|United States Patent
||May 11, 1999 |
Communications system for monitoring the presence of animals in a
natural feeding environment
A communications system permits animal carried transponders, such as ear tag
transponders, to be selectively addressed and detected when an animal is
proximate to an unterminated wire. Addresses impressed on a frequency carrier on
the unterminated wire are coupled to an animal's transponder using a near field
coupling, such as an electrical field coupling. When an animal's address is
detected, the animal's transponder responds with a data stream carrying a tone
or with a signal of different frequency coupled to the unterminated wire.
Coupling is enhanced by connecting signals to be transmitted and a receiver for
signals to be received to the animal's body. The unterminated wire can be
positioned along a feeding/water trough in an agricultural environment to detect
when a particular animal feeds or around a gate to detect when an animal passes
through the gate.
||Stein; John W. (Hackettstown, NJ) |
||Bio-Enhancement Systems, Corp. (Morris
Palins, NJ) |
||September 12, 1996|
|Current U.S. Class:
||119/51.02; 119/174; 119/719;
|Field of Search:
U.S. Patent Documents
||Lee et al.
||Byrne et al.
||Hanton et al.
||Greenberg et al.
||Gargano et al.
|Foreign Patent Documents|
Examiner: Manahan; Todd E.
Assistant Examiner: Robert; Eduardo C.
Attorney, Agent or Firm: Sixbey, Friedman, Leedom & Ferguson,
Presta; Frank P., Presta; Joseph S.
1. A system for detecting the presence of animals, and
gathering and analyzing information about said animals, comprising:
b. a computer interface;
c. a sender for sending
address information to said animals over an unterminated conductive medium and
also to said computer over said interface; and
d. a responder on at
least one animal providing a response to said computer when the responder
receives an address and said responder is within a set proximity to said
2. The system of claim 1, in which said computer
activates a mechanism on said animal in response to said response.
The system of claim 1, in which said computer is configured to calculate the
duration of time an animal is present at a feeding station.
system of claim 1, in which said computer is configured to determine how long an
animal is actually feeding.
5. The system of claim 1, in which the
computer is configured to determine the number of visits to a feeding station by
6. The system of claim 5, in which the computer is configured
to calculate the number of visits to a feeding station in a 24 hour period.
7. The system of claim 1, in which this computer is configured to
calculate the feed consumption of an animal by the difference in feed weight
which occurs between the time in which the animal enters a feeding station and
the time when the animal leaves the feeding station.
8. The system of
claim 1, wherein said responder provides said response when said responder
receives an address unique to said responder.
9. A method for proximity
detecting the presence of tagged animals comprising the steps of:
sending one or more addresses of animals on an unterminated conductive medium;
b. detecting a response from a tag associated with an animal having
an address sent if the tag having the address sent is within a predetermined
proximity to said unterminated conductive medium.
10. The method of
claim 9 in which said response is sent by an eartag response sender.
The method of claim 9, wherein said animal is equipped with an ABM unit and in
which said response causes activation of said ABM unit.
12. The method
of claim 9 in which said response includes an indication that an animal is
13. The method of claim 9 in which said conductive medium is a
14. The method of claim 9 in which said conductive medium is a
15. The method of claim 9 in which addresses and an
indication of response are sent to a computer for processing.
method of claim 9 in which said addresses are sent using a keyed modulation.
17. A method of applying stimulation to an animal comprising the steps
a. using an unterminated conductive medium to detect proximity of
said animal to an eating area; and
b. applying stress to said animal
when the detected proximity of said animal is less than a given threshold,
wherein said stress is of a type which encourages said animal feed at said
The invention relates to communications systems
and more particularly to communication systems used to identify and monitor
U.S. Pat. No. 5,205,238 to Boice
discloses techniques for applying controlled stress to animals which results in
enhanced eating, drinking, mating or similar behavior. Apparatus mounts on a
body part of an animal, such as the tail, and contains a mechanism for applying
variable stress to the body part and a mechanism for automatically controlling
the variation of stress. The apparatus includes an electronic timing circuit,
such as a microprocessor, which is capable of automatically controlling the
pressure applied to the animal (and the resulting stress) and is programmable to
vary the pressure over time. The amount of pressure applied can be programmed to
change with time. Such a device will be called herein an ABM device.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,517,563 to DIAMANT discloses an active transponder that
is mounted on an object to be identified. The passive transponder is designed to
be attached around an animal's neck, or alternatively by a tag fixedly attached
onto the side of the ear. An active transponder is located at a fixed location
and energy from the active transponder activates the passive transponder to
generate a response.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,535,557 to PORCHER discloses a
label for the identification of an object, in particular an ear clip for marking
cattle. A portable electronic device is used to obtain the information on the
label when it is touched by a special glove.
U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,612,877
and 4,718,374 to HAYES disclose an eartag comprising an identification member
and an attachment member located in front of an animal's ear. An electronic
signal receiving device is mounted near water bowls or the like to identify each
animal in a stall from the signal sent by the ear tag.
U.S. Pat. No.
4,617,876 to HAYES discloses an animal identification and control system
comprising an identification tag on the animal having a signal sending device
for sending a code signal to a signal receiving device near a water bowl or the
like. An animal may be automatically weighed while drinking from the water bowl.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,854,328 to POLLACK discloses an animal monitoring system
and more particularly relates to a telltale sensing and transmitting device. The
receiver is secured to an eartag or the like to provide an audio and/or visual
indication of an elevated temperature. The transmitter is inserted in the animal
subcutaneously or in a body cavity to sense body temperature.
No. 5,028,918 to GILES discloses a transponder used to identify livestock or the
like using radio wave transmissions. The transponder can also be used to monitor
functions of the animal such as feeding, body temperature and milk production.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,105,763 to POIESZ discloses a method of identifying an
animal from a distance by a miniature responder in the form of an injectable
capsule implanted subcutaneously and laterally at the front part of the head.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,309,864 to HARMSEN discloses a method and apparatus for
feeding animals. A transmitter/receiver on the feeding station generates an
electromagnetic interrogation field and receives the unique code from each
animal and transmits this identification to a computer which operates the
feeding station to deposit additional feed depending on an animal's code.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,320,067 to LEGRAIN discloses an individual animal
identification system in a feeding station. A collar on the animal closes a
detection circuit in the station to identify the animal.
U.S. Pat. No.
5,322,034 to WILLHAM discloses an electronic livestock record system that stores
the individual animal's identification and performance data on a programmable
electronic identification and data storage module carried with the animal. A
reading and recording device communicates with the module.
U.S. Pat. No.
5,461,807 to JOHNSON discloses an animal eartag that houses a passive electronic
transponder for use in the identification of the animal by a low frequency radio
wave reading system.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,526,772 to CURKENDALL discloses a
method of electronic identification of bovine animals and other species by an
implanted electronic transponder in the leg of the animal. Data representative
of the animal's identity and characteristics such as temperature, activity,
ownership or the like can be monitored and recorded.
The ARRL Antenna
Book, 10th edition, copyright 1964 by the American Radio Relay League, Inc. of
Newington, Conn., pp. 186-188, contains a discussion of multiband antennas
including directly fed antennas and end fed antennas. These are principally
directed at operation in a band of frequencies such as those between 3.5 and 30
One problem with the Boice patent,
described above, is that it uses a timed response which is predetermined. It
would be desirable to apply stimulation to an animal when the animal is actually
In the prior art it is known to use a feeding box in which an
animal approaches, breaks a photoelectric beam and its identity is interrogated.
Such a system typically uses a single interrogation-response system per box. The
cattle have to be trained to walk into the box in order to get food and, if
multiple animals are involved, there may be competition for access to the box
which creates an unnatural feeding environment. This makes the results of
research conducted using such an arrangement suspect. Accordingly, it would be
desirable to monitor the feeding habits of animals under natural conditions such
as those found in a loose barn environment.
Another problem with the
prior art ABM device is that application of pressure to the animal requires
energy. Applying stimulation to the animal at times when it is not needed wastes
energy and causes depletion of energy for running the ABM unit.
prior art techniques utilize RF energy for communicating between an animal and a
sensor. RF energy radiates and propagates for long distances and can be a source
of interference. In addition, the use of RF is erratic in some environments.
Prior art systems required a long time to detect a change in the eating
habits of an animal which might result from a new diet, from medication or from
sickness. When monitoring weight gain or loss as often done in the prior art, it
often occurred that a sick animal was not detected until after the disease had
progressed to the point of untreatability.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The invention provides methods, apparatus, systems and computer program
products for overcoming the problems of the prior art. A short range near field
communication system is utilized to interrogate animal carried transponders,
such as eartags, when the animal is in close proximity to an open feeding
station, such as in a loose barn or feed lot environment. It may also be used to
record the passage of animals through a gate. Computer records are maintained
and analyzed to provide information about the eating habits of each animal. The
near field communication system uses an unterminated wire or other unterminated
conductive medium for the transmission of interrogation information to animals
in proximity to the feeding trough and to receive back identification
information and other information about the animal. The system permits an ABM
unit to be activated when the presence of the animal is detected. In this way,
the condition of entire herds of animals can be monitored and analyzed while the
animals feed in a natural setting.
The problems of locating animals with
respect to one or more feeding stations extends generally to proximity location.
Applications of proximity location occur in the area of human health care where
it is desirable to monitor patients. This monitoring extends to patients that
might have difficulty reporting their own behavior such as eating or utilizing
restroom facilities. It also extends to the elderly, to those who have
Alzheimer's disease, are depressed, or who are subject to falls. Location
monitoring tags, analogous to the eartags worn by animals as discussed above,
can be attached to an identification bracelet or other form of identification
worn by a patient.
In the retail industry, it is desirable to detect a
situation in which products for sale are being removed from the premises without
In this application, transponders incorporated in a tag, such
as eartags or identification bracelets, are associated with animals, humans, or
products offered for sale. For convenience, the animals, humans or products
which are associated within a transponder will be referred to as "items."
The invention is directed to a method for detecting the presence of
addressed items by sending one or more addresses of items on an unterminated
conductive medium, and detecting a response from an item having an address sent
if the item having the address sent is within a determined proximity to the
unterminated conductive medium. Addressed items can be object or animals. If an
animal, the response can be sent by circuitry contained within an eartag. If an
animal is equipped with an ABM unit, the response can be used to activate the
ABM unit. The response can include an indication that an animal is eating. This
indication can be generated by voice recognition circuitry used to detect animal
eating sounds. The conductive medium can be a wire, a feeding trough or any
other conductive object. It is preferably not terminated by a return path to
ground. The addresses sent and the corresponding responses are sent to a
computer for processing over a computer interface.
Responses can be sent
by a radio communications link using RF energy or over the unterminated
conductive medium. The addresses are preferably send redundantly and are
considered correctly received when some but less than all addresses are received
correctly at the addressed item. The addresses are preferably sent using
frequency shift modulation. The response can include a tone or other modulated
information. If it includes a tone, the frequency of the tone can be used to
indicate battery level.
The invention is also directed to apparatus for
detecting the presence of items, including an address generator, a sender for
sending addresses from the address generator over an conductive medium, and a
receiver on the item for detecting the addresses from the conductive medium and
returning a response if an item having the address sent is within an established
proximity to the conductive medium. A sender sends each address redundantly and
continuously and a receiver returns a response when less than all addresses are
If the item carries an activatable mechanism, such
as an ABM unit, the response may selectively cause activation of the activatable
The invention is also directed to a system for detecting the
presence of animals, and gathering and analyzing information about the animals,
including a computer, a computer interface, a sender for sending address
information to the animals over a communications medium and also to the computer
over the interface, and a responder on at least one animal providing a response
to the computer when the responder receives an address unique to the responder
and the responder is within a set proximity to the communications medium. The
computer activates a mechanism on the animal in response to the response.
The invention is also directed to a computer program product, including
a memory medium, and a computer program, stored on the memory medium in which
the computer program contains instructions for detecting a response from an
addressed item if the item is within an established proximity to a medium over
which addresses are sent.
The invention is also directed to a method of
applying stimulation to an animal by detecting proximity of the animal to an
eating area, and applying stress to the animal when the proximity of the animal
is less than a given threshold.
Still other objects and advantages of
the present invention will become readily apparent to those skilled in the art
from the following detailed description, wherein only the preferred embodiment
of the invention is shown and described, simply by way of illustration of the
best mode contemplated of carrying out the invention. As will be realized, the
invention is capable of other and different embodiments, and its several details
are capable of modifications in various obvious respects, all without departing
from the invention. Accordingly, the drawings and description are to be regarded
as illustrative in nature, and not as restrictive.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF
FIG. 1 illustrates an open feeding trough with the system of
the invention installed to detect the feeding of an animal.
FIG. 2A is a
high level block diagram of one exemplary embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 2B is a high level block diagram of a second exemplary embodiment
of the invention.
FIG. 3 is a block diagram of the proximity address
generator shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B.
FIG. 4A is a block diagram of the
proximity sender shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B.
FIG. 4B illustrates an
alternative for coupling of information to the proximity sending line
FIG. 5A is a block diagram of an eartag response
sender shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B.
FIG. 5B is a block diagram of an
alternate eartag response sender shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B.
FIGS. 6A and
6B show alternative proximity response receivers for receiving signals sent by
the eartag response sender shown in FIGS. 5A and 5B, respectively.
7 is a block diagram of an ABM control sender shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B.
FIG. 8 is a block diagram of an ABM receiver shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B.
FIG. 9 is a block diagram of an interface shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B.
FIGS. 10A, 10B and 10C are relative timing diagrams used to illustrate
the operation of the invention on different communications channels.
FIG. 11 illustrates an exemplary organization of a database containing
FIG. 12 illustrates an exemplary organization of a
database containing information on individual animals.
illustrates an exemplary organization of a database containing information about
the most recent status of an animal.
FIG. 14 is a flow chart of an
exemplary process (main routine) for operating the invention.
FIG. 15 is
a flow chart of a check zone status routine shown in FIG. 14.
FIG. 16 is
a flow chart of a stimulation check status routine shown in FIG. 14.
FIG. 17 is a flow chart of a stimulation to be applied routine shown in
FIG. 18 is a flow chart of an enter diet, medication or weight
routine, shown in FIG. 14.
NOTATIONS AND NOMENCLATURE
detailed descriptions which follow may be presented in terms of program
procedures executed on a computer or network of computers. These procedural
descriptions and representations are the means used by those skilled in the art
to most effectively convey the substance of their work to others skilled in the
A procedure is here, and generally, conceived to be a
self-consistent sequence of steps leading to a desired result. These steps are
those requiring physical manipulations of physical quantities. Usually, though
not necessarily, these quantities take the form of electrical or magnetic
signals capable of being stored, transferred, combined, compared, and otherwise
manipulated. It proves convenient at times, principally for reasons of common
usage, to refer to these signals as bits, values, elements, symbols, characters,
terms, numbers, or the like. It should be noted, however, that all of these and
similar terms are to be associated with the appropriate physical quantities and
are merely convenient labels applied to these quantities.
manipulations performed are often referred to in terms, such as adding or
comparing, which are commonly associated with mental operations performed by a
human operator. No such capability of a human operator is necessary, or
desirable in most cases, in any of the operations described herein which form
part of the present invention; the operations are machine operations. Useful
machines for performing the operation of the present invention include general
purpose digital computers or similar devices.
The present invention also
relates to apparatus for performing these operations. This apparatus may be
specially constructed for the required purpose or it may comprise a general
purpose computer as selectively activated or reconfigured by a computer program
stored in the computer. The procedures presented herein are not inherently
related to a particular computer or other apparatus. Various general purpose
machines may be used with programs written in accordance with the teachings
herein, or it may prove more convenient to construct more specialized apparatus
to perform the required method steps. The required structure for a variety of
these machines will appear from the description given.
Best Mode for
Carrying out the Invention
FIG. 1 illustrates an open feeding trough
(120) such as might be found in a loose barn environment with the system of the
invention installed to detect the feeding of an animal. Each animal 1, 2 (in the
example shown, a dairy cow) is equipped with an eartag 130 which contains
transponder circuitry for responding to queries. Each animal is also equipped
with an ABM unit 140 mounted, in this instance, on the tail. System 100 is shown
in more detail hereinafter in conjunction with FIGS. 2A and 2B. The system
drives an unterminated wire 110 which runs the length of the feeding trough in
an interrogation response mode which interacts with eartags 130, but only when
the animal is sufficiently close to the unterminated wire 110. The system can
also utilize RF to activate the ABM unit when the presence of an animal is
detected at the feeding trough 120.
FIG. 2A is a high level block
diagram of one exemplary embodiment of the invention. In FIG. 2, a proximity
address generator 203 feeds addressing information to a proximity sender (204)
which drives a proximity sending line (sometimes called an unterminated line)
210 in a manner which will be described more hereinafter. An animal transponder,
230, such as that incorporated in the eartag of an animal detects the addressing
information sent down the unterminated line and, as shown in FIG. 2A, returns an
RF response which is detected by proximity response receiver 206. The address of
the animal from proximity address generator 203 and the corresponding response
from proximity response receiver 206 are fed to interface 209 and the
information recorded in CPU 201. In the event that it is desired to provide ABM
stimulation to the animal during eating, ABM control sender 207 is activated to
send a command to the ABM receiver 240 over an RF link in response to detection
of the presence of the animal at the trough. As noted on the figure, each of the
items discussed are discussed more in detail in conjunction with later figures.
FIG. 2B is a high level block diagram of a second exemplary embodiment
of the invention. The principal difference between this embodiment and that of
FIG. 2A resides in the fact that the transponder response from the eartag
response sender 230 is carried over the proximity sensing line 210 and detected
from that line by proximity response receiver 206A. Otherwise, this figure
operates as discussed in conjunction with FIG. 2A.
FIG. 3 is a block
diagram of the proximity address generator shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B. A clock 320
drives a binary counter 300 in a continuously running fashion. The "reset at N"
circuit 310 receives the state of the binary counter at any particular instant
and is designed to trigger a reset at the highest number desired for an address.
Thus, if a herd had 150 animals in it, the reset at N circuit 310 would be set
to detect a binary state corresponding to 150 and when that was detected, would
reset the binary counter to begin counting from 0. Thus, the number of addresses
can be controlled to correspond to the number of animals being monitored. The
binary counter continuously and sequentially outputs addresses for animals.
These addresses are directed to the interface and to encoder 330 which provides
data out to the proximity sender. Encoder 330 takes the address at its inputs
from the binary counter and transmits the address four consecutive times using
count circuit 340 in a serial fashion. Encoder chip 330 is preferably one
commercially available for driving garage door openers and the like. It is
available through RADIO SHACK stores.
FIG. 4A is a block diagram of the
proximity sender shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B. Data from the proximity sender
arrives over line 440 and is applied to flipflop 430. A free running 100
kilohertz crystal oscillator, 400, is applied to one input of gated amplifier
410. It is also divided by two and applied to one input of gated amplifier 420.
Data from the proximity sender 440 causes flipflop 430 to change state as the
data changes state. That is, for example, when the data from proximity sender is
a logical 1 condition, the "Q" output might be logical 1 and the Q output be
logical 0. On the other hand, if the input from the proximity sender is 0, the
output Q will be 0 and the output Q will be 1. In this manner, the frequency
applied to amplifier 450 changes depending upon the logical state of the input
data from the proximity sender. Thus, the 100 kilohertz crystal oscillator is
essentially frequency shift modulated between 100 kilohertz and 50 kilohertz
states. This frequency modulated output is applied to driver 460 which drives
the proximity sending line 470, sometimes referred to as an unterminated line.
The unterminated line is literally that. It is not terminated with a
return or a path to ground. Since there is no return path, there is very little,
if any, current flow on the unterminated line. However, the voltage on the line
changes to track the 100 kilohertz or 50 kilohertz frequency.
illustrates an alternative for coupling information to the proximity sending
line. This uses transformer coupling 460A which is designed to step up the
voltage to be imposed on the unterminated line 470.
FIG. 5A is a block
diagram of an eartag response sender shown in FIG. 2A. As an animal approaches a
feeding trough, the animal also approaches the unterminated line 500. A tuned
circuit in the eartag, detects the field variations resulting from information
being modulated on the unterminated line as discussed above. The output of the
tuned circuit 510, is applied to comparator 515 which detects when the voltage
on the unterminated line is at 100 kilohertz and provides a particular output,
such as logical 1. If the signal on the unterminated line is 50 kilohertz, the
response of the 100 kilohertz tuned circuit 510 will be considerably reduced and
fall below the threshold of the comparator 515 so that no output, that is,
logical 0 will be applied to amplifier 520.
A 3 out of 4 decoder chip
530 is programmed to detect the address of the particular animal to which it is
attached using, for example, switches shown at the bottom. Decoder chip 530 is
the corresponding chip to encoder chip 330, shown in FIG. 3. That is, the chips
are typically bought in pairs, one constituting an encoder and one constituting
a decoder. The decoder chip 530 will indicate a logical 1 output when 3 out of 4
of the addresses received correspond to the set address. This output from
decoder 530 is used to activate a 300 megahertz transmitter 540 which is
modulated by a tone generator or optional modulator input 550.
when the animal is near the proximity wire 500, its eartag will be interrogated
and the eartag will respond with a 300 megahertz transmission over antenna 560
which is modulated either with tone or with an optional modulator input. As
discussed more hereinafter, the return response over antenna 560 will be
detected and utilized to note the time the animal approached the feeding area.
For certain types of research, it may be desirable to distinguish
between when an animal is actually eating from its mere presence at the trough.
In such a case, optional sound recognition circuitry 570 can be utilized, in a
manner directly analogous to voice recognition, to detect eating sounds from the
animal and to send an indication to the central system that the animal is eating
using either tone or other modulation output. A tone generator can also be used
to determine the condition of a battery by using a voltage sensitive oscillator
for the tone generator and detecting when the voltage on that tone generator
drops to a certain point by detecting a change in the frequency of the
FIG. 5B is a block diagram of alternate eartag response
sender shown in FIG. 2B. This embodiment of the eartag response sender uses the
unterminated line 500 to return a signal to the central system rather than using
a 300 megahertz transmitter on the return path as discussed in conjunction with
FIG. 5A. A 110 kilohertz oscillator 580 forms a frequency divided carrier for
the return communications. That is, the uplink from the system central to the
unterminated line 500 to the eartag occurs at 100 kilohertz whereas the return
path occurs at 110 kilohertz. A differential amplifier 585 serves to modulate
the 100 kilohertz oscillator output with the tone or optional modulator input
550. The output of the modulator is then applied to a driver 590 which induces
field variations in the unterminated wire 500 through, for example, electric or
magnetic coupling. The remainder of the circuitry of FIG. 5B operates as
discussed in conjunction with FIG. 5A.
The near field coupling mechanism
utilized and achieved by the disclosed circuitry is believed to be principally
an electric field type of coupling. It is not intended to radiate radio
frequency energy from the unterminated wire to the 100 kilohertz tuned circuits
510 of FIGS. 5A and 5B. For the invention, one does not want the advantages
associated with far field radiation. On the other hand, the exact mechanism for
the transfer of energy from the unterminated wire to the 100 kilohertz tuned
circuit is not known. It is believed that that is an electric field coupling.
Adjusting the voltage levels on the unterminated wire results in a very
controllable field which can be adjusted precisely to a threshold distance
beyond which the signal will not be received. A typical adjustment ranges might
include a few inches at the low end and 15 feet at the high end. It depends on
the voltage applied to the unterminated wire. RF energy, on the other hand,
which is intentionally not used, would tend to propagate to much greater
FIGS. 6A and 6B show alternative proximity response receivers
for receiving signals sent by the eartag response units of FIGS. 5A and 5B,
In FIG. 6A, the proximity response receiver comprises a
300 megahertz receiver 600 which is coupled to a tone filter or demodulator 610
for detecting either the tone presence or the data received. A tone presence
signal (PV) is used, as discussed more hereinafter.
In FIG. 6B, the
unterminated wire 110 is monitored by 110 kilohertz return carrier detector 620
and the same tone filter or demodulator 610 is used to extract the tone present
(PV) or data received output.
FIG. 7 is a block diagram of an ABM
control sender shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B. The output from the interface address
latch is applied to ABM address latch 700 which latches the address. The address
applied to encoder 710 is sent serially over 300 megahertz transmitter 720 and
antenna 730 in the manner described with reference to item 330 of FIG. 3. An
address available input AA triggers the ABM address latch to latch the address
and, when an animal is present as indicated by signal PV, AND gate 740 enables
the transmission by encoder 710 over the 300 megahertz transmitter.
8 is a block diagram of an ABM receiver shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B. Activation of
the device is achieved by a 200 megahertz transmission from the central system
to the ABM unit and received at antenna 800 and applied to 200 megahertz
receiver 810. Item 820 decodes the address being received in the same manner
discussed in conjunction with item 530 of FIG. 5A and when, the address received
is the address of the animal in question, activates sequencer 830 to turn on the
ABM device 840 in a programmed manner.
FIG. 9 is a block diagram of an
interface shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B. An interface address latch is generated by
an address available signal. The address available signal can be generated using
the count 4 circuit 340 shown in FIG. 3 or can be generated directly by the
computer. The output of the interface address latch 900 is sent to the ABM
control unit shown in FIG. 7 and is also provided to a computer interface to
permit analysis and monitoring and control to be performed by the computer. As
illustrated in the example shown in FIG. 9, outputs A0-A7 constitute an address.
Line AA constitutes an address available signal. Line PV indicates to the
computer that an animal of a given address is present and the send line is
utilized to activate the ABM in response to computer commands.
10A, 10B and 10C are relative timing diagrams used to illustrate the operation
of the invention on different communications channels. FIG. 10A shows a
sequential plurality of addresses being generated in groups of 4 each. That is,
address 1 is transmitted on an outgoing 150 kilohertz (unterminated) line and is
repeated 4 times before address 2 is sent. After the number of addresses
determined by the reset unit 310 of FIG. 3, the sequence begins repeating. The
process runs continuously. FIG. 10B shows that when an animal is present within
the threshold distance of the proximity sensing line (unterminated line), the
animal sends back a tone, as discussed above, on either a 300 megahertz RF
carrier or on a 110 kilohertz return over the unterminated line. When an animal
is present, a tone or a modulated input is returned such as shown at A1 in FIG.
10B. In the example shown in FIG. 10B, animal 2 is not present and therefore no
tone pulse or other information will be sent.
FIG. 10C illustrates that
when an animal is present and it is desires to activate the ABM, the ABM will be
activated in response to the detection of an animal present at the feeding
An exemplary use of the apparatus described heretofore will now
be explained in conjunction with the remaining figures.
illustrates an exemplary organization of a data base containing logging
transaction records. Although the particular events which are significant in
monitoring an animal may vary with the animal, and with the particular
environment in which the animals are kept, this example assumes that
transactions will be generated each time an animal enters zone N, each time an
animal leaves zone N, each time stimulation has begun, each time stimulation has
ended, when a change of diet is undertaken for a particular animal, when
medication is given for a particular animal and when an animal is weighed.
Preferably, this type of information is maintained in one or more databases,
examples of which are now discussed.
FIG. 11 illustrates an exemplary
organization of a data base containing logging transaction records. Each
transaction of the type described will be entered in a transaction record. A
transaction record is formatted with fields as indicated in FIG. 11. At 1100 is
a field for receiving the animal identification such as the address. Field 1110
represents the type of transaction or the event which occurred. Field 1120
represents the date, and field 1130, the time at which the event at 1110
occurred. Field 1140 is utilized to record the last stimulation pressure applied
to the animal and field 1150 contains a stimulation schedule including on and
off dates and times at during which the stimulation should be applied. Field
1160 is field utilized to receive general textual information.
illustrates an exemplary organization of a data base containing information on
individual animals. Field 1200 includes the animal number or name. Field 1210
contains the address by which the control circuitry will be addressed for that
animal. Field 1220 contains the animal type. Field 1230, indicates the date the
animal was acquired and field 1240 permits the recordation of additional
information. Note that the particular fields specified for any of the databases
is somewhat driven by the application and the arrangement of fields and the
selection of fields should reflect the needs of the person gathering data on the
FIG. 13 illustrates an exemplary organization of a data base
containing information about the most recent status of an animal. Field 1300 is
the animal address. Fields 1310-1320 represent whether or not the animal was
present in a particular zone at the last reading. Field 1330 describes the
amount of stimulation last applied, if any, and field 1340 permits the
recordation of additional information.
FIG. 14 is a flow chart of an
exemplary process (main routine) for controlling an exemplary implementation of
the invention. The current animal address is read from the interface unit shown
in FIG. 9 (1400) and a call is made to the check zone status routine (1410)
shown in FIG. 15. When that process returns, a call is made to a stimulation
check status routine (1420) shown in FIG. 16. When that subroutine returns, a
call is made to a stimulation to be applied routine (1430) shown in FIG. 17.
When that subroutine returns, a call is made to the entered diet, medication or
weight transaction routine (1440) as described more in conjunction with FIG. 18.
The process then repeats in an ongoing fashion so that the main routine
is continuously running during operation of the system.
FIG. 15 is a
flow chart of a check zone status routine shown in FIG. 14. It is essentially a
large DO loop for considering whether or not the animal is present in a
particular zone. The loop begins at 1500 and starts with reading of animal
status entry 1510 for the zone from the current animal status data base
described as shown, for example, in FIG. 13. If the animal was not in zone N, at
the last reading (1520-Y) but is currently in zone N (1525-Y), a record enter
zone transaction entry will be made in the log (1530) and the loop will
continue. If the animal was previously in zone N (1520-N) and is currently not
in zone N (1560-Y), a record leave zone transaction is entered in the log. If
the animal was previously in zone N (1520-N) and is currently no longer is zone
N (1560-N) the loop continues. After all zones have been processed and end of
the do loop occurs (1540) and the subroutine returns.
FIG. 16 is a flow
chart of a stimulation check status routine shown in FIG. 14. FIG. 16 also
represents a DO loop. For each animal, (1600), the following steps are taken.
The prior stimulation status of the animal is read from the data base shown on
FIG. 13 (1605) and if the animal was previously not being stimulated (1610-Y)
and the animal is currently being stimulated (current status=1) a begin
stimulation transaction is entered and the animal's ABM unit is activated to
stimulate it (1630). If the animal was previously being stimulated (1610-N) and
the animal is currently no longer being stimulated (1660-Y) an end stimulation
transaction record is generated (1670) and the stimulation is terminated (1680).
If the animal was being stimulated (1610-N), and the animal continues to be
stimulated (current status=1; 1660-Y) the DO loop continues. After checking each
animal the DO loop ends (1640) and the subroutine returns (1650).
17 is a flow chart of a stimulation to be applied routine shown in FIG. 14. The
current date/time is checked (1700) and for each stimulation interval, a DO loop
is begun (1710). The do loop checks to see if the current date time is within a
stimulation interval specified in FIG. 11. If the current time is within the
interval, then stimulation should be applied to the animal (1740) and the
stimulation status updated (1750). When all stimulation intervals have been
checked, the DO loop ends (760) and the sub routine returns (1770).
18 is a flow chart of an entered diet, medication or weight routine shown in
FIG. 14. A selection of the type of entry is made first (1800), that is, whether
diet, medication or weight information is to be entered. If it is, the text
information is entered in the comment field for that record (1820). Once the
information has been entered, it is stored as a record in the transaction log in
data base (1830) such as that of FIG. 11. Then the process returns (1840).
In this way, hardware and software are combined to achieve superior
monitoring of animal behavior which overcomes the problems of the prior art. The
computer may be configured, for example, to calculate the number of visits to a
feeding station in a 24 hour period, or to calculate feed consumption of an
animal by the difference in feed weight which occurs between the time in which
the animal enters a feeding station and the time when the animal leaves the
In this disclosure, there is shown and described only
the preferred embodiment of the invention, but, as aforementioned, it is to be
understood that the invention is capable of use in various other combinations
and environments and is capable of changes or modifications within the scope of
the inventive concept as expressed herein.
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