As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues along its IT hype-cycle, the agriculture industries already exploits IoT to great extent. And provides various inspiring examples of value-adding IoT.
City-dwellers may like to think of the countryside as a nice idyll, but the realities of modern farming are harsher than at any office. The farming industry is highly receptive and eager to innovate and already embraces IoT. For instance, IoT using sensor information from GEO positioning devices, to machinery to weather stations. In the Agriculture business, IoT devices are a necessity to survive. However, serious challenges lie ahead. As fully autonomous farm machines are generally moving around a wide area without any roads, these machines may be more likely to encounter wandering humans or misplaced livestock than a self-driving car might come across on a European freeway. The consequences of such an encounter are likely to turn out even more disastrous. Yet another goal is to improve machine-to-machine communication and have the machines communicate with each other. This will allow farmers to remotely control an entire harvesting fleet.
The newest emerging trend in IoT-enabled connected agro-fleets is cab-less, autonomous machine design. In recent years, a human being can drive an automated tractor, but in the newest generations, they lack the cab altogether and use autonomous tractor technology, like CASE IH. You’ll also come across connected drones used in serious agricultural applications.
And also sensors on people and animals, in the soil, and on machinery and equipment.
A nice example is given by John Deere. This visionary producer of farm equipment is stuffing tractors, harvesting combines and other high-value equipment with sensors and computers. Doing so enables it to offer precision farming capabilities along with the high reliability of machines and comfort of automated (robotic) operations. This driver-less technology is merely the latest stage of a trend towards IoT-powered farm-automation.
In 2015 Atos earned recognition as a John Deere “Partner-level Supplier”. Check out what David Parker, SAP Internet of Things VP, has to say.
Most interesting are the applications for business which integrate IoT implementations, such as John Deere’s FarmSight, FieldConnect and HarvestLab. These IoT-powered solutions are boosting the efficiency of prepping, planting, feeding and harvesting with the goal of improving per-acre crop yields. At the same time they are improving irrigation efficiency and land-use. To achieve this, John Deere is not only applying sensors, drones, and IoT but also hooks it all up with long-range wireless communications. For instance, LoRaWAN, cloud technology, apps, data analytics and big data, leading to intelligent automated decision-making as the core part of IoT-powered solutions. These “directly from the field”, informed decisions are where the real business value is created.
For example, farmers use IoT sensors to first measure how much they took from the land, and then the system computes how much organic manure as fertilizer, supplemented with nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium they have to give back to the land to reach equilibrium.
John Deere farmsight (credit: John Deere)
IoT-powered decision support helps farmers to automatically make accurate measurements. Accurate, and timely measurements of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, ammonium and volume. This enables them to adjust fertilization of their fields for the selected crop and variety, preventing mistakes and increasing efficiency in every way.
IoT and GPS powered real-time automated decisioning in the tractor cabin and in the cloud, is increasingly becoming the new standard. So is the use of IoT sensors on equipment, delivering thousands of readings per second. Thus, real-time automated decisioning uses GPS and big data from the LoRaWAN connected in-soil sensors inside the field. This leads to continuous operational decisioning securing both high crop yield and quality, also preventing over-fertilization or exhaustion of the soil.
LoRaWAN, a long-range-low-power wide area network technology, is an important development within serious IoT communication. This technology fuelling IoT-powered solutions is quickly gaining momentum all over the world, not only in the western hemisphere. In South Korea, Samsung Electronics has piloted an entire LoRaWAN infrastructure for renewable energy solutions monitoring, medical services, and data analysis, and a driver-less electric vehicle infrastructure. The technology can adjust the city lights brightness automatically to save energy, while using sensors to collect weather and traffic information.
These innovations are being seen the world over. At the end of 2016, the Iranian energy company NIGC set up a LoRa-based IoT network in Tehran and installed gas meter readers embedded with telecom modules in more than 5,000 households. In the Netherlands, KPN launched the first nation-covering LoRa network for the nations’ IoT.
Within the IT-sector IoT and IoT technology might be quite new. But the technology for IoT-powered solutions is already ripe and fully in operation in different sectors. Relatively new technologies like IoT Cloud platforms, LoRa and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) enable even more possibilities to exploit IoT data streams.
The challenge for IT specialists and their management is to look beyond the boundaries of their own competence areas. The challenge for system integrators is bringing together already available skills.
The most important challenge for modern Business Information Analysts is learning from other sectors, such as the agriculture sector and manufacturing. And using their imagination to adapt and apply new insights to the very business areas they are currently working in.
Technical components of IoT
- The Things: an object, sensor, actuator, switch or anything you can imagine you would like to connect to the internet.
- Physical Network: “The Things” send or receive information from a physical network created by connecting gateways spread over an area.
- Virtual Network: The physical network of gateways sends the IoT data to a virtual network, which is able to route it securely to the owner without any undesired interference.
- IoT application: IoT data routes to an IoT application. In most cases, this is a piece of middleware connected to decisioning services and data services.
- Device: a front-end application that is running on a mobile phone or computer, or even on a ‘Thing’.