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Tractor That Drives Itself May Not Be So Far-Fetched

Tractor That Drives Itself May Not Be So Far-Fetched
Futurist says cars that wake up sleeping drivers are a real possibility.

If you think the 21st century has been about innovation, you haven't seen anything yet. That's the promise from Kenneth Cukier, author of Big Data, a book that details how the collection of billions upon billions of points of information will change how the world works in the future. And the future may not be so far off.

Kinze already has a tractor that can drive itself, but it isn't commercially available. A John Deere driverless drone sits in the company's museum in Illinois. Cukier thinks that once people in agriculture figure out what can be done with a constant stream of data reporting all kinds of information, some of today's most advanced machines may be tomorrow's museum pieces.

Command center: The cab of your combine may someday be a virtual command center. If car makers can put sensors in seats to tell if you're getting sleepy, couldn't combine makers do the same thing?

He uses this example from the automobile industry to make his point. He used it to introduce the concept of big data and its possible impact on agriculture to Hoosiers attending the Indiana Livestock, Forage and Grain Forum recently.

Related: Group to Promote Open Data Standard

Every person has a certain posture, he says. If you can measure it with enough sensors, it's almost like a fingerprint, unique to that person. When you're sitting in a seat, say in a car, you have a certain posture.

"What if the seat had thousands of sensors that reported your posture while you were driving normally?" he asks. "Then the sensors would report a different posture if you began to slump over or change position because you were sleepy. The command center would alert the vehicle, and either internal horns or some sort of buzzer system would go off to wake you up. A wreck could be avoided."

Is this pie-in-the-sky? Cukier is confident that it's not. In fact, he says it's only a matter of time. Industries outside of agriculture are already delving heavily into data collection and using it for a wide range of businesses that adds value to their business or products.

If other industries use it, why not agriculture? Even though he doesn't profess to understand agriculture, he believes it will happen.

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