Wireless control in agriculture technology applications is evolving rapidly, largely due to the fast adoption of smartphones and tablets into all parts of everyday life. Devices such as smartphones and tablets are a disruptive technology that will force change to almost every industry, and agriculture is not an exception. There are countless Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication applications where iPhone and Android devices bring real value to the control and monitoring of agriculture equipment.
A few years ago, wireless controls in agriculture technology applications were relegated to special applications, with dedicated remotes controlling specific functions. As the cost for a wireless interface was relatively large, the wireless control – a control interface that was not directly wired to the machine that it was controlling – was adopted only where the benefits were clear and the costs could be justified.
The world has changed, and today, most farmers have very powerful control and monitoring devices in their pocket: smartphones. The introduction of these devices has significantly changed the cost/benefit analysis of adding wireless control capabilities to an agriculture control system, as the costs have significantly gone down while the capabilities have increased exponentially.
M2M communications in the area of agriculture technology allow devices, both wired and wireless, to connect. M2M solutions allow a device (such as a smartphone) to capture an event (i.e. the weather) that is transmitted through a network (like the cellular network) to an application (app) that converts the event into relevant data (alerting, in this example, that the equipment needs adjustment because of a particular weather situation).
Today’s typical iPhone or Android device is a powerful processing tool containing built-in M2M communication functionalities that can be very useful in agriculture control applications: GPS, Internet connectivity, wireless control capabilities and a high definition display with touchscreen controls are just a few examples.
Another great benefit for using iPhone or Android devices for agriculture technology applications is that remote-specific issues (such as battery life, and replacement of lost/damaged special function remotes) are no longer the responsibility of the manufacturer of the agriculture equipment, but tied into a cell phone that the farmer already owns, is familiar with, and regularly upgrades.
With these changes to the technology landscape, a wide range of new potential applications for interfacing tablets and smartphones to agriculture technology applications is opening up. Innovative engineers designing agriculture equipment will quickly recognize how this M2M communication technology can be applied to their systems to bring new control and monitoring capabilities – providing them with a significant competitive advantage – while other companies that are reluctant to change may quickly get left behind.
When all pieces of the agriculture technology control system are integrated, mechanical/electronic devices and software communicate with each other and evolve through the endless range of possibilities that OEMs have today in the agriculture sector. Designers of agriculture equipment should begin considering how M2M communication and these new technologies can add value to their systems and applications. Some agriculture technology control applications may have been difficult or costly in the past; today, with the addition of mobile smart devices, innovations can be straightforward and economical. The following are some examples:
- Telematics and remote diagnostics – A Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-enabled implement controller can connect to Cloud-based services through the cellular network of a mobile device. This would allow service and support people to see live machine diagnostics or historical data logs from a remote location, to diagnose/track issues in the field.
- Integration of maps and GPS – Many ag applications, beyond typical precision farming applications, can now take advantage of integrating mapping and GPS into their applications. By having Google Maps (or other mapping applications) integrated into a customized app for the implement and by using the mobile device GPS, new applications can be enabled such as coordination of multiple vehicles in large farms, tracking harvest throughput by area or marking location of bales.
- Use of weather information – In farming, the weather is always a critical factor for consideration. The optimal running modes of many different types of equipment depend on weather factors such as temperature, humidity and barometric pressure. This information is readily available through mobile devices and can be used to “auto-tune” equipment to adjust to the weather conditions.
- Wireless control – Few things are more frustrating than losing a remote control that is needed to run a piece of equipment. Using a smartphone as a remote means that the operator is more likely to know where the remote is at all times. Smartphones allow for much more flexibility in monitoring and control as they are not limited to only a few buttons, and entirely different screens can be shown for different operating modes.
Smartphones and tablets can bring real value to the control and monitoring of agricultural equipment, and these are just a few examples. A specialized company like JCA Electronics brings to the table a deep knowledge of electrical, electronic, and software systems as well as hands-on experience working with agriculture equipment designers, tying expertise in technology with customer’s expertise in agriculture applications.
JCA develops and integrates all the pieces that an ag control system requires in order to operate effectively in the M2M communication technology environment:
- controllers on the equipment, to interface with sensors and hydraulics,
- proprietary controllers that bridge the gap between the ag equipment control and mobile devices,
- development of control software that is specific to the unique functionality of each implement,
- development of apps for tablet and smartphones (iOS, Android, and Windows platforms),
selection of sensors for the control application, and
- design and manufacture of the wire harnessing to connect the whole system together.
About JCA Electronics
JCA is an electronic integration centre that is able to apply the right technology, products, and services in a cost effective and timely manner.
JCA specializes in the design and manufacture of electronic control systems for original equipment manufacturers. JCA strives to not only understand the design and function of our customers product’s, but also the company that produces it. Starting with requirements and concept, next prototyping and testing the system, and then through production and service, the company’s design systems effectively blend physical and digital products. JCA’s innovative devices incorporate wireless technology and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, to enhance customer’s time to market and the experience and productivity of their end users.