Tech Tuesday: The Industrial Internet of Things in Agriculture
North Star Systems is a hardware and software developer in Saskatchewan, Canada that manufactures Tattle Systems, a tool that supports business operations. Tattle Systems capabilities take technology to the next level. Real-time remote location, level, and data reporting define Tattle Systems. In our North Stars Systems Technology Tuesday series we will be exploring the business, culture, and impact of the technology industry. In our latest article, North Star Systems celebrates 2020 Canadian AG Day by sharing how the industrial internet of things or IIoT, is hard at work in the AG industry.
Connecting Field and Farm: The Industrial Internet of Things in Agriculture
Canada’s Agriculture Day on February 11th 2020, encourages conversations across the country about including all the tools and technologies we use to sustainably produce our food and care for our environment. These conversations must include information technology. Farmers cultivate not only fields but knowledge, and today’s interconnected technology is putting ever more powerful tools in their hands. A prime example is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
In its simplest sense, IIoT is the interconnection of sensors embedded in the tools we use every day via the Internet to computers that can crunch the data.
What does this mean for agriculture? It promises to allow farmers and input retailers to gather and use information to make more efficient use of time and resources and in doing so, strengthen their bottom line. But is IIoT really that new? In a sense, it is simply the latest step in information evolution on the farm. The earliest examples are perhaps gauges – devices that allow the farmer to monitor fuel levels, oil pressure, RPM, and engine temperature right from the operator’s seat. As technology advanced, manufacturers put sensors on seeding and harvesting equipment, allowing the producer to make adjustments on the fly and identify problems before they become expensive errors. The first grain loss monitors alerted the person on the combine that their machine wasn’t threshing properly and losing crop out the back end. But they still often had to shut down the machine, get out of the cab, and make manual adjustments.
Today, a combine cab can look more like the cockpit of an airliner than the simple surroundings of earlier years where the operator was just glad to be out of the weather, dust and noise. Sensors throughout the machine feed data to computer screens, and actuators allow the operator to make adjustments on the fly. Data also tell the farmer how the yield is varying over the field, information that can be overlaid onto GPS maps and augmented with, for example, soil sampling and analysis. Using this information, the producer can plan next year’s crop. Using similar “smart” technology, seeding equipment can put down greater or lesser amounts of fertilizer depending on last year’s performance.
These are all powerful technologies, but they gain even more strength with IIoT. Onboard sensor and computer systems can be linked via the Internet to connect the entire farm or retail operation. A fuel tank can alert the consumer and/or fuel provider automatically to bring out more fuel. An anhydrous wagon IIoT-enabled with a Tattle Systems for example, can alert the fertilizer dealer as to its current location, level of product in the tank, and when a driver needs to be on site for a refill to keep the customer’s seeding operations going without delay. This device-to-device communication is called M2M, for “machine to machine.”
This information could be accessed not only from the dealer’s desktop computer, but from anywhere via smartphone or tablet app. Examples are already on the market. One is IoT-enabled grain bins outfitted with BIN-SENSE® technology from IntraGrain (a North Star Systems partner) which allow monitoring of inventory levels and whether the crop is safely stored or beginning to heat. Ultimately, the potential for IIoT in agriculture depends on whether it delivers clear value to farmers and retailers. It is farmers that possess “ground truth,” that is, the specific knowledge of their own fields accumulated over years of first-hand observation and experience. North Star Systems and its partner companies are guided by this knowledge to deliver the tools retailers and producers can use to realize the promise of IIoT in their operations.
North Star Systems leads in the creation of innovative technology, including the Industrial Internet of Things in Agriculture. We pride ourselves on outstanding service and our Tattle Products provide solutions to streamline the operations of your business.
If you would like to know more about how North Star Tattle Systems can help you reach out to our team today!