Isobus, one would also be needed for the data

The information gathered in the field is multiplying, but there is still a lack of a universally accepted standard of exchange. But the first attempts at connection between competitors are emerging, also favored by the interests of farmers

A path similar to Isobus has taken place in recent years for the collection, transfer and above all the exchange of data. Both the context – precision agriculture – and the needs – to transfer data between systems working with different software protocols – and the state of affairs, which sees an objective difficulty in dialogue between machines of different brands, are the same. For all these reasons, it is hoped that the outcome will ultimately be identical as well. In other words, a validated and universally accepted model for data circulation will emerge in a few years.

The context

We are precisely in high-tech agriculture, or precision if we will. The situation is quite familiar to those who have tried to deal with the subject. The latest generation of tractors, combine harvesters and forage harvesters Gigabytes collects information on position, working hours, diesel consumption, average speed, yield, etc.
An amount that is destined to be hundredfolded because not only the tractors but also most implements are being digitized. Within a few years, even a simple piece of iron like the PTO shaft will become a producer of data on operating times, average speeds and much more.
At this point, the problem arises how to get all these Gigabytes where they can be interpreted and brought to bear fruit.

For information on the operation of the machine, the natural destination is the dealer’s workshop, where the values ​​are analyzed and it is determined whether there is a risk of short- or medium-term errorswhile the information on the amount of seeds and fertilizer, yield per. hectares, moisture and starch content of the product are used by those who carry out the agronomic plans for sowing and cultivation, and by the technician who prepares the prescription cards for variable-dose interventions.
Diesel consumption, annual working hours, downtime in the field, hourly productivity and the like are instead valuable to the owner of the vehicles, whether he is a farmer or a contractor, to streamline the fleet.

Dialogue between foreigners

To complicate this scheme, which is already complex from the start, comes the fact that in recent years, all manufacturers have created data collection and management systems based on proprietary software. That is, products internally or in any case made specifically for that brand. It so happens that while collecting and transmitting data from the tractor to the office is very simple – and the same goes for the communication between the tractor (or harvester) and the dealer – when switching from a single brand to a fleet consists of several colors. , everything gets complicated.

To give an example, until a few years ago those who collected treatment data with tractors John Deere and provides with combine harvesters Claas he had no way, if not manually and depending on third-party software, to put these values ​​together, to create, for example, automatic statistics on the relationship between fertilization and production of a given field package.

This is because the systems of the various manufacturers are closed and use proprietary encryption and data transmission protocols. That is, they are impervious to instruments that do not belong to that product family.
As can be seen, the similarities with before the Isobus era are several. Just as it was once impossible to get tractors and implements belonging to different brands to talk to each other, today it is difficult to transfer data from different systems to a single virtual archive – usually in the Cloud, or stored online.

Fendt is one of the founders of Agrirouter, a platform in which many tool manufacturers also participate

The first solutions

Manufacturers’ reluctance to make their operating systems available is officially explained by the need to protect the owner’s data from unwanted intrusions, but it is clear that it also responded, at least initially, to a precise commercial strategy. By making it difficult to gather information from machines of different origins, an attempt was made to ensure that farmers and contractors became mono-brand, or rather loyal to this or that group.
A clearly unattainable goal, which combined with the growing demand for connectivity is forcing manufacturers to find a solution. In short, we are realizing that the world is moving in a very specific direction and that if we want to make agriculture 4.0, information must circulate freely.

The more they circulate, the better it is for everyone. It is not possible that the data of the combine will continue to be managed only by Claas with its Telematics, and that the data of the tractor will remain exclusive to another, e.g. Massey Ferguson or Case IH.
Instead, the different protocols need to talk together. In the last five years, there have been the first attempts to create open exchange systems, ie available to a large number of suppliers of tools, machines and even management software for the farm.

These are basic platforms that communicate with a certain number of brands (unfortunately not yet with everyone), collect data and transfer them to the database or service chosen by the owner, who would then be the farmer or contractor. In short, neither more nor less than an Isobus to the cloud.
Unfortunately, they still suffer from a major handicap compared to the real Isobus, namely the absence of a universal exchange and connection center. Most likely it will be born within a few years, on the way forward, but so far we must confine ourselves to registering only the first initiatives in this sense: positive and willing, but not yet decisive.

Data connection

As far as we know, there are mainly two alternatives at the moment, plus some others that are being established or not yet available for our country. The first is Data connection, which brings together three major tractor manufacturers. The other is Agri Router and instead sees a more massive participation of toolmakers, as well as some big names in agricultural mechanics.
Data Connect was founded by John Deere and Claas with the involvement of 365 Farm Net, a management system developed by a German company and open to everyone. The membership of the CNH Industrial group – with the brands New Holland, Case Ih and Steyr – led to it covering a large part of the market for tractors and harvesters.

Through the platform, the creators explain, it is possible to exchange information between clouds. But also to remotely control machines belonging to different brands through a single portal. Like My John Deere or Claas Telematics, to name two. Finally, integration with AEF systems is expected. That is, the association, which brings together over 200 manufacturers of agricultural machinery precisely for the purpose of promoting the connection between brands and the free exchange of knowledge.

Claas has achieved almost complete compatibility with John Deere. Information on machines of these brands can be viewed on the John Deere Operation Center as well as on the Claas Telematics platform

Agri Router

At the moment, Agco is not included in Data Connect, which is instead one of the founders of Agri Routera protocol developed by the German Dke (acronym for Data, Communication and Development).
Basically, Agri Router presents itself as a “Universal platform for data exchange”, which specifies that through it there is the possibility of dialogue between different brands of tools and operating machines. The farmer or contractor can decide what information to share and with whom.

Therefore, they can use Agri Router to transfer files within their fleet or to send them to other items, such as an agronomic company or the contractor (conversely, the contractor can use Agri Router to transfer processing and yield data to their customers.). When the first settings are made, everything happens automatically.
Designed as an exchange platform, it does not allow the storage of information. In short, it is not a cloud, but only a highway for transfer from one cloud to another.

The use of data

In principle, the two platforms therefore work in much the same way, as they allow you to collect data from different operating systems and transfer them to a single collection center, so that they can be easily consulted and used. The upload is done automatically or manually by dragging the files to the platform folder.

For devices without a wireless connection, however, it may be necessary to go through the mobile phone or install a special modem card.
Once collected, the files are converted to universal formats such as ISO Xml, for use on the most common management systems, and transferred wherever the operator wishes. Systems that do not have a storage function usually delete the transferred data after about a month.

Builders’ initiatives

Two initiatives from two of the world’s leading groups are remarkable. The first is Agro-Link, devised by Agco and presented between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020.
In principle, it seems very similar to the Agri Router. Except that, unlike the first, it deals mainly with agronomic information rather than those relating to the operation of the machines and also allows the preservation of the same. In fact, it was born primarily for this purpose.

In short, it’s a real cloud. With the difference that it is possible to upload files from different operating systems, which are automatically converted to a readable format for Agro-Link. Also in this case, the barrier of exclusion between tractors or harvesters from different manufacturers falls at least in part. Currently under development, it is not available in Italy for now. It’s coming, we’re told by Agco, but we do not yet know when. Another attempt to open their environments to competition is the John Deere Operations Center.

This is the data collection and transmission platform that the brand has created both for managing John Deere fleets and for exchanging information with competing machines. In practice, the operations center can receive files from outside and interpret them as if they were produced by its own media. In practice, it is the interface between the John Deere machine and exchange systems such as the aforementioned Data Connect.

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