Tuesday, February 05, 2008
RFID May Be Key To Finding Latest Mad Cow Case
The Canadian Government has been successful for detecting cows with “mad-cow disease” through the distribution of RFID tags and the management of information on livestock. The US also started to take steps to protect the food supply, and IBM and TekVet launched an RFID system to monitor the health of cattle. Their RFID sensor is attached to the ear of a cow and sends the health data wirelessly to stations on a cattleman’s ranch. Then, a satellite transmits the data to TekVek’s data center hosted by IBM to process the information.
As of 2007, the US Department of Agriculture started to set up a series of databases that allow the livestock industry to track information across the US. Data from birth date to doctor visits and vaccinations for numerous types of livestock, including more than 90 million cows, would reside in those databases. Designing the system also means pulling together a communication infrastructure that allows state and federal health officials to send requests for information through the system in the event of an outbreak. The information will be held by private industry and the government will only have access to the information if something happens.
D -- data types and document types (paying special attention to the former when they are used across the latter as the "glue" to connect processes)
This article shows how to manage data on cows from birth date to doctor visits and vaccinations through RFID tags. Also, in the RFID tags, the result of detecting the change of body status is expressed in a data form (even if there is no specified expression for this data in this article).
O -- organizational transactions and processes (the "business processes", described coarsely like "drop shipment" or precisely like "PIP 3A4")
Processes for this tag system sequentially include storing cow data at the moment when the health status of cows is detected; sending the data to the IBM data center; retrieving the data by the government. This leads to the disappearance of papers and pencils for reporting cow data.
C -- context (types of products or services, industry, geography, regulatory considerations -- the ebXML "context dimensions" described in section 8.2 of Document Engineering)
The success of Canada to find cows with ‘mad-cow disease’ has motivated the US to take step to set up the RFID system. Detection of mad-cow disease is strategically important for the US because it can hold back the export of cows, which has been one of the sources of profit.
U -- user types and special user requirements (these are "people" user types)
The main user of this system would be the government, who has access to the system to monitor if something wrong in the livestock industry happens all over the country.
M -- models, patterns, or standards that apply or that are needed
The information of the RFID system flows from an RFID tag on a cow’s ear through ranch’s station and then a satellite to a data center. Data types on the health status, regardless of what kinds of RFID tags and database systems are, should be standardized in order to collect data with no data integrity problem from all over the country into the database system.
E -- enterprises and eco systems (e.g., trading communities, standards bodies, other frameworks that help scope the case study)
Data production, management and consumption are accomplished by different participants – ranches, private companies and the government (sometimes, ranches) – respectively.
N -- the needs (business case) driving the enterprise(s)
Because the mad-cow disease can give negative impression to customer outside the US as well as within the US, it is important to detect the disease before cows come into the market. Above all, it is the matter of our life, so it is undeniable to track the health information of cows in the most efficient way whatever way it is.
T -- technology constraints and opportunities (legacy or interoperability concerns from existing technologies or implementations; new or improved processes or outcomes enabled by technology)
Data semantic and type standardization are really important to gather data from different cows in different ranches. It would be effective to define and model standard markup language for cattle’s health information based on XML, so that the language can enable data to travel over heterogeneous system environments flawlessly.
Ranchers and vets can use this information to keep track of each individual cow's health history.
Since ranches usually employ some kind of husbandry/selective-breeding system, this system can be extended to keep track of lineage to maintain and produce higher quality cows.
Finally, having positive health and lineage records can be beneficial information to pass on to the potential buyers.
For example, this article says "Data from birth date to doctor visits and vaccinations" would reside in US Department of Agriculture databases. That's exactly what would appear in Health Vault. So the systems wouldn't differ much in content. The main difference is that the users of the USDA system wouldn't be the individuals whose PHRs are in it, unless some user interface design expert figures out an appropriate way for cows to get to their information.
It is easy to see the benefits of RFID tagging in such massive cases of recall which would help to track and locate affected meat. Also, regular updates of cattle health data by independent vets might help to reduce acts of animal cruelty like the ones mentioned in the article.
Additionally, I found this line to be especially disturbing:
"However the department says the health hazard is minimal. Much of the meat was purchased for school lunch and other federal nutrition programmes."
Sounds like they're saying, "Don't worry, only a select population (i.e. our nation's children) might be affected by this tainted meat." ...
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