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Partnership for Improved Asset Visibility in Agriculture

Partnership by Confidex, Trimble & Ag Technologies!

Internet of Things (IoT) intelligence is helping agriculture companies boost their efficiency and productivity by delivering automation to those in the field and context about farm operation to management.

The Ag Technologies solution - leveraging Trimble Agriculture’s Precision Ag IoT - provides location awareness for equipment and people, as well as other wireless intelligence to solve complex problems, whether in the field or in an office. Trimble Precision Ag platform features Confidex Viking Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) ruggedized beacons as the standard product for tracking farm implements. Trimble’s IoT Intelligence software can not only locate and identify equipment but also automatically update vehicle configurations. This is accomplished without traditional wired sensors that are prone to failure and require regular replacement.

With BLE-based awareness of assets like farm implements, farm operators can automate the information collection and management process. Transmissions from the Bluetooth beacons automate functions on the operator’s equipment display - running the Precision Ag solution - so that they can go about their work without manually inputting data about the implements, their location and task at hand. In fact, since one U.S. food producer implemented the solution, it has yielded a reduction in costs and an increase in productivity.

Reliable and Wireless Farming Intelligence

For farmers everywhere, the challenge is to allocate their scarce resources to produce a safe, reliable food supply in a profitable and environmentally sustainable manner. Precision Ag offers a solution by providing location, context, and situational awareness to trigger events. Covering all seasons, crops, terrains and farm sizes, Trimble’s precision agriculture solutions can be used on, and with, most equipment on the farm, regardless of the manufacturer.

Operators can use the Trimble GFX-350 or GFX-750 display installed on a vehicle to control most field operations with just a few taps. The display is compatible with both the new NAV- 500 and the NAV-900 guidance controllers, satisfying different user accuracy needs. And the simple and intuitive Precision-IQTM operating system speeds up field work and makes equipment configuration fast and intuitive, says Trimble’s Market Manager, Ag. Division, Wade Stewart.

Confidex’s Viking beacons bring further intelligence to the system, wirelessly. The beacons can be securely attached to all-weather implements to provide a unique identification that is reliably transmitted to the operator’s vehicle or equipment. Once vehicles, fields, implements and materials are set up during the first use, they are saved and can be re-used with a couple of clicks.

For operators, that wireless connectivity enables auto-selection of farm equipment implements, with relevant data displayed on the GFX touchscreen. When operators attach a farm implement to their vehicle, the system identifies the implement, as well as its history, and feeds that information to Trimble’s IoT software platform. The system then automatically identifies where the implement is, who is using it and for what task.

The vehicle’s automated system is then configured for that tool. This feature eliminates the need for operators to log themselves into a display or select an implement, reducing the risk of errors. The automated data serves as one less task an operator has to conduct to make the technology perform its intended task.

Ruggedized Sensors

The solution relies on the reliable transmission of data from wireless sensors that operate in any condition. Sensor durability is critical since agriculture equipment -- and the sensors connected to each implement -- are exposed to harsh weather, impacts and vibrations as part of a day’s work. Farm equipment is often stored without shelter for long periods of time and expected to work when needed, so the Confidex Viking beacons are designed to be durable enough to go where the equipment goes and bring awareness with each implement wirelessly.

The use of Confidex’s Viking beacons offers a low-cost, wireless alternative to the sensors already common in smart farms today. Existing sensors designed for agriculture purposes are often wired, require frequent maintenance, and are prone to environmental damage. In fact, most beacons were designed for indoor use and repurposed for outdoor applications.

These beacons can include mechanical switches, accessible battery compartments, and other points of ingress failure which don’t withstand long work cycles. Such beacons will perform well through initial tests or pilots but fail after extended exposure to outdoor temperatures, vibration, impacts, and moisture. The parts and labor cost to identify the failure and replace such beacons in the field, along with the equipment downtime, is costly to equipment operators.

“Confidex Viking was purpose-built to withstand the rigor of industrial and agricultural environments,” says Joe Hoerl, Confidex Executive Vice President, and it leverages more than 15 years of product leadership knowledge Confidex has developed through a large portfolio of rugged RFID tags. The Viking Beacon can be securely attached to an asset with bolt, screw, rivet, strap, zip tie, adhesive, epoxy, or magnet. Once the tag is secured onto the asset, activating is as simple as using the NFC interface to “turn on” its Bluetooth radio. The IP68 rated beacon is completely sealed against solids, including small dust, and can withstand long periods of submersion in water.

For agriculture companies, the Precision Ag solution with BLE beacons means having the intelligence to manage operations and assets whether out in fields or in storage, without manual efforts. IoT technology can now solve problems that were out of reach for the farming industry in the past.

“The agriculture industry has changed,” says Brian Kelley, Ag Technologies’ president. Until recently, he says, “Farmers haven’t had the level of tools and technology at their fingertips that big companies have, and now they do. ”Trimble is transforming the way the world works by delivering products and services that connect the physical and digital worlds. Core technologies in positioning, modeling, connectivity and data analytics enable customers to improve productivity, quality, safety and sustainability. From purpose built products to enterprise lifecycle solutions, Trimble software, hardware and services are transforming industries such as agriculture, construction, geospatial and transportation and logistics.

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Paul Broekhuizen
Paul Broekhuizen
Executive Vice President Smart Industries
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Chris Romei
Chris Romei
Sales Director Automotive
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Tin Oman
Tin Oman
Sales Manager EMEA
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Miika Pylvanainen
Miika Pylvanainen
RFID Product Line Director
Tampere, Finland
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