Tag Archives: data

Quick link to video interview

Aaron Ault, who is the team lead for the Open Agriculture Data Alliance, was interviewed by Precision Farming Dealer. I think that data privacy and ownership is an extremely important issue (one of the benefits of the AyrMesh system is keeping data on the farm), and I though this was a terrific interview.

The video runs just under 6 minutes, and you can see it here: https://www.precisionfarmingdealer.com/articles/2650-deu

Getting started with the IoT on the farm with ezeio

 

eze System

Courtesy of eze System

A few months ago, I was approached by the folks at eze System, who wanted to know if their ezeio product would work with AyrMesh to help farmers measure conditions on farms and control equipment.

ezeio-400px-300x239They were kind enough to send me one of the ezeio products so I could try it out. Insofar as it is a standard Ethernet (802.3) product, I had no doubt it would work perfectly with AyrMesh, and, of course, it did – I just connected it to an AyrMesh Receiver with an Ethernet cable and it appeared on my network.

What is cool about the ezeio is that it is a complete package – hardware, firmware, and back-end software – completely integrated and ready to plug in and go. It includes connection points for up to 4 analog inputs (configurable for 0-10V, 4-20mA current loop, S0-pulse, or simple on/off), Modbus devices, Microlan (1-wire) devices, and up to two relay outputs (up to 2 amps). This makes it a very versatile unit for both detecting and controlling things on the farm.

setup_smallI set mine up on a table to see how it worked. The good folks at eze System included a Microlan temperature probe, so I set up my unit with that connected to the Microlan connector and a couple of LEDs (with a battery) connected to one of the relay outputs.

loginI then went to their web-based dashboard and started setting things up. It’s pretty simple – you get a login on the dashboard, and you add your ezeio controller. You can then set up the inputs (in my case, the temperature probe) and outputs (the relay) and then set up rules to watch the inputs and take appropriate actions. If you want to see the details, I have put together a slide show for the curious so I don’t have to put it all here.

The bottom line is that I was able to quickly and easily set up a system that checked the temperature continuously and, when the temperature dropped below a certain level, lit up an LED. Big deal, I hear you say, BUT – it could easily have been starting a wind machine or an irrigation pump or some other machine, and it could have been triggered by a tank level switch or a soil moisture sensor or some other sensor or set of sensors. It also enables me to control those devices manually over the Internet, using a web browser, without having to “port forward” on my router.

The ezeio is a very powerful yet easy-to-use device which, in conjunction with the web service behind it, enables you to very easily set up monitoring and automation on your farm. For the do-it-yourselfer, it is a great way to get started on employing the Internet of Things (IoT) on your farm. Even if you’re not inclined to take this on yourself, any decent networking technicianĀ  can easily set up your AyrMesh network and the ezeio to help around the farm.

Bringing WiFi into your Cab – the new AyrMesh Cab Hub

crowded_cabThere’s a lot of data being collected by monitors in the cabs of tractors, sprayers, and combines, and getting that data someplace it can be used can be critical to your operation. Today we are introducing a way to connect your tractors, sprayers, combines, and trucks to your AyrMesh Network: the AyrMesh Cab Hub.

The AyrMesh Cab Hub is a combination of three things: our trusty, patent-pending AyrMesh Hub2n, a cable that allows the Hub to be powered from a normal 12 volt utility “cigarette lighter” plug, and an external magnetic-mount antenna to get the Hub’s antenna outside and up in the clear.assembled-2_small

When it is all set up, the AyrMesh Hub2n rides inside the cab of your vehicle, protected from shock and vibration, but mounted where you can see the “signal lights” if you need to. The cable is plugged into one of the 12v utility outlets, and the antenna is put on a ferrous surface on top of the cab. The Hub connects to the other Hubs in your AyrMesh network, giving you WiFi connectivity in your cab.cig_lighter_sm

Antenna on roofHub_mounted_smThe most valuable data on the farm, and some of the hardest data to move to where it can be effectively used, are the data trapped in the monitors on your machines: as-seeded, as-applied, and harvest data. Getting that data out has been laborious (moving Compact Flash cards) or expensive and uncertain (using cellular links), so we’re trying to make it easier with the AyrMesh Cab Hub.

By using the AyrMesh Cab Hub, you’ll have a strong WiFi signal in your Cab whenever you’re in range of one of your other AyrMesh Hubs – up to 2.5 miles away. This means you can use your smartphone, tablet, or laptop from the cab of your tractor, sprayer, combine, or truck. It also makes it easy to transfer data from your WiFi-equipped in-cab monitors, like an AgLeader monitor with their AgFinity adapter, using your AyrMesh network. If your equipment doesn’t currently have WiFi, talk to your dealer about it – vendors are rolling out new products all the time.

If your monitor supports WiFi data transfer, you can use your AyrMesh network to transfer data from your monitor without having to rely on expensive and unreliable cellular links.

Please let us know what you think of this new product from Ayrstone Productivity!

AyrMesh for Precision Ag – collecting precision data from cab monitors

Tractor cab

Lots of data here…

Both of the founders of Ayrstone Productivity have backgrounds in precision agriculture, and one of the motivations we had in starting Ayrstone was to help growers access and use the data generated by all those in-cab monitors by giving them a way to capture all that data wirelessly. The information on those computers is a potential goldmine if you can use it quickly and easily to make smarter decisions about your operation.

When we were doing research about data collection, however, we learned that the vast majority of growers just left the CF cards in the cab monitors all season, because it was just too much bother to pull out the card, bring it in, out it on the computer, dump the data, store it (so you can find it again), and then remember to take it back out and put it back in the monitor before you go out to work again. Some vendors were starting to put cellular modems into their cab computers, but they are expensive in the first place and carry a pretty hefty monthly service fee with them. Furthermore, there are pretty substantial chunks of rural America without good cellular data service (which is usually separate from the voice service signal).

We proposed that a mesh WiFi network (like the AyrMesh network) could be a much more effective way to collect that data so it can be used for decision support. It can be extended wherever it needs to go for data collection, it doesn’t carry a monthly charge, and a WiFi adapter, even a high-power outdoor one, is much less expensive than a cellular modem.

Adam Gittins of HTSag has an interesting and thought-provoking blog post about collecting harvest data off his AgLeader console with the new AgFinity WiFi adapter. He is even able to see his harvest results when he’s not on the combine!

Thank you to Adam Gittins for this image

Farmer working on laptop

Wireless Farm Networking: what and why

A few years ago, we identified a real need in the agricultural market for more robust, internet-connected farm networks. This was driven by our work in precision agriculture; what we saw was that there was a glut of usable data that could be helping growers make better (and more profitable) decisions, but that data was mostly trapped on personal computers and in-cab monitors.

As we looked at this situation, we realized there were two equally important needs which were interrelated: the first is a comprehensive platform for turning all this raw data into actionable information, and the second was a facility for collecting the data and putting it to use. But there’s a “chicken and egg” problem here: if you don’t have the data, you can’t turn it into information, but there’s no good way to collect and use the data currently.

AyrMesh Hub

The AyrMesh Hub

So we decided to tackle the second problem: create an “Enterprise Network” for farmers and ranchers, so they could collect data from their farm operations effortlessly and use that data to make more informed decisions. We realized, of course, that a typical network was not going to work for the farm: everything is very far apart, so laying cable (or even fiber) is generally not a workable solution. Besides, the network should ideally encompass the tractors, sprayers, and harvesters out working in the fields, so wireless is the only option. This was the impetus that gave birth to the original AyrMesh Hub.

The idea was fairly simple: take some of the ideas used in the “Roofnet” project at M.I.T. and adapt them to building a low-cost wireless mesh network for farm use. The key requirements were:

  1. Use WiFi – other, proprietary mesh networks had been tried, but they require a wireless “client” device for anything you want to put on the network. Lots of things have WiFi today – it’s an easy, familiar, open technology
  2. Design the system for a farm – provide good bandwidth to relatively few “clients” spread over a very wide area. Most WiFi devices in the market today are designed for exactly the opposite: a metropolitan mesh network, where you have many people in a very small area and high bandwidth demands.

What we have seen is that, like all technologies, there is an adoption curve. The first step is the desire to use one’s Internet connection beyond the confines of the house. Especially with the advent of smartphones and tablet computers like the iPad, the ability to have instant information and communications everywhere you go on the farm can be a reality, even if cellular data is not available everywhere on your farm.

IP Camera

A WiFi Camera

The second step is connecting sensors to the network to “keep an eye out” on your farm. The most popular and demanded sensor, of course, is the IP camera. The ability to bring up a view of an area of your farm, whether to see the settings on the grain dryer, keep an eye on livestock (especially in the middle of the night), or as the basis for a security system, cameras seem to have a place on every farm. But, moving forward, putting network-connected environmental sensors in livestock buildings and distant fields can bring terrific pro

weather_station

A Weather Station at the edge of a field

ductivity gains. Knowing the temperature and humidity in your livestock barns can help optimize your HVAC usage, while knowing the wind and rainfall in a distant field can save a trip if it’s too windy or too wet to work.

Tractor cab

Lots of data here…

In addition, some of the precision agriculture vendors are starting to put WiFi into their in-cab monitors, so you can access the data on those monitors over the network instead of having to move cards or USB sticks around. Being able to access your “as applied” and harvest data allows you (or your agronomist) to much more easily determine your variable rate applications as you go through the season, potentially cutting your costs and maximizing your yield.

WebRelay

Network-controlled relay, courtesy controlbyweb.com

The third step is farm control: being able to actually get things done on the farm over the network. Grain dryers, pumps, irrigation systems, HVAC systems, and other equipment could be controlled over the network. This means that you can potentially control your grain dryer from the bedroom, or even while you’re running errands in town, since your network is connected to the Internet.

What we learned in the 1990s and 2000s when networks were becoming ubiquitous in the corporate world is that the presence of the network creates opportunities to improve the business in unexpected ways. We don’t pretend to know what all the uses are for a wireless farm network, but we’re very excited to see what they are. We’re here at the very beginning of farm networking, and the future is limitless.