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Take telematics on the road

The MyJohnDeere.com website, Trimble’s Connected Farm and AGCO’s AGCOMMAND telematics systems can now all be accessed with a smartphone

Do you have a smartphone clipped onto your belt or in your purse? If so, you’re one of roughly half of all Canadians that do, and that number is steadily climbing. The question people used to ask is “why should I get one?” Now, the question seems to be “why don’t you have one?”

According to the most recent survey data, farmers are keeping pace with their urban cousins when it comes to smartphone ownership. The machinery manufacturers and digital providers have taken notice of that fact, and over the course of 2012 three major brands announced their telematics systems can now be accessed either fully or partially with a tablet or smartphone. Subscribers can download apps to make that happen.

I guess the question is no longer “Why would you want to access machinery telematics from a smartphone?” it’s “Why did it take so long for those apps to come out?” But three are finally here, so lets take a look at what each has to offer.

Trimble

Trimble released its smartphone app in late August. Its functions are aimed solely at field scouting and mapping chores. It can be used to record information and upload it to a producer’s personal Connected Farm website location. Producers or ag support companies who use Connected Farm can download the app for free. It’s available for both Apple and Android platforms.

“We are seeing an increasing number of farmers and agronomists looking for apps they can utilize on their smartphones to help them collect important data from the field,” said Erik Arvesen, vice president of Trimble’s Agriculture Division. “Trimble’s introduction of the Connected Farm app gives farmers an easy-to-use tool to capture field data for later viewing and analysis online, while also providing agronomists with access to additional data they can use to better assess the needs of their customers.”

The app uses a smartphone’s built-in GPS feature to capture geo-referenced images and record pest or disease observations. It can also be used to map field boundaries and obstructions such as rocks or record drainage problems. Once a field’s boundaries are mapped, the app can also calculate its area in acres — or hectares, if you prefer.

Users can view, sort, print and analyze any information captured on the smartphone by sending it to Trimble’s Connected Farm website for free online access, or by transferring the data to Trimble’s Farm Works Office software.

The company says its Connected Farm system, which allows for wireless data transfer from field to office or between vehicles in the field, is still growing. So like most of the wireless telematics systems on the market today, expect to see new features built into it in the future.

Agco

At the end of November, AGCO unveiled a mobile app for its AGCOMMAND telematics system, which will allow producers to “manage their operation from anywhere, anytime,” according to the press release. Right now it’s only available for iPhone and iPad users.

“AGCO’s industry-leading telemetry service, AGCOMMAND, has gone mobile,” declared Martin Richenhagen, Chairman, President and CEO of AGCO, in that same press release. “Professional farmers and agriculture enterprises can increase their productivity through this new, wireless agriculture management tool that focuses on fleet management, vehicle health and overall machine uptime.”

What the new app allows producers to do, specifically, is transfer the same kind of control over AGCOMMAND they have at their office computer to their smartphone. The new app also extends AGCOMMAND’S core telemetry features by adding 13 new functions.

Among those new capabilities are some tailored to baler operation, which are designed to appeal to forage growers. And there are other enhanced fleet monitoring capabilities. Those include an integrated radar monitoring system that allows you to check the weather conditions where a machine is operating, something that will be particularly useful for sprayers. You can also use the app to compare the performance of multiple machines or set the system to alert you under certain, user-defined circumstances.

The app can be downloaded free of charge from the Apple App Store. So far, nothing for Android.

John Deere

November also saw John Deere deliver on its promise to make an app available so farmers could access and manage all their data through their personal space at the MyJohnDeere.com website — at least those who are iPhone and iPad users, which is the most common platform used by farmers according to Deere’s survey.

When Deere’s managers invited members of the ag media to a “technology summit” in Des Moines, Iowa, last June, they promised that an Android app would be made available sometime after the launch of the Apple version.

“It (the mobile app) makes it much easier to analyze field data such as application and fertility maps, soil sample grids and crop product data directly from the field,” said Tyler Hogrefe, senior product marketing manager for John Deere’s Intelligent Solutions Group.

The MyJohnDeere.com website is central to what Deere’s management calls a digital infrastructure that allows producers to store, organize and blend data obtained from equipment monitors and third-party input. Farmers can also give selected others, such as their agronomists and accountants, limited access to the site to help them plan cropping strategies and manage business records.

The current app is available at the Apple Store.

About the author

Contributor

Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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