration leading to health complications. Moreover, they also have to monitor rainfall levels in order to monitor grass growth in ranch areas.

cattle tracking abeeway screenshot
cattle tracking and monitoring screenshot

Initial Steps

With these challenges in mind, New Mexico State University and USDA ARS Jornada Experimental Range decided to create a Smart Ranch System to address the issues. Specifically, they are searching for a complete off-the-shelf solution especially built for ranchers, which includes LoRaWAN-based cattle tracking, water level sensors with automated water stations, temperature sensors, gateways and network management, a dashboard, and beta-test funding. On top of this, they intend to implement data analytics for them to analyze cattle behaviour and ranch space usage. They will also use the data they will gather for their research in understanding animal behaviour and the usage of ranch land.

Case in point, they want to provide ranchers the accessibility to a complete-packaged solution to manage their ranches and reap the benefits.

NMSU and USDA ARS JER primarily piloted a research and development project for cattle monitoring on a ranch that they own. They have been using classic GPS devices to monitor the herd for 15 years for research purposes. The problem that they faced was their inability to see the location of the animals in real-time caused by a lack of cellular range. Nevertheless, these trackers stored movement data which they manually checked after some time.

Since they were not satisfied with this solution, especially with the work-around that they had to do, they experimented with different devices and packages. They needed a tool that exhibited a battery life of at least 6 or 7 months, ideally a year, and offered excellent location precision at 1 to 5 meters. This system that they are trying to put in place now is not just for research but for ranch management purposes as well.

The LoRaWAN Cattle Tracking Solution

From what started as a research and development project for cattle tracking and monitoring, NMSU and USDA ARS JER decided to test the Abeeway Low Power Location Trial Package on a ranch that belongs to them. Just recently, they eventually received a government grant that will enable them to implement the system in commercial ranches in the next 5 years. Due to its long-range, wide area nature, LoRaWAN was the obvious connectivity choice for this project.

NMSU and USDA ARS JER determined Abeeway as the most suitable solution out of the devices and packages that they have tried because it did not just provide trackers and the capabilities that they were looking for. It also supplied the LoRaWAN coverage that they needed. 

cattle tracking device abeeway
lorawan gateway

Also, because the coasts are where most LoRa public capabilities are in the US, there was a need for private network deployments in the mid-west ranches. Among all the solutions that they tried, Abeeway, coupled with Actility’s gateway and ThingPark platform, offered the most competitive price.

Using the Abeeway Geo-location Solution with Actility LoRaWAN connectivity delivered several benefits for New Mexico State University and USDA ARS Jornada Experimental Range.

First, they can now perform real-time cattle tracking, which means time saved from having to manually track and monitor the animals. There is also high GPS location precision, which allowed them to better support and facilitate remote ranch operations. Additionally, ranchers can better protect the overall wellbeing of their cattle with effective water level monitoring. Abeeway’s geofencing feature will also help reduce the risk of theft or losing the animals as it shows them when cows are going in or out a specific area. 

Finally, the solution’s ability to store and transmit information, such as temperature and accelerometer data, provides them with valuable resources that they need for their research.

‘Hope is not lost in the desert’

Operating desert ranches can be quite challenging given the climate and the wide distance that it covers. This is why it is essential for cattle ranchers to take advantage of available technologies to help them in their operations (and avoid missed steaks).

One of the best ways to do it is through integrating IoT devices and platforms in their work and that is exactly what New Mexico State University and USDA ARS Jornada Experimental Range did. Their move to adopt LoRaWAN cattle tracking in large-scale livestock farming will not only improve efficiencies in day-to-day tasks. But, they will also be able to secure the welfare of their animals, reducing health risks and avoiding cattle loss and theft.

Using sensors, combined with LoRaWAN technology, can open a wide range of possibilities not only for ranches but also for other agricultural sectors. Through connected cows and ranches, challenges are not as difficult to surpass – even in the scorching desert heat. 

Level up your ranch with ThingPark and Abeeway.

Contact us today to discover our intelligent solutions for your farm.

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LoRaWAN: The Key to Cost-Efficient Digital Transformation in Manufacturing

digital transformation in manufacturing featured image

THE ACTILITY BLOG

LoRaWAN: The Key to Cost-Efficient Digital Transformation in Manufacturing

July 18, 2019 | written by ALAYKKA FOWLER

Digital transformation is more than just buzzwords these days. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) taking over, different industries have been either preparing for it or are already implementing it throughout organizations. One of these industries is manufacturing. Digital transformation in manufacturing is essential in optimizing processes, providing safer workspaces, and gaining higher consistency.

digital-transformation-in-manufacturing

Technology has always been constant in the world of manufacturing where peak efficiency and productivity are essential. As industry demands become more complex and sophisticated, it requires greater levels of interconnectedness and data analysis. IoT devices such as sensors and trackers combined with secure and reliable large-scale connectivity are ideal tools to achieve these.

Large manufacturing firms, particularly, have been using these in their operations and this usage will continue to grow. In fact, according to IDC research, 75% of big manufacturing companies will integrate IoT and business intelligence in their operations and business models this year.

As massive device deployments happen, it is crucial to have dependable devices and network connectivity in place. However, implementing this is easier said than done.

Challenges in IoT Connectivity

Using legacy systems, wired connections, and ageing machines within their operations is the common practice of manufacturing firms. Because of this, they can face the high costs and complications of conducting modifications to accommodate IoT devices and connectivity on machinery and equipment and updating systems. Specifically, the challenges that these firms usually face are the following:

  • Modifying machinery and equipment voids manufacturing warranties
  • Replacing machines requires huge capital investments
  • Implementing wireless connectivity may lead to security issues
  • Skills shortage in the ability to develop, implement, and maintain IoT deployment
  • Reconciling widely fragmented actors in the IoT industry in general to partner with the right hardware and software vendors
digital transformation in manufacturing 2

Stages in IoT Data Usage

When adapting IoT-based digital transformation in manufacturing, companies undergo different stages in data usage. Successfully going through these stages will enable companies to overcome these challenges.

stages in iot data usage digital transformation

The first stage is simply going about the day-to-day operations without necessarily collecting data. This goes for smaller firms that have the capacity to do manual checks and monitoring of their plant and equipment. As they further scale, they then recognize the need to collect data, integrate these in their local system and MES (Manufacturing Execution System), known as operational technology (OT), and implement basic actions through automation. This is the stage where they utilize connected devices, like sensors, to gather information from machines and equipment and determine points where there are irregularities.

However, OT devices only run on programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and exclusive proprietary protocols. On the other hand, information technology (IT) at this point focuses on processing information, communications technologies, and enterprise applications, not necessarily linking with OT because organizations consider them having completely separate functions. Meanwhile, through time, the company grows to a larger level resulting to more accumulated data that becomes more valuable to central operations.

With IoT, it is now possible to collect data from the plant, equipment, and machinery, and transfer this information into the central system. This is what we call IT/OT convergence – the last stage in IoT data usage. However, with the nature of large-scale manufacturing firms covering vast, remote areas and being made of dense structures, connectivity should be reliable and secure.

This is where LoRaWAN comes in. It has a large ecosystem of industrial-grade sensors or bridges from legacy tech-to-LoRaWAN, such as Modbus, making the upgrade of existing sensor infrastructure easy and cost-effective. Its ability to centralize data – migrating data from individual plants (OT systems) to central systems, like ERP – combined with its long-range, low-cost, secure, and penetrative characteristics makes it the ideal means to facilitate easy and efficient digital transformation.

How LoRaWAN efficiently carries out digital transformation in manufacturing and other industries

LoRaWAN-equipped smart sensors and low-energy connectivity increase operational efficiencies of manufacturing industries through enabling automation, asset management, analytics, quality management, and predictive maintenance. Due to this, various industries in manufacturing, such as factories, airports, railways, automotive, oil, gas, and mining, and construction have applied these intelligent sensors and connectivity across their organizations.

Here are some examples of how LoRaWAN has facilitated digital transformation in manufacturing and will be optimizing its industries with easy, low-cost deployment:

  1. Reduction of energy consumption in a cement factory

The cement sector is one of the most energy-intensive industries globally. In fact, it is responsible for approximately 5% of world carbon emissions. For this reason, cement manufacturing companies these days are either searching for or shifting to solutions that would enable them to lessen energy usage.

For example, Salonit Ahnovo, the largest cement manufacturing factory in Slovenia, possesses a strong environmental regulation compliance strategy which is why they committed to optimizing and reducing energy consumption. With this, the company opted to implement a LoRaWAN-based energy management system due to its wireless, long-range features. 

digital-transformation-in-manufacturing-factory

As a result, they were able to automatically collect energy data through Gemalogic EMS and now has a better view and monitoring of its energy efficiency performance, which is a first step in their goal to reduce energy consumption.

2. Reliable data collection and analysis on fuel consumption

Monitoring and managing oil consumption in manufacturing industries can be a big challenge especially when it comes to cost-efficiency. Usually due to inadequate fuel demand management, these companies can face a whopping 70% spike in oil expenses. This ineffectively anticipated and managed demand may lead to negative environmental impacts as well as impractical expenditures.

digital-transformation-in-manufacturing-fuel-tanks

To address this, FULLUP, a Belgian company that produces sensors for fuel tanks, developed a device which allows users to gather essential data from their fuel tanks. Because some tanks are situated underground or in basements, the company used LoRaWAN connectivity to ensure continuity of data collection

Its range of up to 15km, coupled with 10+ years of battery life, makes it suitable for the non-powered majority of fuel tanks. With this, it becomes more possible for large manufacturing companies to effectively collect data on their oil consumption and in turn, use these to better manage it and cut fuel costs in the long term.

Digital transformation in manufacturing does not mean having to replace equipment and systems with more expensive, sophisticated ones. Finding the right devices, paired with the suited connectivity and platform, is a significant first step in digitizing and optimizing operations at low costs. LoRaWAN connectivity platforms, such as Actility’s ThingPark products, provides fitting solutions to digital transformation needs of this industry.

Optimize your costs and operations with ThingPark.

Contact us today to discover how you can digitally transform your manufacturing company.

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Actility’s IoT geolocation helps to protect workers and assets

lorawan for IoT connectivity network in underground train tunnels

The Actility Blog

Actility’s IoT geolocation helps to protect workers and assets

lorawan for IoT connectivity network in underground train tunnels

An IoT connectivity network has been installed in the tunnels of a commuter transit line in France to help monitor and protect the safety of workers and to track tools and assets below ground. Our client selected a LoRaWAN network powered by Actility’s ThingPark Enterprise connectivity platform to provide the underground IoT geolocation connectivity required. This, in turn, allowed the operation to run smoothly and to the required timeline.

An evaluation of a low-power consumption LoRaWAN communication network for connected objects was set up during several tunnel maintenance and upgrade projects. The positive results of these tests led to the decision to deploy a complete industrial and scalable solution in the underground tunnels between two stations on the line.

This deployment allowed the clients’ engineers to explore the applications of IoT in a transit environment. At the time, the train lines were closed to normal traffic between several stations to renew all the ballasts which support the rail tracks. The intensive project required approximately 400 people working non-stop on 12km of tracks for several weeks.

To ensure the security of workers located in dangerous zones, working in or near machinery and to be certain that no-one remained in dangerous zones during prohibited times, almost 250 LoRaWAN tags were deployed to map and secure hazardous areas, and a hundred tracking sensors were placed on objects or people for real-time geolocation.

LoRaWAN provides low power connectivity to devices in underground or remote indoor locations where access to regular 3G or 4G networks and electricity is extremely limited or even impossible, especially along the stretches of train tracks. To take LoRaWAN underground through the stations and along the tracks, multiple gateways and antennae are positioned to enable the penetration of the network, and the tracking sensors and tags then communicate through them.

Following the success of the underground IoT geolocation trial, which clearly demonstrated the value of the IoT in managing a large-scale underground project efficiently and safely, the client opted to deploy LoRaWAN technology more widely, selecting an industrial solution powered by Actility’s ThingPark Enterprise network connectivity management platform.

Actility’s ThingPark platform is already deployed in around 40 global, national or largescale LPWAN projects around the world. The ThingPark platform supports the major IoT connectivity standards: LoRaWAN, LTE-M and NBIoT.

Interview Olivier Hersent: What will the consequences of electric vehicles (EV) be on the aggregation market?

Interview Olivier Hersent: What will the consequences of electric vehicles (EV) be on the aggregation market?

The Actility Blog

Interview Olivier Hersent: What will the consequences of electric vehicles (EV) be on the aggregation market?

Interview Olivier Hersent: What will the consequences of electric vehicles (EV) be on the aggregation market?

Electric vehicles will soon have a fundamental impact on flex markets.

It is astonishing to realize that as soon as 2020, Paris and London will brim with electric buses and that the charge power of these would total the equivalent of a nuclear reactor output!

We can say today that electric vehicles will have three fundamental impacts on the aggregation market:

1. As they charge, EVs present an instant flex power between 3 to 20kWs, sometimes more. Like any other vehicle, they spend most of the time parked, so the average availability of a pool of EVs is very high. Control is standardized via Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP), and the potentially complex problem, on the one hand, is to take into account the constraints of the distribution grid, and on the other is to be able to pool large numbers of charging stations. Actility is working to solve both issues:

The Smart-EV product, now nearing the end of our New Product Introduction cycle, acts as an OCPP proxy and is able to model in real time the distribution grid.

Our large-scale demand response control algorithm, « DaaS », which we have continued to improve since 2012, can now manage large pools of largely random loads.

2. After being removed from the market, EV batteries present a large residual capacity, at virtually zero cost as they are fully amortized. Old EV cars, like the very first Renault ZOE, have already begun to return to manufacturers and large pools of batteries stack up, ready to participate in flex markets.

3. The automotive industry is known to be the ultimate cost killer. With its gigantic purchasing power and volumes, this industry forces any technology to follow an accelerated curve to extreme commoditization. Batteries will follow that trend, although a fundamental shortage of rare metals will ultimately be the limit. Already 2019 EVs will double the capacity of 2013 EVs, for the same retail price. This means that base battery packs, also used in large container systems designed for grid stabilization and flex markets, will see their costs decreasing too. This should soon cause these systems to get mainstream.

Actility is expecting these trends to corroborate and should be well prepared, thanks to our prospective R&D. We are looking forward to benefitting from new opportunities that arise from EVs! Sure enough, Actility is ready to embrace the increasing use of Electric Vehicles and take part in this burgeoning aggregation market!

Sweden raises the bar for LoRaWAN

ThingPark Baltic Sea User Forum

The Actility Blog

Sweden raises the bar for LoRaWAN

ThingPark Baltic Sea User Forum

Our client Blink Services recently took the opportunity to combine hosting the second ThingPark Baltic Sea User Forum with their own customer event. It was held the 19th and 20th of September in Gothenburg, Sweden and welcomed new participants from Russia and Norway who have joined Actility’s operator community in the Baltic Sea region.

Actility CEO Olivier Hersent attended to present his views on the market, where Actility has been successful since the start of 2018, what we have learned and our product strategy for the future. Each operator got the opportunity to share their experiences over the last six months. The progress with the expansion of coverage and range of use cases on offer is inspirational. Deploying national and regional LoRaWAN networks is by no means a simple exercise, but the close collaboration between the operators and Actility has made it possible.

Blink Services’ customer event had over 150 participants and brought together many partners from the Nordics and Baltics. They have set the bar high for the next forum in Spring 2019, which Digita has offered to host. The User Forum’s members are Actility, Blink Services (Sweden), Digita (Finland), ER-Telecom (Russia), Lattelecom (Latvia), Levikom (Estonia), Lyse (Norway) and SEAS-NVE (Denmark).