Mobile/Wireless Update: Real-Time Realities

In the world of technology, October 7, 2014, was a red letter day. According to most sources, this was the date when the number of mobile devices present around the globe topped 7.22 billion. Significantly, this marked the date that this number was actually higher than the total number of people living on Planet Earth, which most researchers put at somewhere between 7.19 and 7.2 billion. As Kevin Kimberlin, Chairman of Spencer Trask & Co., said on that day: “No other technology has impacted us like the mobile phone. It’s the fastest growing man-made phenomenon ever — from zero to 7.2 billion in three decades.”

Naturally, with such widespread acceptance, mobile devices have worked their way into virtually every aspect of modern life, including agriculture. Of course, this isn’t exactly surprising. In fact, many market watchers have predicted that technology would take on this level of importance for several years. “This means technology will play an increasing role in all markets, including agriculture,” James Heseman, Senior Vice President, U.S. & Canada Sales for John Deere Credit, told attendees at an industry event back in 2010.

Agustina Sacerdote, Granular
Agustina Sacerdote, Granular

Still, growers have not embraced the mobile device revolution for their entire on-farm operations just yet. In fact, according to Agustina Sacerdote, Marketing Manager for Granular, a farm management software provider, this remains the case even in the marketplace of 2016. “Some growers are hesitant to change what has worked for them over the years and still rely on pen and paper to manage their farms,” says Sacerdote. “And let’s face it – using pen and paper is free, so there’s not a huge cost or learning curve associated with it.”

Network Limitations

But perhaps more importantly than simply “remaining with what they know,” others in the technology marketplace say that the reluctance to accept mobile/wireless communications in agriculture has had more to do with technological limitations than outright rejection.

“Not too many years ago, growers and others in agriculture weren’t that interested in using wireless for all their needs because many of them couldn’t even make calls to someone on their mobile phone reliably, much less transmit data over them,” says T.J. Schulte, Marketing Manager for Trimble Agriculture, providers of the Connected Farm management system. He adds that, in the past, many growers needed to install multiple signal boosters on their properties to try to correct this issue.

T.J. Schulte Trimble
T.J. Schulte, Trimble Agriculture

Of course, this “service limitation in rural or remote areas” has largely been corrected, particularly as wireless providers have expanded their networks from 3G to 4G capabilities. The third generation of mobile networks, 3G came into use across much of the U.S. back in 2003, offering Internet speeds anywhere between 144K and 400K bytes per second. But as of 2015, 4G is rapidly becoming the standard bearer for mobile networks across most of the country. Most of the major carriers now feature such networks, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. According to the experts, the big advantage 4G offers over 3G is its ability to transfer large amounts of data from laptops to mobile devices in a short amount of time. This includes video streaming.

As Schulte points out, this has not only improved wireless communications for the entire country, but agriculture in particular. “We have definitely seen a bigger desire on the part of the grower community to use wireless communications in new and different ways the past few years,” he says. “And this is being made much more successful because there is more cellular coverage across the countryside than was ever possible before.”

Ryan Molitor, Manager of Customer Experience for Raven Industries, agrees with this assessment. In fact, his company recently introduced a 4G Field Hub for its popular Slingshot unit to tie into this developing trend. “We still operate as not all wireless communication is the same,” says Molitor. “But with our 4G Slingshot, we can offer extra speed to our customers, which is becoming more important as everyone wants things provided to them faster than in the past.”

The Important Data Debate

With network reliability now greatly improved, the next big challenge for data providers to address concerns the data itself. “Just collecting data doesn’t give you anything,” says Dr. Marina Barnes, Vice President of Marketing for FarmersEdge, providers of the Precision Solutions and FarmCommand services. “You have to have something analyze all that data for you for it to be turned into something useful.”

Marina Barnes, FarmersEdge
Marina Barnes, FarmersEdge

Then there’s the “real-time” factor, she adds. “We run our business on the 20-minute rule when it comes to getting information to the user,” says Barnes. “If you can’t get your technical data to work for the farmer within the first 20 minutes after he receives it, he’s probably never going to use it. That’s why our Precision Solutions services provide mobile device access, so that our users can make all their important field decisions on-the-fly without a problem.”

To this, says Trimble’s Schulte, add what data is actually needed. “This is a really important question,” he says. “Most users have got all kinds of systems and sensors all over their field machines that can create piles upon piles of data sets. But what does the grower really want and how can we as a service provider help him use all this to make an informed decision? Most growers don’t want megabytes and gigabytes of data on their home computers that doesn’t mean anything, and we need to help him ultimately determine which is which. That’s a big part of what we are doing with our Connected Farm product.”

Another such system that offers to effectively sort data for growers using a mobile platform is ClearAg Mobile from Iteris, Inc. A grower analytics application, ClearAg Mobile uses weather, water, soil, and crop growth information to enable users and their ag retailers to improve the management of their fields. “ClearAg Mobile provides growers with precise information at the exact time they need it to minimize the risks and maximize productivity throughout the entire crop growing season,” says Tom Blair, Senior Vice President of Iteris’ Performance Analytics Division. “Essentially, ClearAg Mobile is a grower’s ‘smart farm advisor.’”

With mobile devices now the most prevalent technology on the planet, many agricultural market watchers expect even more developments to occur on the next few years as well. “This is only the beginning of a new brand phase for all of agriculture,” says Bob McClure, Chief Data Specialist for FarmLink. “You are already seeing much faster ways to move data back and forth between the field and customer. There’s more to be done, that’s for sure, but it is definitely going to be exciting to watch what develops next.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Data Stories
DataSentera Honored With Startup Award Of 2016 By Minnesota High Tech Association
December 1, 2016
The Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) recently recognized Sentera as the 2016 Tekne Startup Award recipient. The MHTA Tekne Awards Read More
Farmers Edge Truck
DataFarmers Edge, Trotter Fertilizer Form Partnership To Enhance VRT Programs
November 29, 2016
Farmers Edge, a global leader in precision agriculture and independent data management solutions, has partnered with Trotter Fertilizer, Nebraska’s foremost Read More
BusinessFarmobile Releases Mobile Data Visualization Dashboard
November 17, 2016
Farmobile today announced an EFR Dashboard, a real-time dashboard that helps farmers visualize their field data and derive insights to Read More
Southern States
Best PracticesSouthern States: 5 Tips for Variable-Rate Seeding Success
November 15, 2016
Success comes from taking advantage of every opportunity you can. One technique used in precision farming, called variable rate seeding, Read More
Trending Articles
GVM E-Series cab
Ag Tech GlobalGlobalization And Precision Agriculture
December 7, 2016
Globalization has taken on a negative connotation in some circles in the U.S. in recent months. The lightning rod for Read More
Farmers Edge Truck
DataFarmers Edge, Trotter Fertilizer Form Partnership To Enhance VRT Programs
November 29, 2016
Farmers Edge, a global leader in precision agriculture and independent data management solutions, has partnered with Trotter Fertilizer, Nebraska’s foremost Read More
Kinze 4900 Multi-Hybrid Concept Planter
Business ManagementKinze Fights Deere, Feds To Block Release Of Trade Secrets
November 22, 2016
An antitrust lawsuit intended to block a small-scale deal between agricultural giants John Deere and Monsanto is putting an Iowa Read More
BusinessClimate Corp. Acquires European FMIS Company
November 21, 2016
Today, The Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., announced the acquisition of VitalFields, a European farm management software company Read More
USDA UAV
Hort TechHigh-Tech Agriculture Continues To Reap Rewards For Farmers
November 11, 2016
Just like a smartphone helps users learn, communicate and make important decisions, smart technology — known as precision agriculture — Read More
BusinessTrimble Launches New FMIS Platform
November 7, 2016
Trimble announced today that it is consolidating three of its agriculture software products — Connected Farm, Farm Works Software and Read More
Latest News
AgBot16 Challenge
Hort TechUSDA Announces $3 Million For Agricultural Robotics Res…
December 8, 2016
The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced the availability of $3 million in available funding for Read More
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
Business ManagementPrecision Farming Forecast: 4 Challenges, Opportunities…
December 7, 2016
Opportunities and challenges. They are the yin and yang of the business world. It could easily be argued that, out Read More
GVM E-Series cab
Ag Tech GlobalGlobalization And Precision Agriculture
December 7, 2016
Globalization has taken on a negative connotation in some circles in the U.S. in recent months. The lightning rod for Read More
Buhler Versatile HQ cab
BusinessThe State Of Precision Ag In 2016
December 7, 2016
There’s no denying that precision technologies and practices are more vibrant than ever. Elsewhere on this site, you will find Read More
BusinessFarmobile Details New AGCO Distribution Deal
December 6, 2016
Farmobile today announced a strategic partnership with AGCO, a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment. The agreement will allow Read More
Hort TechSol Chip Launches Autonomous, Wireless Solar Tag for Sm…
December 6, 2016
Sol Chip, a provider of Internet of Things (IoT) systems and energy harvesting solutions, today announced the introduction of its Read More
TechnologyAgGateway Announces 2017 Board Of Directors And Leaders…
December 2, 2016
AgGateway has announced its leadership for the coming year, including the directors of its new Strategic Board and Operational Board, Read More
DataSentera Honored With Startup Award Of 2016 By Minnesota…
December 1, 2016
The Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) recently recognized Sentera as the 2016 Tekne Startup Award recipient. The MHTA Tekne Awards Read More
AGCO AgControl
TechnologyPrecision Ag Technology: Rate Control For The Times
December 1, 2016
It’s not surprising that the need for more economical, effective application is driving the demand for the latest rate controllers Read More
Farmers Edge Truck
DataFarmers Edge, Trotter Fertilizer Form Partnership To En…
November 29, 2016
Farmers Edge, a global leader in precision agriculture and independent data management solutions, has partnered with Trotter Fertilizer, Nebraska’s foremost Read More
Fall corn
BusinessInsecticide of the Future? Robotic Tanks With Lasers to…
November 22, 2016
*Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Topcon X30 Console in cab
Sensors/IoTIoT The Focus Of New Topcon Partnership
November 22, 2016
Topcon Agriculture and SDF plan to enter into a non-exclusive long-term partnership agreement. This latest arrangement of Topcon with a Read More
Kinze 4900 Multi-Hybrid Concept Planter
Business ManagementKinze Fights Deere, Feds To Block Release Of Trade Secr…
November 22, 2016
An antitrust lawsuit intended to block a small-scale deal between agricultural giants John Deere and Monsanto is putting an Iowa Read More
BusinessClimate Corp. Acquires European FMIS Company
November 21, 2016
Today, The Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., announced the acquisition of VitalFields, a European farm management software company Read More
BusinessFarmobile Releases Mobile Data Visualization Dashboard
November 17, 2016
Farmobile today announced an EFR Dashboard, a real-time dashboard that helps farmers visualize their field data and derive insights to Read More
Southern States
Best PracticesSouthern States: 5 Tips for Variable-Rate Seeding Succe…
November 15, 2016
Success comes from taking advantage of every opportunity you can. One technique used in precision farming, called variable rate seeding, Read More
USDA UAV
Hort TechHigh-Tech Agriculture Continues To Reap Rewards For Far…
November 11, 2016
Just like a smartphone helps users learn, communicate and make important decisions, smart technology — known as precision agriculture — Read More
THRIVE
BusinessCall For Ag Tech Startups: Apply To THRIVE’s Open…
November 10, 2016
THRIVE is looking for high growth ag tech companies with an in-market solution that are positioned to scale. The top 50 Read More