The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) is a scenario in which objects, animals or people are provided with ‘unique identifiers’ and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. The IoT has evolved from the convergence of wireless technologies, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) and the Internet.

A thing, in the Internet of Things, can be a person with a heart monitor implant, a farm animal with a biochip transponder, a tractor (John Deere are already utilising this technology to monitor performance) or irrigator that has built-in sensors to alert or relay data around its operation- or any other natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network.

To highlight the significance of the IoT and the scale and rapidity of it’s development Terrapin Consulting stated that “…by 2020, there will be close to 1 trillion sensors sending data across the internet from 25 billion connected devices, representing a USD7.1 Trillion market…”. Admittedly not all of these devices will be associated with farming, but the implication and opportunities are implicit.

RFID (radio frequency identification) tags for supply chain tracking were one of the first IoT sources. However, the ramifications for the rural sector especially around the productivity gains and additional information ‘captured’ on either side of the farm gate are significant. The utilisation of this technology on farm to assist with the transmission of NAIT data and the ability to capture biosensor readings from individual animals, like live weight could be game changing.

The development of the ‘Farm Central’ solution by Olympic Software has been created with a data warehouse specifically with this emerging trend in mind. Traditional Data warehouse data is drawn from the ERP or finance system and incorporates information around customers, products, vendors, sales and financial information. However, the Data warehouse within the ‘Farm Central’ solution delivers this ‘traditional’ data but is also designed with a view to dealing with 3 significant areas/ issues on farm:

  1. The ability to meet the need of the Internet of Things and sensor-generated data
  2. Capture and reporting on ‘disparate’ farm solutions which are silo’d and without the ability to integrate e.g. Minda, Overseer, Farmax etc
  3. The capability to provide proactive compliance reporting around OSH, environmental and R&M both internally and to external parties like local government.

The addition of all this new data will likely eclipse today’s ‘big data lakes ’in both size and management complexity. However, this new data will enhance management decisions, improve efficiency and productivity and as a corollary increase the value of the Data warehouse and serve to enhance the overall analytic capabilities.

The integration of sensor data will face the same data quality and consistency issues that are already evident in the agri sector and will no doubt require incorporating in to initiatives like ‘NZ Farm Data Standards’ (http://www.farmdatastandards.org.nz/). But I will save the concerns, challenges and issues for a future blog.

Kim Nankivell is a business consultant focused on helping farms and businesses to succeed through the use of technology. Kim specialises in the area of farm productivity. You can follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn or contact him at kimn@olympic.co.nz. View more information about our farming solutions specifically focused for farms in NZ, Farm Central.