John Deere On Bringing The IoT To The Farm

The Internet of Things is everywhere nowadays, including on farms across the U.S.

A self-propelled John Deere forage harvester, which requires a driver but also features satellite guidance and control systems. (Image credit: John Deere)
A self-propelled John Deere forage harvester, which requires a driver but also features satellite guidance and control systems. (Image credit: John Deere)

With the IoT making its way into businesses and vehicles of all kinds, it follows that agriculture would be one of the fields that can benefit from a network of connected “things.”

Ron Zink, director of On-Board Applications for John Deere’s Intelligent Solutions Group, talked to Computerworld about deploying sensors, wireless communications, and autonomous driving technology on farm systems.

One of the most exciting technologies is a steering system that can be added to vehicles in order to create more precise rows of seeds and calculate the optimum gap between rows. The Autotrack Universal 200 doesn’t make a vehicle completely autonomous, but it does allow the driver more control over the vehicles around them. For example, it can match speeds between a tractor and a combine, allowing the driver of the tractor to unload material without having to worry about stopping the combine or driving along side.

A self-propelled John Deere forage harvester, which requires a driver but also features satellite guidance and control systems. (Image credit: John Deere)A self-propelled John Deere forage harvester, which requires a driver but also features satellite guidance and control systems. (Image credit: John Deere)

John Deere also uses field sensors that can measure the exact amount of pressure with which a seed is pressed into the ground to determine how many seeds are planted in a particular field. In order to support it, John Deere uses its own cloud-based operations center that can coordinate the data and display it on a tablet.

From a development perspective, Zink said that John Deere experiments with new products but makes the “minimum viable product,” leaving room for error but also for products that will take off. The idea of creating a spiderweb of services that branch off one another is particularly appropriate to IoT because of the focus on connectivity and because the company can receive up-to-date feedback about how its users are utilizing the product.

John Deere also uses IoT and mobile platforms – especially iPad apps – to piggyback on either existing technologies and allow the company to develop IoT systems for its users’ particular needs.

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