Title:
System and method for applying an animal identification tag
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A system and method applying an animal identification tag, wherein a unique identification code is automatically read from the identification tag and wherein, upon application of the tag to an animal, time/date information relating to the application is also automatically read.



Inventors:
Thomas, Hogan (Powder Springs, GA, US)
Application Number:
10/280105
Publication Date:
06/26/2003
Filing Date:
10/24/2002
Assignee:
THOMAS HOGAN
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
340/5.8, 340/572.8
International Classes:
A01K11/00; (IPC1-7): G08B23/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
POPE, DARYL C
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
TROUTMAN PEPPER HAMILTON SANDERS LLP (ATLANTA, GA, US)
Claims:

I claim:



1. A method for recording information relating to the attachment of an EID to an animal, comprising the steps of: determining a unique identification code associated with the EID; attaching the EID to the animal, thereby associating the unique identification code with the animal; responsive to attaching the EID to the animal, automatically determining time/date information indicating when the EID was attached to the animal; and associating the time/date information with the unique identification code.

2. The method of claim 1, comprising the further step of relaying the associated time/date information and unique identification code to a database.

3. The method of claim 2, wherein the relaying step is accomplished by wireless link.

4. The method of claim 1, comprising the further step of determining, responsive to attaching the EID to the animal, the physical location of the animal at the time the EID is attached.

5. The method of claim 4, comprising the further step of associating the physical location of the animal at the time the EID is attached with the time/date information and unique identification code.

6. The method of claim 5, comprising the further step of relaying the associated physical location of the animal at the time the EID is attached, time/date information and unique identification code to a database.

7. The method of claim 6, wherein the relaying step is accomplished by wireless link.

8. The method of claim 1, comprising the further step of automatically determining by obtaining a global positioning system coordinate set, responsive to attaching the EID to the animal, the physical location of the animal at the time the EID is attached.

9. The method of claim 8, comprising the further step of associating the physical location of the animal at the time the EID is attached with the time/date information and unique identification code.

10. The method of claim 9, comprising the further step of relaying the associated physical location of the animal at the time the EID is attached, time/date information and unique identification code to a database.

11. The method of claim 10, wherein the relaying step is accomplished by wireless link.

12. A system for recording information relating to the attachment of an EID to an animal, comprising an applicator, the applicator functional to automatically detect a unique identification code of the EID temporarily placed in proximity thereto, the applicator further functional to automatically detect, upon actuation of the applicator and a resulting attachment of the EID to an animal, time/date information relating to the resulting attachment, the applicator still further functional to transmit the unique identification code and the time/date information to a database.

13. The system of claim 12, further comprising a database, communicatively interconnected to the applicator, for receiving and storing the unique identification code and the time/date information.

14. The system of claim 12, wherein the applicator includes a removable data cassette removably attached thereto, the removable data cassette functional to automatically detect the unique identification code of the EID temporarily placed in proximity thereto, the removable data cassette further functional to automatically detect, upon actuation of the applicator and the resulting attachment of the EID to an animal, time/date information relating to the resulting attachment.

15. The system of claim 14, wherein the removable data cassette automatically detects the time/date information relating to the attachment upon actuation of a trigger, the trigger being actuated by actuation of the applicator.

16. The system of claim 12, wherein the transmission of the unique identification code and the time/date information to the database is accomplished over a wireless link.

17. The system of claim 12, further comprising a GPS transponder for determining, upon actuation of the applicator, a GPS coordinate set for the applicator at a time of the actuation.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application is a continuation-in-part of pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/832,385, filed Apr. 11, 2001, and entitled “Tamper-Proof Animal Identification Tag”, now allowed, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The present invention relates to systems and methods for applying an animal identification tag to an animal. More specifically, the present invention relates to a system and method for recording key information as an animal identification tag is applied to an animal.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

[0003] In the food animal industry, the accurate recording of information relating to the birth of an animal is critical for many reasons. Among the various kinds of information relating to birth that are important are the birth date and birth location.

[0004] Many medical regimens for animals are intended to be delivered at certain ages, or within certain age windows, for certain animals. Given the recent catastrophic effects of BSE or “Foot and Mouth” disease, knowing the exact birth date and location of a food animal is critical to ensuring that proper vaccinations are administered at proper times. Inaccuracies resulting in the premature or late delivery of a key vaccine could significantly diminish the effectiveness of that vaccine.

[0005] Moreover, in many countries, controls over the origin and movement of food animals are tightening for reasons including the transport and spread of animal-borne infectious disease. In fact, many of the world's largest food animal producing countries either have enacted or are planning to enact controls to limit (or eliminate) the sale of food animals of unknown origin.

[0006] To date, the most effective way to document the birth of an animal such as a head of cattle was for an individual to write down the birth date and location. Such a procedure is ripe for inaccuracy and error, if not outright fraud.

[0007] Ear tags, generally made of plastic, attached to the ear of an animal and marked with a readable identification number or unique bar code, have long been used to identify individual animals. Recently, the use of radio-frequency identification devices (“RFIDs”) has evolved, allowing the automatic and wireless reading of the identification of an animal each time a particular event occurs. As taught by U.S. Pat. No. 6,401,071, to the same inventor herein and specifically incorporated by reference, discloses a revolutionary system and method for automatically identifying and animal upon delivery of an injection to the animal, and recording both the identity of the animal and the occurrence of the injection in a secure computer database.

[0008] Still, though, this system does not automatically and permanently memorialize either the birth of the animal, or the location of the animal at the time of birth.

[0009] Accordingly, there is a need for a system and method for automatically, cost effectively and verifiably recording the birth date of a food animal.

[0010] There is a further need to automatically and verifiably determine and record the location of the animal at the time of its birth.

[0011] Finally, there is a need to store the information relating to the birth of the animal and the information relating to the location of the animal at the time of its birth in a system in which it can be associated with other information gathered regarding the animal during its life, and easily and usefully accessed, without manipulation (secure) by those needing such information.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0012] A system and method for recording information relating to the attachment of an EID to an animal includes using an EID applicator to automatically detect a unique identification code of the EID temporarily placed in proximity thereto. The applicator is functional to automatically detect, upon actuation of the applicator and a resulting attachment of the EID to an animal, time/date information relating to the resulting attachment. The applicator is still further functional to transmit the unique identification code and the time/date information to a database. In an optional embodiment of the invention, global positioning system (“GPS”) coordinates of the location of the application are also collected.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] FIG. 1 is a flow diagram detailing exemplary steps for performing the method of the present invention.

[0014] FIG. 2 depicts an exemplary embodiment of an antenna card for implementation with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

[0015] FIG. 3 depicts a cut-away view of the internal configuration of an exemplary embodiment of the antenna card depicted in FIG. 2.

[0016] FIG. 4a depicts a side view of the antenna card for implementation with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

[0017] FIG. 4b depicts a cut-away side view of the antenna card for implementation with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

[0018] FIG. 5a depicts the stud for implementation with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

[0019] FIG. 5b depicts an end view of the stud for implementation with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 4a.

[0020] FIG. 6 depicts a representative partial insertion of the stud into the opening of the antenna card.

[0021] FIG. 7 depicts a full insertion of the stud through the opening of the antenna card.

[0022] FIG. 8 depicts a view of an exemplary EID applicator in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

[0023] FIG. 9 depicts another view of an exemplary EID applicator in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0024] Referring now to the drawings, FIG. 1 depicts a flow diagram detailing exemplary steps in performing the method of the present invention. The exemplary method begins at step 10 and, at step 15, user identification is entered. User identification (“user id”) can take many forms and can be received for many purposes. At a minimum, the user id could be the unverified name of the operator, or even the unverified name of the ranch where the operation is located. This kind of unverified information is less desirable than many others because it is subject to inaccuracy and falsification. If a more reliable verification of the user identification is desired, it is within the scope and contemplation of the present invention that the user id be a code or password that can be verified by comparison to a list of authorized users maintained in a database. Such techniques are well known in a variety of identity-verifying systems, and are understood to be applicable to the implementation of the present invention and within the scope of the claims and their equivalents.

[0025] After the user id has been determined (and, optionally, the authorization for a particular user to use the system has been determined), the unique identification code (“UIC”, also sometimes referred to as the Universal Livestock Code or “ULC”) from the Electronic Identification Device (“EID”). The systems and methods by which UICs are read from EIDs are well known to those skilled in the art of automatic, electronic identification of objects such as animals. An example of such a system is described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,401,071, to the same inventor herein, which is specifically incorporated by reference herein.

[0026] In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the applicator which applies the EID to the animal is operative to read the UIC from the EID in a manner substantially similar to the marking syringe of the '071 patent. Alternately, the UIC of the EID could be read by a different reader device. Referring back to the exemplary method of FIG. 1, once read, the applicator (or a memory permanently or periodically interconnected thereto) records the UIC read from the EID, as indicated in step 25.

[0027] After the UIC has been read from the EID, the EID is loaded into the applicator, depicted at step 30, in preparation for applying the EID to the animal. At step 35, the user uses the applicator to attach the EID to the animal.

[0028] In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the process of attaching the EID to the animal in step 35 is of particular significance. More particularly, as the applicator attached the EID to the animal, time/date information is ascertained regarding the time and date that the applicator was actuated and the EID was attached to the animal, depicted in step 40.

[0029] At step 45, the time/date information is recorded in the same or similar manner as the UIC relating to the EID was recorded. At step 50, the time/date information and the UIC information is automatically associated, creating a record of the time and date that a particular EID was attached to a corresponding animal.

[0030] In optional step 55, the applicator or other aspect of the system is capable of linking with the Global Positioning System (“GPS”) to determine the exact location of the animal at the time of the attachment of the EID via the applicator. A GPS coordinate set is ascertained in this well-known manner at step 55 and, at step 60, the GPS coordinate set is associated with the time/date information and the UIC from the corresponding EID. This information is then stored.

[0031] At decision block 65, a determination is made as to whether another EID will be attached to another animal. If yes, the method begins again at step 20. If not, the method ends at step 70.

[0032] FIGS. 2-7 depict, generally, one of many EIDs suitable for use with the present invention. As one of the principal objectives of the present invention is to attach an EID to an animal, preferably in a tamper-proof fashion, the exemplary EID depicted herein serves only as an example of an EID that may be implemented in accomplishing the objectives of the present invention. In fact, any of a wide variety of well-known, commercially available EIDs will suffice, so long as they are functional to provide a unique identification signal corresponding to the EID for positive identification of the animal. That said, we now move to a description of this particular exemplary EID.

[0033] FIG. 2 depicts an embodiment of the antenna card portion of the EID. The antenna card 100 is, generally, a planar portion 120 and an antenna card tab 130, the antenna card tab 130 defining through its thickness an opening 140.

[0034] The antenna card 100 is ideally formed of any one of a wide variety of corrosion-resistant plastics. Materials from the plastics family are especially well suited for this application because of their light weight, low cost of production, and the ability to house certain items within the plastic device, such as will be later described with reference to FIG. 3. Importantly, a plastic antenna card is particularly amenable to being formed in any one of a wide variety of different colors, as may be used to identify different groups of animals to which they may be attached. For example, it may be advantageous to use blue antenna cards for male animals and pink antenna cards to identify female animals. Furthermore, an identification number can be easily stamped onto or printed on the planar portion 120 of the antenna card 100, allowing manual visual identification of the animal.

[0035] FIG. 3 is a cut-away view of an exemplary antenna card 100. This cut-away view exposes an antenna housed within the antenna card 100. In the depiction, a 2-pole antenna is shown. The first antenna pole 210 and the second antenna pole 220 may be arranged in a manner so as to provide optimal transmission and signal receiving capability.

[0036] Each of the antenna poles 210 and 220 are encased within the thickness of the planar portion 120 of the antenna card 100, with the exception of a single antenna contact for each pole. The first antenna pole 210 is connected to a first antenna contact 230 and the second antenna pole 220 is connected to the second antenna contact 240. In the depiction, the antenna contacts 230 and 240 are electrically conductive rings positioned around the inner periphery of the opening 140 defined by the antenna card tab 130. The antenna contacts 230 and 240 are affixed to the antenna card tab 130 in a secure manner. Optionally, the antenna contacts 230 and 240 may not provide exposed electrical contact about the entire periphery of the opening 140, but may only be exposed at a portion of the periphery.

[0037] FIG. 4a depicts a side profile view of the antenna card 100. The antenna card 100 comprises a planar portion 120 and an integrally formed antenna card tab 130. In the depiction, the antenna card tab 130 is substantially thicker than the planar portion 120 so that it can accommodate the stud (not shown) and the first antenna contact 230 and second antenna contact 240. The first antenna contact 230 is located, as previously described, within the opening 140, and is electrically connected to the first antenna pole 210. The second antenna contact 230 is also positioned within the opening 140, and is similarly electrically connected to the second antenna pole 220.

[0038] FIG. 4b shows a cut-away view of the antenna card tab 130, illustrating the first antenna contact 230 and the second antenna contact 240 within the opening 140.

[0039] Turning now to FIG. 5a, the exemplary stud 400 of the EID is depicted. The stud 400 comprises, generally, a stud body 410, stud shaft 430 and a stud head 450. The physical composition of the stud 400 is the same as the antenna card 100, for the same reasons of weight, ease of production and durability.

[0040] In the depiction, the stud 400 carries a data transmission chip 415. The functionality of the data transmission chip 415 can vary widely, but in the depiction, it is functional to store a unique identification code that identifies an individual animal, and to transmit that unique code (either by high frequency signal or low frequency signal) either continuously or upon excitation by an external stimulus. The data transmission chip may be powered by a power source 420 such as a battery. The power source 420 is connected to the data transmission chip 415 by a power lead 425. Alternately, power for the chip 415 may be provided by an external source, such as solar power, with the solar panels being affixed in a well known manner to the antenna card 100. Furthermore, the data transmission chip 415 may be a passive device that receives energy from an externally transmitted signal received by the antenna poles within the antenna card 100, and transmits a responsive signal with energy derived from the received signal.

[0041] A first linear antenna lead 426 and a second linear antenna lead 428 are electrically connected to the data transmission chip 415. The linear antenna leads 426 and 428 pass from the data transmission chip 415 through the stud body 410 and into the stud shaft 430 where they are electrically connected to a first antenna contact point 436 and a second antenna contact point 438, respectively. The antenna contact points 436 and 438 provide the electrical link between the stud 400 having the data transmission chip 415 and the antenna card 100 having the antenna poles 210 and 220. Accordingly, the antenna contact points 436 and 438 are sized so that, upon insertion of the stud 400 into the opening 140 of the antenna card tab 130, each antenna contact point will make sufficient contact with its respective antenna contact 230 and 240 to allow the transmission of electrical signals between the antenna poles 210 and 220 and the data transmission chip 415.

[0042] In the depicted embodiment, the stud head 450 includes catch wings 460. The catch wings may take any of a wide variety of shapes or configurations, but they function to allow the stud head 450 to pass unidirectionally into and through an opening such as opening 140 and, once it has passed unidirectionally through the opening, the catch wings prevent the stud head 450 from passing back through the opening in the opposite direction.

[0043] In the depiction, the catch wings 460 are initially biased in an expanded position. Those skilled in the art of mechanical catches and latches are well familiar with biasing techniques for such catches. One such suitable biasing technique is to fixably position a spring between an individual catch wing 460 and the interior of the stud head 450 so that the desired biasing effect is accomplished. In any event, the initial state of the stud head 450 finds the catch wings 460 biased in an open position.

[0044] FIG. 5b is an end view of the stud 400 depicting an animal identification number corresponding to the animal identification number marked on the antenna card 100 and earlier discussed with regard to FIG. 2. These corresponding animal identification numbers on the two pieces of the EID provide a means to manually verify that the antenna card 100 and the stud 400 are used as intended.

[0045] FIG. 6 indicates the stud 400 being inserted into the opening 140 within the antenna card tab 130 of the antenna card 100. Those skilled in the art of animal identification tags will understand and appreciate that for attachment to an animal, the stud 400 and the antenna card begin the attachment process on opposite sides of the animal's ear. As the stud 400 and antenna card 100 are attached, the attachment occurs through the ear, thereby securely affixing the unit to the ear. More specifically, as the stud head 450 of the stud 400 is inserted through the ear tissue of the animal and in the direction indicated by directional arrow 500 relative to the antenna card 100, the distance between opposing points on the catch wings 460 exceeds the diameter of the opening 140. Continued force in direction 500 urges catch wings into wing recesses 465 (see FIG. 5). As pressure in direction 500 continues, catch wings 460 recede substantially entirely into wing recesses 465 and the shaft head 450 passes through the opening 140.

[0046] FIG. 7 depicts the state of the stud head 450 and the catch wings 460 after the stud head 450 has passed completely through the ear of the animal and the opening 140 in the antenna card 100. As the catch wing tips 462 clear the opening 140, and the closure force exerted upon them by the inner periphery of the opening 140 ceases, the catch wings 460 are returned to their expanded position, as illustrated in FIG. 5a. Once expanded, the catch wings 460—and in particular the catch wing tips 462—make contact with the antenna card tab 130, preventing the stud head 450 from returning back through the opening in a direction opposite direction 500.

[0047] Also illustrated in FIG. 7 is the electrical connection between first antenna contact 230 and first antenna contact point 436, as well as the electrical connection between second antenna contact 240 and second antenna contact point 438. The respective antenna contacts 230 and 240 are positioned such that complete insertion of the stud 400 into the antenna card 100 is required for electrical contact with their respective antenna contact points 436 and 438.

[0048] FIG. 8 depicts, generally, an applicator for applying an EID to an animal, and simultaneously recording information relating to the application of the EID, as described above.

[0049] The applicator 800 comprises, generally, a top handle 810, a lower handle 820, a stud mount 830, an antenna card mount 840 and a datacassette 850. The top handle 810 and lower handle 820 are elongate members, pivotally interconnected at handle pivot 825. At rest, the handles 810 and 820 are biased in an “open” position, depicted in FIG. 8. As is well known, when pressure is applied at one end of the handles 810 and 820 to close the distance between the normally open-biased handles, the result is that the opposite, second ends of each of the respective handles 810 and 820 are urged together. Similarly well known is the concept that the positioning of the handle pivot 825 closer to the second ends of the handles 810 and 820 results in magnification of the force applied to the respective first ends of the handles 810 and 820 by the individual urging those ends together.

[0050] In the depicted representative embodiment of an applicator 800, the second end of the lower handle 820 carries a stud mount 830. The stud mount 830 is of a suitable design to retain a stud such as stud 400, previously generally described. As stud designs may differ significantly from manufacturer to manufacturer, so will the design of the stud mount 830. From a functional standpoint, it is desired that the stud mount 830 carry a stud that has been hand-attached to it in such fashion so that the stud 400 will not easily fall off the stud mount 830 during the inevitable bumping and jostling that will occur during application of the stud 400 to the ear of the animal, but will not detach the stud 400 from the antenna card 100, once attached.

[0051] The second end of the upper handle 810 includes an antenna card mount 840. As with the stud mount 830, the antenna card mount 840 may take any of a wide variety of forms, so long as it functions to hold an antenna card such as antenna card 100 in proper position with respect to the stud 400 during application of the EID to an animal.

[0052] The applicator 800 for use with the present invention also contains a datacassette 850. The datacassette 850 is the “intelligence” of the applicator 800, and is functional to read the UIC of the EID and detect the application of the EID to the animal. Again, a wide variety of systems and methods for applying the EID to an animal and detecting the application are contemplated within the scope of this invention. By way of example, and not limitation, the datacassette 850 may contain a reader board capable of detecting the UIC of the EID. The EID may be either an active or passive device, and the reader board is designed for use in accordance with the type of EID. The reader board may, in one embodiment, be encased in a plastic or other weather-resistant shroud, for obvious reasons. Moreover, the reader board may carry a switch, proximal to the handle pivot 825, to trigger reading and/or data recording.

[0053] In such an embodiment, a handle such as the upper handle 810 may be designed so as to carry a switch actuator 860. As the pressure is applied to the respective first ends of the handles 810 and 820—urging them together—the switch actuator 860 is urged toward a switch on the reader board. As the switch actuator 860 contacts the reader board switch and actuates it, the reader board may be triggered to make readings such as the UIC of the EID and/or the time and date. If the switch actuator 860 and reader board switch are properly calibrated, the triggering of the reader board switch by the switch actuator may be an excellent indicator that the stud 400, carried by the stud mount 830, has been inserted into the antenna card 100, carried by the antenna card mount 840, thereby indicating that the EID has been successfully attached to the animal. Accordingly, the information obtained by the reader board would indicate the date and time that a particular EID was attached to a particular animal.

[0054] FIG. 9 depicts a reverse angle perspective view of the exemplary applicator 800. As shown in FIG. 8, the top handle 810 and lower handle 820 are interconnected at pivot point 825. The second end of lower handle 820 carries a stud mount 830, while the second end of the top handle 810, which carries the antenna card mount 840, is obstructed in the depicted view by the datacassette 850, also attached thereto. Proximal to the handle pivot 825 is the switch actuator 860. As the handles 810 and 820 are further urged together, the switch actuator 860 advances toward the datacassette 850, making contact with the switch 910. When the switch 910 has been depressed sufficiently, the datacassette 850 records at least the UIC of the EID and the time and date of the switch actuation.

[0055] In operation, the user would apply power to the applicator 800 and attach a stud 400 to the stud mount 830. The user would then attach an antenna card 100 to the antenna card mount 840. At this point, in one embodiment, the reader board within the cassette 850 would identify and record the UIC of the EID that had just been attached thereto. In another embodiment, the reader board would identify the UIC of the EID when the applicator is actuated.

[0056] In either embodiment, after the stud 400 and antenna card 100 have been attached, respectively, to the applicator 800, the applicator is moved into attachment proximity to the animal's ear. By “attachment proximity” it is understood that the portion of the animal's ear to which the EID is to be attached is positioned between the attached stud 400 and the attached antenna card 100. Then, the top handle 810 and lower handle 820 are urged together, thereby urging together the stud 400 and the antenna card 100. As the respective handles 810 and 820 are urged together, the switch actuator 860 contacts the switch 910, thereby triggering a determination of at least the present time and date. In an optional embodiment, the UIC of the EID is also read at this point. After both the UIC and the time/date have been ascertained, these bits of information are linked and stored temporarily on the reader board or on a storage device communicatively interconnected with the reader board.

[0057] As the respective handles 810 and 820 are urged to the end of their range of motion, the stud 400 penetrates the ear of the animal and enters locked, interconnected relation with the antenna card 100, thereby affixing the EID to the animal.

[0058] Information such as the linked UIC and time/date information is later downloaded for collection and storage in a data storage device.

[0059] Importantly, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the aspects of the invention described above are particularly useful when implemented in accordance with the basic information gathering, storing and access principles taught in previously-referenced U.S. Pat. No. 6,401,071, previously specifically incorporated by reference herein. Wherein the '071 patent relates to collection of information pertaining to the delivery of animal injections, this invention is directed to the collection of information relating to the identity of an animal, the time and date that an EID was attached to the animal, and other information such as the location of the animal.

[0060] Further, it is intended that the preceding detailed description merely set forth an exemplary embodiment of the present invention. It is not intended that this detailed description limit, in any form or fashion, the scope of the present invention. Rather, the scope of the present invention is set forth in the claims below.