If you’re lucky, you have a job that keeps you inspired and hobbies that help you unwind and stay fresh. At times, these two life facets come together to deliver a special kind of magic. That’s what happened when a team of engineers at Arcturus Networks and NXP Semiconductors combined their interests in food and technology to create the ultimate chicken coop, or as they call it, the Coop Deville.
Shown at NXP FTF Technology Forum, this foodie inspired experiment was powered by the Arcturus uCMK64 production IoT module, the NXP Kinetis K64 MCU and several allied technologies such as NFC, mobile phone, and networking. The project demonstrates how the right tools can bring a useful solution to life, one with transferable benefits to other important areas such as healthcare, building automation, and home networking.
A passion for food
Cooking is a combination of science and art, so it isn’t exactly a surprise that design engineers are drawn to the kitchen. A recent collaboration between Arcturus Networks and NXP formed a technical team made up of people who also happened to be passionate about food, including a former Food Network contestant and a cookbook author. As the topic of food continued to arise during their work together, they discovered a colleague was having difficulties keeping his backyard chickens safe and healthy. To them, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to merge their profession and passion.
One of the tenants of cooking is to combine fresh, superior ingredients in a simple and honest way. The emergence of food culture has sought to deliver a high level of food quality. As a result, local and organic food movements, urban gardening and responsible animal husbandry have become key trend drivers in food production. Communities are even changing residential policies to accommodate chicken coops in urban environments.
The team’s thought experiment focused on how they could help their co-worker maintain the happiest, healthiest, safest chickens. In return, the chickens would do their part by laying the best possible eggs. Together, they devised a plan to make this all possible with a toolkit of technologies including the Arcturus uCMK64 production IoT module, a mid-range IoT module that supports a combination of Ethernet or Wi-Fi connectivity, peripheral integration, I/O controls and optional local or wide area voice communication. The module leverages a Kinetis K64 microcontroller from NXP running firmware based on the NXP software development kit for HomeKit accessories with iOS integration.
The path to the perfect coop
The immediate challenge with a chicken is how to manage its daily life in a way that keeps it healthy and active. It was getting complicated for Mario to let his chickens out of the coop when he worked late. The team put together a solution that allowed the coop to be opened remotely using networking technology and with that simple creation the path to the upmarket Coop Deville was cleared.
How it works:
- Each chicken receives a unique NFC identifier. As it approaches the door to the coop, the NFC signal triggers a communication to the remote caregiver through a phone text message. In manual mode the caregiver can confirm and allow the chicken in or out the coop.
- The chicken coop can be included in an overall home automation system by including HomeKit compatibility, which was achieved by using the HomeKit Software Development Kit (SDK) from NXP.
- Through a live video feed the caregiver can monitor the entrance and the environment of the coop to ensure that no foxes are allowed into the henhouse.
- Through an array of sensors the lighting and internal temperature can be monitored and regulated for optimal conditions. In automatic mode the coop has features that allow programmers to change lighting controls based on local sun down, and sun rise to ensure that no roosters get up late.
- In automatic mode, there are additional features that allow the owner to program access control privileges based on a particular time of day or local weather conditions.
- The data from the chicken’s daily life creates rich insights into how active the chicken is and its general level of wellness. Its activity, collected into a database, is particularly important in monitoring overall health.
- The same system could be used to manage and monitor pets that have access to the outside, such as cats and dogs.
These technologies can be used in a variety of applications including home healthcare and assisted living scenarios. As the Coop Deville helps deliver the perfect egg, it may also serve as a way to help with the challenges of healthcare in the modern age.
Download the whitepaper.