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Cover Story: Bells and Whistles - Now and the Near Future

Cover Story: Bells and Whistles - Now and the Near Future

Here's a checklist of smart farm tech - most of it already available for today's farms

If you're confused by the new language of machinery automation, you're not alone. Here's a quick look at the technology coming your way now:

POWER PRODUCTION: New tech is coming on stream to reduce labor needs and enhance efficiency across the farm.

Telematics - One machine sends and receives information from and to somewhere else. Your tractor or combine might be talking or sending email reports to the dealer, the home office, a cell phone, all over wireless airwaves. Telematics offers real time machine data such as fuel usage, gear, speed, location and machine health. It allows you to see where other machines are, set up boundaries or reports of how the machine has been running, how much it's been idling vs. working, even set up curfews for machines. It also provides remote diagnostics: a service guy will know there is an issue with your machine before you do. Happening now

Wireless data transfer - Instead of collecting data on a flash drive, a machine sends the information to your home computer or smart phone. Happening now

Universal ISO standards - In the late '70s farmers needed adaptors and worked every different kind of hydraulic hose you could think of. It became a monumental task. Representatives of major equipment manufacturers are meeting to decide on a universal language so machines can talk to each other. There is some compatibility right now but it's still evolving. As new machines and monitors come out they will have that ability. Early stages, continuing to evolve

Machine-to-machine communication - Used mostly for linking combines and manned grain carts for better on-the-go unloading. Other companies have introduced 'leader/follower' technology where one tractor follows another, or add-on systems to allow complete driverless tech with one machine commanding another. With this technology the operator won't touch the wheel for however long the one machine has control of the other machine. It uses radio signals to assure constant communication. Happening now

Remote display access - How many times have you gotten into a machine and the display won't do what you want, but you couldn't explain the problem to the tech guy on the phone?  Remote display access allows the person on the other end of the phone to see what they see. Happening now

Increased adoption of RTK - In simple terms, RTK means "it's really accurate," says Chris Batdorf, product marketing manager, John Deere ISG (Intelligent Solutions Group). "You'll see it become standard in more farm activities like drainage and controlled traffic, because RTK gives sub inch accuracy. Drainage can be expensive, and a lot of farmers are finding it more economical to do it themselves." RTK makes row crop driving much less stressful. RTK is much less susceptible to inconsistencies due to solar flares compared to GPS. Happening now

Wireless data transfer - No data card needed. You'll be able to send data from your machine to your office, send setup data from office to machine or send fertilizer or chemical prescriptions from your office to the machine. "This is going to reduce a lot of headaches," says Batdorf. Evolving and coming soon

Swap control – Allows machines to know what the other has done in a field in the past. Evolving and coming soon

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