Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


EQR-Equid Report Summary

Project ID: 728719

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EQR-Equid (Real Time, Secure Equine ID Information Platform (EQR-Equid))

Reporting period: 2016-06-01 to 2016-11-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Fraud in both the human food chain and the buying, selling and welfare of pleasure horses is rife across Europe. Horses and ponies are principally identified by a paper based ‘passport’ and sometimes with micro-chips or branding. Passports are hand written and prone to error, falsification and fraud. Passports are often forged or illegally ‘recycled’ from dead animals, meaning horses are slaughtered and wrongly enter the food chain, containing dangerous substances such as Phenylbutazone (Bute). Horses can be stolen and resold easily – duplicate passports are easy to come by and the law is not enforced. Purchasers of horses for food or leisure purposes have no certain way of knowing that the horse they’re looking at is the one in the passport.
Microchips, once seen as the complete answer to this problem, are also susceptible to fraudulent actions: they can be removed or destroyed externally, cloned or more than one can be inserted.
We are developing a new equine identification method for end users such as vets, Defra and other animal welfare agencies to enable them to reduce fraud both in the food chain and for leisure horse owners. Scanimal uses a unique 3D image capture and recognition system which, via smartphone apps, can provide unique identification of horses by recording their individual markings. The innovation is in our visual solution (patent applied for) to search images of equines so that one can be identified without the need for documentation or a microchip scanner.
The objectives of our overall innovation project is to is to develop the Scanimal device and supporting system for licensing to government agencies, charities and veterinarians who handle horses and must identify them.
The specific objectives of our Phase I project are to carry out a feasibility study to enable us to create a clear path for market replication of Scanimal.
Our sales forecast shows projected total turnover up to 2020 for this product of around £4m+ over the 6 years.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

We have carried out all the tasks in our project objectives. The objectives of our overall innovation project is to is to develop the Scanimal device and supporting system for licensing to government agencies, charities and veterinarians who handle horses and must identify them.

The specific objectives of our Phase I project were to carry out a feasibility study to enable us to create a clear path for market replication of Scanimal. Our specific objectives are:

1) To understand the size, nature and relative segments of the European and worldwide market
2) To carry out a market study, with voice of the customer consultation, including 20 telephone and 12 face to face interviews and report on findings
3) To find sales, distribution and licensing partners and to research and identify commercialisation partners, and commence discussions with a view to securing route to market partnership
4) To understand competing technologies and organisations. We carried out an exploration of state of the art, competing technologies and competing companies and created a competitor analysis
5) To create a business plan for Equine Register, giving a clear commercialisation path for the next 3 years We developed a business model which includes Business to Business and Business to Consumer routes
6) To formulate an IP protection strategy. We explored opportunities for securing patent protection and other forms of IP protection including trademarks and design rights. We conducted a freedom to operate survey.

We have completed all tasks, and created a market report, competitor analysis, business plan and IP report. All reports are positive and have proved that there is a substantial market, with genuine voice of the customer demand. The IP work has shown that there are no competing technologies which would cause difficulties. We have a robust and detailed business plan which outlines our next steps to commercialisation, and will prepare a Phase 2 SMEi bid for the January submission deadline.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Current State of the art can be categorised as follows:
1) Blood typing Uses two processes: serological, which identifies genetic blood group markers similar to the Rh and ABO blood groups in humans; and electrophoretic, properties of the blood; Determines which horse are not parents; Not a common technique; Complex procedure and handling; Cannot be used post mortem
2) Database Registration The recording of horse identification data for registration and identification purposes; The introduction of a compulsory centralised database in all Member States is demanded by the EU by (for the UK) mid-2016; Many databases exist of varied quality and content – breeder associations and passport issuing organisations; Many are limited by the data type, accuracy and how current the data is; Databases easily become out of date and those which exist require manual updating from paper records, emails, phone calls etc.
3) Diagrams and/or pictures of natural physical marks
4) Signalments: the horse’s natural colour and markings. They are used most commonly recorded on registration papers, health certificates, transfer of ownership papers, documents for horses in transport, and other quickly written notations. Of greater value are the indications of trichoglyphs: markings about the head, legs, and body including cowlicks or hair whorls, which have unique patterns, sizes, and combinations in a horse’s hair.; Recording by drawing is objective. Colours and markings are complex and can change with age.
5) Cowlicks and hair whorls are difficult to see unless close to the horse and are not adequately captured in a picture of the entire horse in profile.
6) DNA analysis DNA analysis is used by breed registries to verify parentage upon registration of foals. DNA is analysed from nasal swabs, mane hair roots, or blood samples. DNA testing kits cost circa €140. Accurate, but requires sample analysis at a laboratory; cannot be used to identify parentage unless parent registered.
7) Freeze Marking Involves a cold branding iron being held on the skin for 7-15 seconds to destroy the hair growth follicles and make a bald mark. Cost ca. €50; Freeze marking may deter thieves but it can cause significant suffering.
8) Hot Branding Involves the application of a very hot iron to the skin for several seconds, or until the hide turns a light tan colour. Cost ca. €50; This causes significant pain and unnecessary suffering. Hot iron branding in horses causes lesions compatible with third degree thermal injury; Double digit brands are only recognised by 3 independent observes in 40% of case according to studies reported in 2013.17
9) High quality color photographs are a valuable aid to horse identification; Unreliable and of variable quality Signalments and trichoglyphs cannot easily be captured; Physical metrics (height, weight, etc. are not captured1); Not currently used on most secure databases; Require regular updating; Horse appearance can be altered (mane shaved, weight lost in transit, coat dyed etc.), or seasonal changes
10) Iris Scanning A non-invasive method of animal identification using iris scan technology. A photo is taken of the horse’s eye requiring the head to be kept still. The operator needs to be about 10 to 14 inches from the horse to capture the image. It is necessary to photograph each eye. The images are stored online in a database, along with pedigree registrations etc; Requires bespoke hardware; No infrastructure for identification or tracking; No interoperability.
11) Lip Tattoos Racing horses in the U.S. require a lip tattoo for name, age and lineage identification before their first race. Tattoos are always on the inside of the upper lip. Registration papers will also list the tattoo number. Cost ca. €40 Limited to US and Canadian racing horses. Each breed has a different letter and numbering system. Still relies on paper work to record information; Requires trained personnel and causes discomfort to the horse; Wears out in 4 - 5 years.
12) Microchips. An EU legal requirement for all horses and ponies born after 1 July 2009. An FEI requirement since 2013. To be a requirement for many US breeders and competition associations. Microchip implantation is not pain free, but does appear to inflict less pain and suffering than hot branding or freeze marking. Cost is low – FEI compliant chips circa €7. Insertion fees circa. €60. Current chips are read only, do not migrate (if properly inserted) and cannot be erased. Removal is difficult and dangerous to the horse’s life. The favoured method globally; Microchips can be cloned, or additional chips inserted for fraudulent purposes. The readability of microchips is dependent on the method and quality of the equipment used; Requires veterinary intervention; Not a visible deterrent; Complimentary to EQR-Equid in that we offer an infrastructure to support identification using microchips and to avoid reliance upon a single identification methodology by recording markings and other characteristic metrics; Paper passport This is the commonest approach to the identification of equidae ; Commonly used globally; Open to fraud;Difficult to update and Non-permanent
The concept embraced by EQR-Equid has no direct commercial competitor. The identification methodologies described above in Table B are used, to varying extents, often in isolation. Each has limitations. The most commercially successful approach to tagging a horse and registering its identity is the use of a microchip; mandated for all foals born in the EU. However, it is not easy for private horse owners to easily check an animal’s microchip to verify identity without the use of specialist equipment of reasonable quality and specialist assistance. Industry experts recommend a visible deterrent in combination with microchipping – e.g. freeze branding.
Following several years of work by developers experienced in user interface and secure database design, along with leading industry representatives and governmental advisers, Equine Register has created what could be called the “DVLA for horses.” EQR-Equid identifies, tracks and monitors horses to help secure borders and defend the human food-chain. They provide the government, industry and members of the public with digital tools and services that increase equine welfare and combat criminal activity. EQR-Equid uses an innovative equine classification and recognition software which, when deployed on readily available ‘smart devices’, can accurately characterise equidae by assisting the owner in targeting, recording and registering the animal’s unique markings – immediately! The innovation is in our system to search profiles of equidae so that markings can be identified without the need for supporting documentation or a microchip scanner. Unique features such as hair whorls and scars do not change substantially with age, and cannot be tampered with easily and will greatly increase the likelihood of a verification of the horse’s identity.
Commercial databases generally ‘belong’ to specialist breeders and, in the EU, passport issuing organisations working on behalf of governments. A tariff schedule, from a leading UK PIO, is shown in Table C. It is readily apparent that the costs of managing a horse’s passport are considerable. Compliance is low, not only due to cost but also the process. Lead times for the PIO are long; 10-day turnaround times. Whilst some of this is due to the process at DEFRA, some is administrative delay at the PIO; a fast track service is often offered at extra cost. The comparable projected costs for similar operations in EQR-Equid are much smaller deploying an automated micro-billing platform that only charges when it’s used. Further it is our intention to allow registration at no-cost to the private horse owner. We expect that the benefits offered by EQR-Equid will achieve a high compliance amongst horse owners and those working with horses.

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