Last year at the Consumer Electronics Show talk of the "internet of things" really started big. And the idea has flourished into this year's CES.
The idea is that devices would be connected across a network and linked to the cloud in some fashion. But what might that mean for farmers? What follows is a hypothetical, but potentially realistic, way that such a tool might be applied to your farm equipment.
Data-connected farm equipment already provides manufacturers rich information strictly about how their machines perform across a wide range of uses. This is anonymized data that just shows Model X performance on several different farms in several different situations. These systems also record failures, downtime, unproductive time and more.
So if Brand X analyzes the data for that model machine and finds that a specific bearing always fails within 20 hours of operating above a specific temperature. It might be a bearing that works just fine, but when it fails it's a big deal (think main bearings). Now you have a specific potential failure case that may have some value for other users.
What if your dealer - using information based on thousands of operating tractors in the field - could detect an imminent failure of that part in one of your machines, before it failed? The dealer, who must have your permission to monitor equipment, could send you a note saying that a specific tractor is showing signs that this part may fail within the next 20 hours.
While it might sound a little far-fetched today, just remember the iPad is just turning 5 this year. The ubiquitous nature of the Internet combined with machines that share information through the cloud could offer this level of machine management, some day.
Back to the imminent failure of that part: Consider the price of scheduled downtime versus non-scheduled downtime. The alert from your dealer allows you to schedule a stop - perhaps having the part fixed overnight in the middle of planting season. The aim would be to avoid the emergency repair and a premium service fee for the rush. That doesn't count the value of no unscheduled downtime where opportunity costs can mount fast if the failure occurs during planting or some other critical fieldwork.
That's one way the "internet of things" could impact the way you farm in the future. It's something to ponder.