How Pozyx provides the location technology for one of the biggest UWB applications to date
Several years ago, Pozyx partnered with a major international company that provides solutions for dairy farming around the globe. Mid 2023, the outcome of this partnership resulted in the market launch of a novel animal monitoring system based on real-time location tracking (RTLS) and artificial intelligence (AI). The solution helps improve labor efficiency, reproduction outcomes, and animal productivity, welfare and health.
With tens of farms and ten thousands of cows being equipped with this system every month, it is arguably one of the larges (non-consumer) solutions based on UWB location technology to date. Pozyx is the proud technology provider that is providing the real-time location tracking for this unique use-case.
new cows equipped every month
Why track cows and why UWB accuracy matters
Ultra wide band (UWB) is a wireless technology that can provide an unprecedented level of positioning accuracy of 10 to 30cm. Even in challenging environments with lots of obstacles and metal, like a barn. But why would you want to track an animal with that level of accuracy? Or why would one want to track a cow at all?
Tracking the location of a cow may help farmers to fetch an animal that needs tending. However, this by itself is not the strength of this system. It’s the large amounts of location data that provide an unparalleled level of insights in the animal behavior.
In the example image below, it can be seen that the system locates some of the cows, through a small sensor attached to their ear, just outside the fence (gray line). In this case, the cow itself isn’t outside the fence, rather it’s her head that is hanging through the fence for feeding. Because of the accuracy of the location system, it is possible to detect the cow in this feeding area, which helps to understand the feeding behavior. How frequently does the cow eat every day and for how long? It turns out this information tells a tremendous amount about the cow’s health or its receptiveness to reproduction. But it’s not limited to feeding behavior. In a similar way it can be detected if cows are drinking, resting, running, getting milked or playing around. Feeding this data, together with some other sensor data to an artificial intelligence algorithm, developed by the animal behavioral scientists at our partner, the solution can offer state of the art heat detection, rumination and eating behavior calculation.
Wireless positioning and communications
For this system to work, anchors need to be deployed throughout the barn, and for positioning to work, at least 3 of those anchors should be in range of the ear-tag. Although the positioning provides a wealth of data, it isn’t always necessary or economical to track the animals everywhere. In some area’s it’s sufficient to know that the cow is present, and for this, a single anchor can be deployed. Because the ultra-wideband technology can be used for both positioning and data communications, the system can still receive all the available sensor data in this case. This functionality provides our partner a lot of flexibility in its offering to the farmers, depending on their needs.
Scalability - at all levels
1. RTLS Setup and scalability of maintenance
In order to bring this product to market at scale, it is important that the system can reproduce the same performance and positioning accuracy across multiple barns, while keeping installation costs low. It is impossible to send an engineer to every installation to tweak or optimize the system, which is still often the case with many RTLS systems today. At Pozyx we worked hard to simplify the entire installation process and incorporated several automated check and validations to off-load the burden of installation. This way, a technician following a limited training and clear instructions is able to install and deliver a fully functional system.
The same is true for maintenance, where it was required that systems could easily be maintained and that issues that arise can quickly be detected, and easily rectified. Again, without requiring an RTLS expert. Here, the Pozyx RTLS management software offers all these functionalities for our customer.
2. RTLS scalability
On a system level, the system should be able to cover small barns with just a few hundreds of cows, to mega barns with over 10.000 animals spread over multiple buildings. This, with position updates at very high frequencies (every few seconds). Again, Pozyx worked hard to improve and increase performance of its location engine, without sacrificing positioning accuracy, and without requiring expensive servers.
3. Production scalability and international UWB certification
Lastly, this product requires large volumes of hardware, both tags and anchors. Together with our partner, we have set up a fully automated production line including tests and calibrations. The custom ear-tag that Pozyx developed underwent extensive environmental tests to validate it could survive in the harsh environment in a barn. Furthermore, because this is a global product, all hardware products went through a full certification process for the different geographies which all have their own specific regulations regarding electronics and ultra-wideband. Every unit produced is individually tested and calibrated, at scale, to ensure compliance with regulations and to eliminate any production failures.
This project has been a reference project for Pozyx, working closely together with its partner to bring an innovative new product to market. Leveraging ultra-wideband technology, provided by the Qorvo chipset, we managed to bring a level of positioning accuracy unseen before to this type of application.
Quote from the VP Animal Intelligence & Welfare Solutions:
We have been working with Pozyx over the last years in a joint development project aiming to strengthen our offer in the precision dairy farming segment, providing management tools to our customers in order to increase the performance of their herds and dairy operations. Pozyx has during this time shown to be a trusted technology partner with special expertise in the area of real time location systems.
Looking to add location-awareness to your applications?
Look no further! At Pozyx, we're always excited to partner on projects like these! Schedule a call with our experts to discuss your use-case, we are happy to help!