EyeD: New technology for equine identification

Feb 10, 2012

From the time humans began raising livestock, there has been a need for animal identification to mark ownership. Earliest records suggest techniques began several centuries ago, and today, many different forms of identification are used for private and official recognition of animals. Recently, Global Animal Management (GAM), a whollyowned subsidiary of Merck Animal Health and Co., introduced the first equine identification system, eyeD, to utilize iris scanning technology as a means of identification of horses. The company promotes this biometric technology as the most accurate of all existing equine identification methods, more accurate than DNA, tattoos, microchips, markings or brands and more secure than paper records that are subject to loss, damages or theft.

Their technology was designed for equines as a means of providing accessible and fraud-resistant methods of identifying horses that will facilitate a more uniform standard upon which the industry can build data and valuable information services. The eyeD also enables transactions, registrations, health management and related industry management practices to take place online.

“The system is a non-invasive option for horse owners, veterinarians, associations and event regulators to identify horses and manage equine information,” described GAM Marketing Manager Dave Knupp. “For several decades, the U.S. military has been utilizing iris technology as a means of identification of individuals. SRI International (SRI) is a company that has historically been one of the primary investigators in iris scanning for more than 20 years. Two years ago, GAM teamed up with SRI, becoming technology partners, for their contribution to the expertise behind eyeD, thus enabling us to make a commercially sellable product.”

GAM has been doing demonstrations of eyeD the past few months at various equine venues including the American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show in Oklahoma City, OK, the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity in Fort Worth, TX, and several premier equestrian events on the East Coast. They also demonstrated their product at the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, KY.

This past November 2011, the eyeD was officially launched at the 57th Annual Convention of the American Association of Equine Practioners (AAEP) in San Antonio, TX. GAM felt the AAEP launching had fantastic interest and many sales were made at the meeting. They also believe their product is well on its way to being included in veterinary practice with units already in place across the U.S.

“I have been in the marketing and trade industry for over 12 years,” said Knupp. “And I have never seen a product generate as much interest and enthusiasm as the eyeD. With more than 10 years in development, I believe eyeD is the way of the future in equine identification. This highly advanced method of identification will provide horse owners with a quick and precise identification in addition to data that can be retrieved instantly online 24/7/365.”

The what’s, the why’s, and the how’s of this new product?

EyeD is a non-invasive method of animal identification using iris scan technology, a discipline utilizing the unique features of a living animal’s iris. EyeD detects individual iris patterns to establish an identification code in equines similar to how iris identification has been perfected in humans. A digital photo called an eyePrint is taken of the iris using infrared illumination.

An eyePrint is more accurate than a fingerprint as no two irises are alike. For example, the iris of the horse’s left eye is different than the iris of its right eye. Even clones have different iris patterns.

The company heralds the additional advantage of the eyeD as being a quick and easy procedure with lowered risk of identifier loss or altering. Without the need for restraint of the horse, GAM promotes their product as a means to decrease stress and increase safety to horses and handlers. The camera has no flash and makes no loud noise to scare the horse. Horses can be scanned at 10 to 12 months of age.

Knupp adds that this new venue in equine identification offers easy recognition of previously scanned horses with its ability to match it to the original eyePrint. The original eyePrint and other data about a horse is stored in the eyeD processor, a highly secured, password protected environment.

“The small field-ready portable eyeD camera is required to capture an image of a horse’s iris from a distance of about 10-14 inches. The horse doesn’t need to be restrained but has to be kept somewhat still during the procedure, which takes approximately 30–60 seconds,”elaborates Knupp. “Each eye is scanned and converted into an eye- Print. Up to four digital photographs of the horse are also taken. The eyePrint is processed and assigned its own unique 15-digit alphanumeric code. The images are stored electronically along with additional data in the eyeSync client software installed in the veterinarian’s computer for their exclusive use.”

“We’ve integrated with a company called Global Vetlink which provides electronic Coggins test records. We’ve also integrated into some veterinary practices’ management software. Using eyeD creates efficiency and accuracy.”

Veterinarians with GAM’s equine identification system enroll in eyeD’s Local Program where they can store the iris scans and medical information such as treatments and health management programs. This allows veterinarians access to track patient records and procedures through all phases of care. Some veterinarians have been using the eyeD technology for more than a year now in their clinic. When scanning the horse upon its arrival, they can retrieve the entire medical history for that animal at that facility.

EyeD’s National Program is for enrollment of horse owners to have access to and recover their horse’s data base including health certificates and medical records.

Other information that can be stored includes performance records, registrations and photographs. Owners pay their enrollment fee and an annual renewal fee. Currently, eyeD is offering a promotional early enrollment program for $50 per horse which includes discounted annual renewal fees for owners of horses signed up during this period.

“A horse’s eye that has previously been enrolled cannot be enrolled again, a technical feature of eyeD ensuring security with their identification. The camera can recognize if there has been a previous enrollment and can identify that horse from the eyeD data bank,” Knupp said. “This capability can be useful in cases of lost, stolen or seized horses. With thousands of horses stolen annually, eyeD allows information storage in a national data bank that can assist in the relocation of horses.”

“Currently, we are receiving a lot of interest from rescue groups about our product. We are scheduled to demonstrate our system to the New York City Police Department. They keep up with their retired horse inventory of about 90 horses that have gone to homes. The eyeD would help in the permanent identification of those horses. Future plans of eyeD also involve working with livestock boards and brand inspectors.”

EyeD is a new technology in equine management that can be useful in several areas of the industry including identification of rodeo, show, race and other horses, incorporation with veterinary information in practice, online acquisition of equine records, and recognition of stolen horses.

Additional information about this product can be obtained from veterinarians or at the website: www.eyed.com. This ‘state of the art’ technology for equine identification allows horsemen and horsewomen an additional way to ‘keep an eye’ on their mounts. — Ginger Elliott, WLJ Correspondent