Telemetry and machinery 4.0: let’s take stock
Tractors and agricultural implements play a fundamental role in the farm, which is not limited to the pure mechanization of agricultural activities. Nowadays, agricultural machinery 4.0 represents the nerve center of data exchange, continuously receiving and recording information thanks to telemetry.
What is telemetry?
Telemetry is a technology that uses satellite systems to study the position of an object and to georeference a phenomenon that occurs or has occurred over time. The agricultural application of telemetry is to remotely monitor and control the movement of agricultural vehicles and tools and to analyze many different parameters such as position, speed, engine load, fuel consumption.
The CANBUS connection
There are different ways to collect and transmit data from agricultural vehicles, based on different types of connections. The most classic connection is the CANBUS system. CANBUS is a serial communication standard that allows you to connect to the different ECUs (Engine Control Units) within an agricultural machine. It provides that the data collection is carried out directly by the vehicle control unit and simplifies the exchange of data between the electronic components.
The ISOBUS connection
The ISOBUS communication protocol is the main innovation of the CANBUS system. Initiated in the mid-90s, it standardizes and centralizes the tractor-implement system and uniforms the data generated by different machines, allowing machines from different brands to read it.
The ISO 11783 standard, on which the ISOBUS communication protocol is based, establishes all the essential requirements for ISOBUS communication, ensuring full compatibility between machines from different manufacturers.
With regards to data transmission, there are generally two strategies: the use of data loggers, or native connections integrated in the machine.
A data logger is a device to be connected to the CANBUS / ISOBUS socket of the tractor to obtain and transmit all the data collected by the control unit. There are different types of data loggers depending on the data transmission technology (cellular or Bluetooth) and on the functionalities.
In the most modern machines, as an alternative to the data logger, data is transmitted through a native connection, that is directly between the vehicle’s control unit and the server.
The challenges of telemetry in agriculture 4.0
Among the challenges of telemetry applied to agriculture 4.0 there are on the one hand the diversity in the technical solutions adopted by machines produced by different companies and the consequent difficulty in interpreting the data within a single system, and on the other hand the lack of tools capable of enhancing this data to provide automatic reports of activities or to give agronomic advice.
Telemetry data in the xFarm platform
xFarm aims to put technology at the service of the farmer 4.0, making it easy to take advantage of the most advanced digital farming technologies. The xFarm platform allows you to make the most out of the opportunities offered by telemetry, in real time and just by using your smartphone, integrating information from machinery with different data exchange systems and different brands. In this way, you can easily and conveniently view data coming from your farming machineries within a single platform.
The advantages of telemetry and xFarm solutions
The integration of the farm’s machine fleet through telemetry supports automation and operational function, acts as a starting point for the introduction of precision farming techniques in the farm and produces a considerable amount of data.
By connecting your machinery to the xFarm platform, you can quickly and easily take advantage of the data they produce, simplifying your work and saving time. Once all the machines (tractors and implements) have been connected, it will be possible to view their position and status in real time, allowing you to take better decisions on the management of farming activities.
In addition, thanks to xFarm you can generate prescription/distribution maps that allow you to control the implement connected via ISOBUS, improving its distribution efficiency (for example, of fertilizer) and limiting waste.
Some practical implications of telemetry
The value of machinery data is often underestimated. It can be used to automatically generate a farming logbook based on the operations performed by the machines, saving time and avoiding transcription errors. The collection of telemetry data also allows greater control of finances and savings: in the Financial section of the xFarm platform you can view the cost related to each activity, which is useful for calculating the specific revenues for each crop. Through specific alerts relating to each farm vehicle, you can also receive notifications regarding any required maintenance.
Who can benefit from telemetry?
Not only farmers can benefit from this technology: the recording of telemetry data and the generation of activity reports, in fact, in addition to allowing a better understanding of costs, constitute a potential additional value for contractors, who will be able to use these reports to provide a complete overview of the activities carried out, with consequent justification of the costs, increasing transparency towards the customers.
As for agricultural machinery dealers, they can expand their offer of cutting-edge services by offering a new service and become reference points for farmers in the area for the innovation of agricultural mechanization.
Finally, this technology can also be very useful to supply chains which, through the xFarm Analytics platform, can exploit data collected by machinery to obtain environmental indicators (carbon footprint, water footprint, acidification and eutrophication), so as to have an estimate of the environmental impact of all the contributing farms involved in the supply chain.