IoT Enters Agriculture

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A lvarez Technology Group is bringing IoT technology to the agriculture sector according to a presentation at XChange 2016 by Luis Alvarez, CEO.

Farmers are looking to cut costs while increasing productivity with the most promising aspect being data analytics which becomes more prominent once IoT systems are installed as one can monitor the flow of information:

“[Data analytics] is the biggest opportunity – helping our clients make smarter decisions based on giving them more actionable intelligence. Helping them aggregate all that data that they’re collecting and doing something useful with it… Everyone we talk to, wants it.”

There are challenges, with the most prominent being standardization and security. Due to the nascent nature of the field, numerous providers are developing and deploying products for end users, but they may be incompatible with each other. Alvarez argues products need to communicate – and, presumably, be interchangeable with IoT hardware from one company replaceable by a likewise hardware from another.

Security is a far bigger challenge as there is no obvious or easy solution but to take a layered approach with fail safe mechanisms, extensive tests, numerous audits, and a prioritization above all else of the system’s safety.

As IoT is connected to the internet, any vulnerability can be exploited by anyone in the world. If it makes financial sense, it is only a matter of when, not if, an insecure IoT system is hacked.

Nonetheless, IoT’s automation can bring huge benefits in both cost cutting and increasing productivity as shared by Alvarez in one of his examples:

“So one of our clients is a greenhouse, called Floricultura. … This company is based in the Netherlands and they grow seedlings and every day of every year, they ship 5,000 seedlings by plane to SFO. Those are picked up in San Francisco, driven to Salinas, where they are transplanted into dirt and grown. How it works is these little orchids are moved around by robots all around the top of the greenhouse, transporting these buckets of orchids. … the way it works is, they put the seedlings, the ones raised in water, in dirt, and as they get bigger … they drop the cups into a bigger cup and add more dirt. That part of it is all automated. It’s all controlled by back end.

We have a managed service agreement with these folks… to make sure nothing goes down. These robots have to work.”

Further opportunities can be opened by connecting IoT systems to blockchain based tokens, allowing the robots to hold and exchange value where necessary.

The public blockchain space is at a very early stage with products in testing and development, but we can soon expect blockchain based IoT systems to go further in cutting costs and increasing economic production.

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