Sometimes I wonder how the media comes up with these new terms.
For example, the first time I heard the word “cover” used to refer to an old song redone by a different artist, I was confused. We used to call it a “remake,” which I think is very descriptive. I don’t get how the term “cover” can be used as a verb or noun to describe a redone song.
One of the latest examples is “disruptive,” which means “shaking it up.” However, the word also has a negative connotation to it, such as breaking or turning over.
I can maybe see how a few technologies could be considered disruptive, but come on, a new type smartphone is “disruptive?”
The term is very much overused and seems to be applied to any new technology.
A previous technology buzzword, “enabling,” is much more positive and descriptive of a new technology’s impact on the industry to which it is applied.
Another buzzword that gets used a lot these days is “internet of things,” also shortened to IoT.
When I first heard this phrase, I thought it was like the first two examples: a word used mainly for its value to differentiate and create a buzz.
However, as it turns out, it is actually a very appropriate term and is used properly.
The internet is a massive computer network that includes things such as the worldwide web, email and file transfer protocol. Most people don’t realize that the web is only one part of the internet.
Computers and servers all over the world use various lines, cables, routers, modems and access points to allow people to connect to the web, which allows people to share information, demonstrate concepts and show other people their ideas using websites.
Email allows people to send messages through the internet and communicate.
FTP allows people to send files to other people through the internet. We could actually call the internet more properly the “Internet of People.”
So what is the Internet of Things?
The same massive computer network that is used for websites and replying to email is now also being used by sensors, controllers and other “things.”
There are people setting this all up and people are also part of the network, but the function is to let the “things” communicate with each other.
A relatively simple example is a wireless sensor/control irrigation network that is being set up at West Hills College in the Farm of the Future’s pistachio orchard.
A variety of sensors will be placed throughout the orchard, including soil moisture, salinity, trunk diameter, sap flow, irrigation flow rate, and waterline pressure.
These sensors are connected through a wired connection to a node substation, which collects information from each of the sensors. A radio transmitter sends all of the sensor data to a mother node, which is also collecting data from other node substations.
The mother node includes a cellular internet gateway, which is a device that has the ability to open up the internet and serve information through the cellular network system.
If you have a smartphone or tablet that can access a cellular signal and has a data plan associated with it, you have access to the data on that mother node.
West Hills’ system will move the data through the cellular network to a third party website. This will allow any computer that has wi-fi or the internet’s websites to access these “things.”
There are also control things in the pistachio orchard. They are mounted to a set of valves and use the same network, but instead of sending out data, they are waiting for data. When a data signal comes in, it will adjust the valves to control the amount of water being applied to the trees.
A good part of the system is that it allows people to view and communicate with the things out in the field. Our farm technician is already looking forward to using the systems to check pressures instead of making a 10 p.m. or 5 a.m. check on the system.
The best part of the system is that it allows the things to communicate with each other. Yes, people can see what is going on, but with the website and proper programming, people don’t have to be involved.
It is possible for the sensors to collect the data, the software to process the information to form a solution and communicate the solution to the controllers, and the controllers to make the adjustments to the valves.
This is basically a closed loop system that is feeding data to itself and making corrections. It is still dependent on humans setting it up correctly, but it has the potential to save water while making sure irrigation needs are being met.
Adding a couple of sensors to the power supply and well pump provides more information that could also help with pump efficiency and save on energy.
The Internet of Things is making the Farm of the Future a buzzing community of things that make precision happen.
Terry A. Brase is an agriculture consultant, precision agriculture educator and author. BrASE LLC. Contact him at email@example.com