An automated system for cattle reproductive management under the IoT framework. Part I: the e-Synch system and cow responses
The objective of this manuscript was to present the e-Synch system, integrating an intravaginal electronically controlled hormone delivery and sensing device with an IoT platform for remote programming and monitoring. Secondary objectives were to demonstrate system functionality and cow responses to e-Synch. External components of e-Synch include a 3D-printed case with retention wings, a flexible wideband antenna, and silicone membrane for pressure balancing. Internal components include a central control board, battery, wireless charging coil, and two silicone hormone reservoirs connected to individual peristaltic pumps. An accelerometer and a high-accuracy temperature sensor are integrated in the custom printed circuit board (PCB). The IoT platform includes a gateway consisting of Raspberry PI 3 and a CC1352 radiofrequency module that collects sensor data at 915 mHz. Data is transferred to the Google Cloud utilizing the IoT Core service through TCP/IP, and then is pulled by the Pub/Sub service. After routing to a BigQuery table by the Dataflow service, data visualization is provided by Data Studio. Drug delivery protocols are selected using an IOS device app that connects to e-Synch through Bluetooth. Experiments with lactating Holsteins cows were conducted to demonstrate proof-of-concept system functionality and evaluate cow responses. Despite unstable communication and signal discontinuity because of signal strength attenuation by body tissue, devices (n=6) communicated with the IoT platform in 89% (24/27) of use instances. Temperature and accelerometer data were received for at least one 15 min period during an 8 h insertion period from all devices that communicated with the IoT platform. Variation in accelerometer data (± 8.565 m/s2) was consistent with cow activity during experimentation and mean vaginal temperature of 39.1 °C (range 38.6 to 39.5 °C) demonstrated sensor functionality. Hormone release was confirmed in all instances of device use except for one. Cow behavior evaluated through signs of discomfort and pain, and tail raising scores was mostly unaltered by e-Synch. Vaginal integrity and mucus scores also remained unaltered during and after device insertion. In conclusion, the e-Synch device integrated with a controlling app and IoT platform might be used to automate intravaginal hormone delivery and sensing for controlling the estrous cycle of cattle.
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