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Event helps machines talk to one another

Willie Vogt AEF Plugfest held in New Orleans during Commodity Classic
ALL TOGETHER NOW: The AEF Plugfest is a kind of “speed dating” event where different systems are tested for their ISOBUS conformity. The aim is to make sure an implement and tractor can connect (and more) using the ISOBUS standard and AEF guidelines. The latest was held in New Orleans during Commodity Classic.
The Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation held a “plugfest” in the U.S. recently. What does that mean for farmers?

The term ISO and ISOBUS are tossed around these days as if everyone understands what they mean. ISO is short for “International Standards Organization” and is often associated with a number, such as the 9000 series for quality standards, or 11783 for tractors and machinery in ag and forestry electronic communication. But what does that mean to a farmer?

That 11783 is the backbone of the ISOBUS communication standard. A few months ago during Commodity Classic in New Orleans, we caught the Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation’s Plugfest. A plugfest is a kind of electronic “speed dating,” where engineers test how their new tools connect to the electronics of tractors, as an example. Each prospective system gets a set amount of time to run a series of tests to see if its equipment can talk with the base “machine.”

At the AEF Plugfest, you’re seeing just the control systems — no tractors are brought into the room. These test beds, however, can run simulations of implement systems and determine if the base machine can link with the prospective implement. I call it speed dating because each prospective system gets a set amount of time to run the test.

During the program, each tester got 50 minutes to go through simulations. Norbert Schlingmann, AEF general manager, notes that in North America, there are usually fewer testers. “In Europe, where ISOBUS is more popular, we can have so many at a plugfest that the testers get as little as 30 minutes to run their tests,” he says.

The AEF Plugfest is a biannual event held in North America and Europe, rotating to different locations. Commodity Classic was the first time it was held in direct conjunction with a major show.

Andrew Olliver, vice chairman of AEF, speaking for that organization, explains that at the New Orleans event, there were larger original equipment manufacturers on hand with a global presence and six project teams running tests. Also, 14 teams representing the engineering side tested their systems. They included not only implement makers but also software companies with farm management information systems that wanted to test how they could interface with an ISOBUS system to capture data.

Better communication, better results

Many have heard of ISOBUS and, in its purest form, shouldn’t have to think about it and just hook up implements to make things work. But just like the early days of hydraulics or the invention of the PTO, standardizing connections and communication standards is important.

The AEF Plugfest makes that happen. From verifying if a tractor implement management system works according to the AEF standards to verifying that data is passing back and forth accurately, Plugfest is a way to test a range of tools quickly.

And during Plugfest, the engineers can retool software on the fly in some cases to solve problems. The idea is that an ISOBUS-certified implement can hook up to an ISOBUS-capable tractor and go to work. The tractor would “see” the implement on its monitor and, depending on the level of connectivity, be able to either capture application data or even control the system from that single monitor.

And while farmers may want more than one monitor in the cab, ISOBUS can still help reduce the proliferation of monitors because of the communication and control standard.

You can learn more at, including an ISOBUS database showing which equipment is certified under the standard.


TAGS: Technology
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