The ‘Internet of Things’ comes to rural America

This article originally appeared on Iowa Farmer Today.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term: I – o – T.

Frankly, up until about a year ago, I didn’t really know what it meant or how important it was, myself. Still, I’ve been hearing more and more about IoT and decided to do a little research. Here’s what I found:

IoT is short for Internet of Things. The term refers to the network of physical objects — or things — that feature an Internet Provider (IP) address for connectivity and the communication that occurs between those things and other Internet-enabled devices and systems.

Think cars that connect to your smartphone, household appliances and systems that can be controlled remotely, and so forth.

According to Microsoft — which we all would expect to be at the forefront of such endeavors — IoT offers greater efficiencies and productivity to a variety of businesses including heath care, manufacturing, transportation and retail.

You can add agriculture to that list, as well. Actually, many producers have been tied into IoT systems for some time now.

For example, John Deere launched its FarmSight services around six years ago, in 2011. Those services covered three key elements: John Deere machinery, AMS precision farming technology and dealer services.

One feature of AMS technology is wireless communication between equipment, the John Deere dealership and your farm, offering remote support, proactive maintenance and fleet management.

Today’s John Deere Operations Center can help you manage equipment information, production data and farm operations from a single website.

Case IH has a similar system. Their AFS Connect advanced farm management system gives you total control over your data and provides real-time dashboard access to your equipment on any device, with instant access to location, diagnostics, fuel and engine stats.

And according to AGCO, their Fuse Technologies promise a totally connected farm, making sure that equipment and resources know where they need to be, and how and when to be there.

Obviously, there are many systems available from a host of companies, with multiple options within those systems. Fortunately, today’s offerings are more than likely developed using open access that allow machines to “talk” with each other, whatever the color.

So, if your farm is what we used to call a “rainbow operation” — that is, you have more than one color of equipment on your place — machine-to-machine communications (M2M) is now easier, simpler and faster.

All this IoT stuff is important and game-changing for agriculture.

Tim Marquis is lead of product portfolio for agriculture at Uptake Technologies, a software and analytics company. He says that many groups have started storing and quantifying machine data with the hopes of better understanding ag equipment.

However, he notes, the value of that data has yet to be realized.

“In the end, predictive maintenance, operator and machine scorecards, full vehicle history, retailer maintenance and warranty programs are changing the ag machinery market and driving value back to growers worldwide,” he says.

Here’s the issue for many in rural areas: internet connectivity. In some cases, options are limited and/or quite costly. Sometimes, there are no opportunities to receive broadband service at all.

In 2016, the Federal Communications Commission, reported that nearly 40 percent of rural America lacked access to advanced broadband. By comparison, only 10 percent of the country as a whole lacked access to advanced broadband.

Help may be on the way, though.

This past February, Congressmen Jared Huffman, D-Calif., Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Rick Nolan, D-Minn., introduced the New Deal Rural Broadband Act of 2017. Based on Roosevelt’s New Deal rural electrification model, the legislation would expand access through increased investments in broadband infrastructure and establish a new Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives to better coordinate all Federal rural broadband deployment programs.

In August 2016, the Connect America Fund, an ongoing program administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), offered nearly 700 small, rural local telephone companies throughout the U.S. more than $10 billion in subsidies over 10 years to upgrade their broadband networks. This program targeted more than 821,000 home and business locations in areas served by these rural companies that do not have 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload broadband service available currently.

And the Trump Administration, including Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, has repeatedly stated support for improved rural broadband accessibility, including a “$1 trillion proposal to promote, foster, and enhance broadband access for rural America.”

Internet providers are seeing the opportunities, as well.

AT&T and Verizon have announced new broadband access programs for rural communities. And, the aforementioned Microsoft just introduced its Rural Airband Initiative that aims to bring broadband to

2 million people in rural regions by 2022, starting with 12 states in the next year.

Finally. The Internet of Things soon could be all we thought it could be … even for us in rural areas.

Leave a Reply

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