2008 Outlook: GPS Advances

GPS Steering Fully Matures. When GPS steering first debuted in 1999, it was largely reserved for folks who could generate enough profit to pay the hefty entry fee. Today, there’s something for just about every level of use, and most manufacturers have filled in their lines, either through their own initiatives or through partnerships with other manufacturers.
 
For example, AutoFarm, which specializes in high end real-time kinematic (RTK) steering systems; and Raven, which delivered a wide range of steering options using free and subscription-based satellite signals, are partnering on product development to serve a wider range of customers.
 
Hemisphere GPS, which manufactures the Outback Guidance line of products, purchased BEELINE, which produces GPS steering software. Outback will now have the ability to add accuracy to its line of GPS steering products, which to date had just one entry in the RTK steering category, the Baseline.
 
As the market further matures in 2008, look for more of this type of collaboration, and potentially some market shakeout if companies can’t keep up with the trend.
 
GPS Everywhere. We’ve seen an explosion of global positioning hitting the consumer market, which is serving to bring price points down for basic equipment and has manufacturers thinking about ways to help consumers get the most out of the GPS systems they buy. Given the number of cars that build in GPS systems as a high end option, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect that by next model year, GPS will be standard equipment on most vehicles. New product development should serve to keep prices going down, while improving functionality for all forms of GPS.
 
Technology Gains For Growers. Implement steering, which actually steers the pull-behind tillers, applicators, and planters in addition to the tractors and ensures better row accuracy, has taken off among growers, especially those doing strip-till. A second technology, GPS controlled planter clutches, has been widely embraced by OEMs and in little more than a year has become standard. With growers gaining so much control over every row, from seed count to fertilizer application to tillage, their expectations of the accuracy from retailer service will be that much higher.
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