Texas-based FeverTags offers a solution for monitoring the health of cattle 24/7 and managing health data for each animal remotely — using a mobile app and wireless ear tag sensor, backed by Digi LoRaWAN.
Watch this informative webinar, hosted by IoT for All, to learn why FeverTags chose LoRaWAN, with its excellent RF performance, advanced provisioning, and scalable Digi X-ON cloud capabilities, as the underlying technology for the solution.
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Thank you again for attending our session on Green Technology. Here are the questions that followed the presentation and their answers. If you have additional questions, be sure to reach out.
Moderator: Ryan Chacon, Chief Marketing Officer, IoT for All
Presenters: John Greer, Chairman and CEO of FeverTags LLC and Nik Kitson, Director of Business Development, Digi OEM Solutions
John: Absolutely, that's a really good question. So, that goes to a lot of different things but let me kind of define the market, if you will, in three broad categories. And there's some ancillary categories as well. But you've got devices out there that are focused on location, meaning that they might have GPS associated with it, or some other type of communication device, but they're focused on, "Where is that animal?" You've got other ones that are focused on movement of the animal or behavioral-type features of that animal. Meaning that it's the same thing as your iPhone, you've got an accelerometer in there, they put an accelerometer in an ear tag, you can determine, "Is that animal moving? Is it lethargic? Is it staying in one place?"
Ryan: So, an activity tracker for that. Okay.
John: And the theory behind that is, once an animal is stationary for a certain period of time, it might be an indicator that animal is getting sick. So, you've got those type of behavioral-type of monitors that are out there. And then you have what I would term as “biometrics,” which is what we are. We're actually measuring something on that animal that's an actionable item immediately. I grew up in the cattle industry. I'm talking about ranchers. The partners that we have in FeverTags touch hundreds of thousands of cattle per year. So, we know the environment that we're talking about very well. We're not coming at this from a research standpoint or sitting in an office building somewhere. We're looking at it from where boots are on the ground.
And so, when you look at the locational aspect to it is that we know where our cattle are. You know, especially when they're in a feed yard. They're in pens, the pens are numbered, the cattle are numbered to the pen, the cattle are numbered to the animals. That's not a metric that really moves the needle for us. When you look at the movement of the animal, the difference between movement and biometrics is that once an animal is lethargic or you're noticing something visual with that animal going on, it's been sick for two or three days. So, the question is, "How do you intercept that at an early enough stage to have an actionable treatment – whatever that might be – that's going to have the most impact, the cheapest impact, and not affect the rest of the herd?" And that's the biometric side. You've got other ancillary issues in there, people that track animals with drones and do all types of monitoring.
Ryan: Yeah, I think you also have to infer a lot from the activity side when you track that, right? You don't know exactly what's wrong. This is kind of more of the way I relate this to conversations I've had with industrial companies. This is more of the predictive maintenance side of it and not waiting for something to break to figure out what's wrong with it.
John: Exactly. I’ll give you an example of that. If you're analyzing the movement or the environment of that animal and if you suspect something is wrong, what is the first thing that they do?
Ryan: Right, they're going to go check on them.
John: And they do it in a disturbed state. And what we're providing is an undisturbed monitoring, real-time monitoring of that animal in an undisturbed state.
Ryan: Yeah, absolutely.
Nik: And on the technology side, location and movement are somewhat expensive to achieve, either in capital cost or in battery life. And they're not actually directly impacting the measurement and leading to an outcome. You know, location is great for theft but do you want to instrument 100% of your animals with the one that gets stolen? That becomes really tough. Whereas when you directly find that that has a disease and you've got 100% of your animals covered, you're preventing those other 100 animals because you can get it before it happens. So, it's all about kind of how economics works. And location and movement, more expensive devices that don't last very long that let you just kind of guess that maybe something's wrong, to your point.
Ryan: Yeah, and there's definitely pieces to the GPS side, like you mentioned, the technological challenges at times based on different environments, the cost element, like you said. And also the need for it, not everybody needs that. But when you're talking about biometrics, like, regardless of the environment they're in, there's a need there. Not everybody has a risk of theft or cattle kind of leaving where they are and needing to find out where they went. So, I totally get it, and thank you for sharing the differences there between the solutions. It makes a lot of sense for our audience.
Ryan: And I guess the other side of that would be just kind of, like, an off-the-shelf, they can just buy a direct kind of thing and get it going, what does that process look like for somebody looking to adopt?
John: Sure. I mean, if you're in the cattle business, then whatever sector of the cattle business, this has an application for it. The cattle business is really divided into three broad areas – cow-calf, backgrounding, which is, after weaning, prior to going to a feed yard, and then the final stage is, typically, a feed yard or a grass finished type of an animal. This has application in all three of those but predominantly in the backgrounding and the feed yard, which is really where you start getting health issues kind of creeping up on you.
So, in terms of somebody that has a herd, whether you've got 5 animals or 500,000, yes, we accommodate that, and there's really no consultation. If you're in the cattle industry, you understand what those issues are, and this is very easy to install on the animal. You have a gateway that's basically put up 20 to 30 feet in the air and it's plugged into a power unit or solar-powered and you're ready to go.
Nik: Just to add to that, I think you're looking at taking that direct...Digi is the support partner for FeverTags, and FeverTags currently has a direct business model for purchasing straight off that company. And I'm not sure if you're looking at other sort of channel or reseller-type options for global distribution but that's kind of a conversation I'm sure that John would welcome.
John: Sure. So, back on the original question, Ryan, yes, can we do a consultation to understand what type of operation you've got? We do that on the phone, you can call the FeverTags and we can go through that very easily. And if there's any type of consult on that, we can do that very easily.
Nik: It's a great question, I'll sort of jump in there as a technology partner. So, the solution for FeverTags is fully standardized, so, it does work with any LoRaWAN standard infrastructure, it's not a proprietary Digi solution. The LoRaWAN networks and the public space are typically deployed where people are, and cows are typically where people aren't. So, there is very rarely an intercept for that. And it's very very important, from John's perspective, that FeverTags is predictably deployed and operated. And so, we want to make sure that every solution works. So, normally, it's done with a private-network solution. And that's for a couple of reasons. Predictability, you know, you've got coverage, so, you're gonna have a gateway to every site. And the second reason is just kind of data-sovereignty and data-privacy issues, that's somewhat unresolved with a lot of public infrastructure. You know, who owns the data, who manages the network quality of service? These are all different pieces.
So, I think we've got, like, a fundamental coverage challenge with public LoRa networks, and probably the second more important piece is predictably delivering your service to cattlemen is the number one piece.
John: And from our perspective, protection of that data was critical, not only us but our customers as well. So, it's not only the open LoRaWAN but it was to have our own private and encrypted solution here.
Ryan: Yeah. There's always that conversation about private versus public when it comes to the LoRaWAN stuff, so, that sheds some good light on it. And I guess one of the benefits, as you kind of mentioned earlier, is that, until LoRaWAN and the advancements of these connectivity technologies have come out, building IoT solutions in more rural areas or in kind of these different environments wasn't always an easy thing to do. But it seems like LoRaWAN has really kind of taken a step up to enable, like, a solution like this to exist in an area where infrastructure isn't always the same as it is in, you know, a densely-populated city or something along those lines.
Nik: Yeah. And also, to add to that, you know, 4% to 6% of the entire network cost, the total cost model, is on gateways and connectivity. It's almost an irrelevant piece, so, it all comes down to suitability and it's just more suitable and predictable to have gateways.
John: So, currently, it's just directly through FeverTags. We've got people that can address any particular questions about it on the phone. If they're in one of several areas, we can actually have some hands-on...depending on the size of the herd with it, but it's purchased directly through FeverTags. We've had some resellers contact us, and we'll be entertaining those discussions as we roll on the next few months as well, though, and the retailers are not only here domestically but in Europe, Mexico, and South America as well.
John: Yeah, generally, what we're doing is, everybody's getting this hot off the press right now, but there will be an initial cost of the tag itself, then a subscription model after that. We're refining the last part of kind of the pricing model on this but, I will tell you, it will be very affordable, very effective in terms of ROI, going back to the ROI being in this commodity environment that we're in. But there will be an initial upfront price tag itself and then the ongoing subscription model after that.
Ryan: Yeah. I think one of the interesting things to note is, given your experience and background in ranching and the cattle space, you understand the business side of all of that, of that industry, to where, when it comes to pricing, I feel like there is probably more trust in making this and knowing what those individuals and ranchers can afford. It probably plays a big role in the pricing conversation that you're having because, if there's somebody coming from a very disconnected industry trying to build this solution without that knowledge, they may not really have the domain experience to understand what really is affordable to that industry, what's a good price to make this a solution that actually can be adopted and scaled across the board.
John: That's a good point, Ryan. And that's also, when we sat down with Digi initially, I mean, you start off with your Christmas-morning wish list of everything. "I can't have a heavy tag, I can't..." "it's got to be able to communicate, got to have a lot of devices connected, it's got to be able to be changed in the cloud." A lot of these things. But coming into it, at the end of the day, if you can't sell what you've built, then you really haven't built anything.
And we started from the historical experience, we have, again, understanding in the commodity environments is that, you know, you're dealing with nickels and dimes and stuff. So, along with that, aside from the initial cost of the tag, if it was just a one-and-done tag, it is a very affordable tag, but we built it in such a way that you can transition that tag to another animal and another animal after that. So, they're built to survive the environment, they're built to be placed on multiple animals, if you choose, or they're built to stay on one animal for 10 years, if that's what's you want. So, you can amortize whatever that cost is over multiple animals.
Ryan: You kind of highlighted that earlier, but just, generally speaking, I'm curious to learn a little bit more about kind of that development of the device process. Because it seems like there's a lot of variables here and a lot of things that, obviously, John you came to the table asking for. I'd be curious if a lot of those things were easily met, if there were challenges you had to overcome, and just kind of what that process looked like.
Nik: Okay. Well, I'll grab this one, and, John, maybe you can add on the back of it, but I think, when John came to us, he had a proven algorithm and a proven technology. It was widely deployed, well received by cattlemen, and for early detection. But it was quite manual. Because it wasn't a connected solution, you had to rove the fields and keep your eye out for the visual indicators on this device. So, we had a good understanding of this is an effective solution, so, there was no fundamental R&D into kind of figuring out what sensors were needed.
The other piece that John brought to the table, it had a very clear ROI. So, we knew we had an economic envelope to work with it and we knew we had proven technology and now we just have to find ways to expand that to different markets. So, you know, the things that Digi brought to the table, we brought the device, overall technology, the electronic, and digital, and wireless technology. We brought options to be able to reconfigure those devices...so, back to that single SKU, making one product for multiple markets with our over-the-air cloud configuration technology.
So, when John came to us and said, "I want to sell this to vets, I want to sell this to cattlemen, I want to sell this to pharmaceutical testing, and even, potentially, into the fertility-monitoring solutions. Could this be done in a way that we could just have one product to do it all?" And our answer was, "Well, yes, if you reconfigure it." Now, if you just think single-purpose product that you would traditionally build, that was fixed when it left the factory. And so, it was almost a perfect match with Digi solutions to be able to bring that highly-configurable system.
And ultimately, we took the XBee LR technology that we have for our client device, and it was a very small step to put that in a form factor that exactly delivered what John previously had with a sort of non-connected tag.
John: Yeah, just adding on to that is that, out of all this stuff, if you're going to hang something around an animal's neck, there's a lot of stuff you can stack on. We didn't have that luxury. I had weight that I had to deal with, so, whatever the solution was, it had to be under a certain weight in grams because, on an animal, you're not going to hang a lot of weight on its ear. And so, you have that. Then you had the functionality of it, and that's kind of the total solution that Digi really brought to the table. So, they checked pretty much all the boxes in there.
Ryan: Fantastic. Yeah, no, it's certainly the challenge to meet those demands of different solutions out there. So, that's fantastic. I guess we'll wrap up here, since we're kind of out of time.
Nik: On the closing slide, that link allows you to take a detailed look at the LoRaWAN solutions offerings that Digi has. On that page, there is a contact form, so, you're welcome to reach out there. And just put "LoRaWAN" in the message and that will make sure it gets through to our team. In addition, I believe, there may be a follow-up email where all of this will be repeated directly to you. So, if you don't receive this straight off the screen with your screenshot, I think Ryan's going to take care of that for us. I'd just like to thank everyone for their time and attention, and I look forward to talking with any of you that are interested in following up further.
John: For FeverTags, you can go to fevertags.com. You can contact us on the website, there are numbers on the website. I'll be happy to talk to anyone, if you've got any questions.