Tag Archives: industrial panel PCs

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Can Smart Farming Solve the Food Crisis?

According to the “World Population Prospects” report published by the United Nations, Earth may play host to 9.7 billion people by 2050. With hunger already a problem in both developed and undeveloped nations (though at differing levels), how can food production match food needs over the next 30+ years?

Can technology like GPS, drones, industrial tablet PCs, and “Internet of Things” devices help bridge the gap between food production now and food production in the future?

Increasing the Number of Farms Isn’t Enough

Land is already at a premium anywhere with the proper climate and soil for farming, and simply increasing size may not be the best option. Environmental concerns, lack of available land, and water access could all stand in the way of a “more is more” approach.

Instead, farmers will have to increase the yield on their current farms to keep up with global demand.

Reducing Crop Waste

They’ll also have to reduce the waste — as it stands, 150,000 tons of food in the United States is wasted through either spoilage, harvesting mix-ups, transportation errors, or consumer waste. These numbers are even higher in countries with less technology, less infrastructure, and a broken “cold chain” that is unable to keep produce consistently refrigerated for long trips.

While farmers can only claim a portion of the responsibility for wastage, an increase in efficiency at the growing and harvesting level could massively increase effective yield. It will also mean that the water, fertilizer, and time being wasted on crops that end up in the garbage will be better used elsewhere.

Smart farming technologies are perfect for increasing efficiency, yield, and reducing waste.

Agricultural Drones

With farming, as in all things, knowledge is power. The power to increase yield, reduce waste, and in general do more with fewer resources. To this end, gathering data is key.

Using drones for agriculture is one of the many new applications for unmanned vehicles.

For Gathering Information

Agricultural drones analyze soil properties, cataloging data like soil erosion, moisture levels, and nitrogen content, and they do it all from the air and at a far greater speed than a person taking samples on the ground. This reduces time spent gathering this data by hand, and does it far more accurately and with a larger sample size.

With this data, a farmer would know where irrigation is problematic before it becomes a problem, or figure out which area is in desperate need of fertilizer before the crops start to yellow.

Some drones even use infrared sensors to detect how green crops are, detecting signs of unhealthy or diseased crops while there’s still time to do something about them.

For Protecting the Crops

Some drones can even be fitted with sprayers, and are far more accurate than most mass crop dusting methods for distributing pesticide. This accuracy also generally means they use less pesticide, which is good for the budget and for the environment.  

The best part is that many of these agricultural drones don’t require special control gear. Instead, a rugged industrial tablet PC or industrial all-in-one computer can be used as a control device, offering up photos, video, and all of the data collected in the drone’s flight.

All of these drone tools really come down to one purpose — keeping crops healthy and alive no matter how large the farm, thus reducing waste and increasing yield.

RFID Tags for Tracking Livestock

“Radio-Frequency Identification,” or “RFID,” is used in industry and hospitals to keep track of inventory, important assets, and (in the case of healthcare applications) even people and their conditions.

Improving Animal Health

Tagging livestock can provide many of the same benefits. A farmer with an RFID equipped industrial tablet can scan the RFID chip on the animal in question and get a full report of activity for that animal.

When was the last time it was vaccinated? Is it time for a check-up? What about cleaning, or milking, or when it’s mating season is? How has its weight changed compared to last year? Compared to the average weight of all other livestock?

You could even use livestock tags to track pregnancy and general population growth. Traits and genetic markers (both positive and negative) could be tracked through livestock “family lines,” providing more info about what to expect with each individual animal. This could be especially useful when animal husbandry is actually part of your business, like horse breeding.

Sick animals can be identified and separated according to their needs, and thus easily identified by their ID tag. Their treatment could also be logged alongside their ID, so a quick scan can tell a vet exactly what’s been done (and what still needs to be done). Even medication frequency, and a log of medication use, could be slapped right alongside all of the other data on the animal.

Healthier Animals Means Higher Production

While all this could certainly be documented in the past, being able to just hold up an industrial tablet to the cow or horse and find out everything about them in seconds is a far more efficient and user-friendly method.

With this level of care and health monitoring, livestock are more likely to live longer, be healthier, and produce more. And since food production is going to have to step it up to meet demand, RFID tags could have a long-lasting effect on yield in the meat, egg, and dairy industries.

Smart Farming with the Internet of Things

Drones can be expensive, so when looking for smart farming solutions there are plenty of small, connected devices that can perform similar operations.

Soil Sensors

Soil sensors can be placed in strategic locations around the farm and can feed regular updates on H2O and nitrogen content right to a device like an industrial tablet PC. The data won’t be quite as detailed as aerial drone data, but it’ll still give a great picture of the soil composition without breaking the bank.

This data can reduce resource consumption — why water an area that’s already plenty moist? Or, on the flipside, maybe a section that isn’t scheduled for watering is unseasonably dry. Having that data at your fingertips could save an entire field of crops that might have otherwise died.

Weather Stations

Weather sensors and weather stations can be placed around the fields, providing up-to-the-second data on wind speed, wind direction, temperature, and humidity. Connected sensors, like the soil sensors above, can beam the information right to the farmer’s tablet or anywhere they’ve mounted a touch panel PC for other farm operations.

Having an accurate picture of the current weather could improve pesticide spraying operations, crop watering, and a hundred other processes.

Over the long term, the weather data can be collected and used to predict future trends, as well as to help calculate why certain years may have had different crop yields.

This kind of information can even be shared with other farmers, creating a fully connected community.

Feeding the Future

Sustainable farming practices and smart farming technology could provide for the additional 2 or 3 billion people coming our way without even digging up another plot of land.

To learn more about how industrial tablet PCs and the internet of things can improve smart farming, contact Cybernet today.

Industrial Panel PCs and the Internet of Things

The “Internet of Things” has become the hottest buzzword in tech circles. It refers to the practice of physical items outfitted with electronics that allow them to connect to the internet and exchange data with other devices. It can include anything from dishwashers to bicycles, and its effects are in the process of transforming the world..

Nowhere is this more acutely felt than in heavy industry, where warehouses and factory floors are undergoing a sea change thanks to IoT. Industrial computers – and particularly industrial panel PCs – allow IoT to flourish in such environments. In the process, they can streamline the production process, ensure more efficient shipping, and otherwise help a given company improve the bottom line. How do such systems facilitate the IoT and what kinds of qualities should you look for in them if you wish to make use of them in an IoT environment? We cite a few examples below.

Improving Efficiency Becomes Easy with HMI

Automated machinery and assembly-line equipment often use industrial computers to allow human workers to control them via human machine interface (HMI). IoT integration can accentuate that process and permit humans to monitor automated systems much more effectively.

For example, sensors connected to components on an automobile assembly line (or the automated machinery tasked with assembling the cars) can detect elevated temperature, vibrations and similar structural problems that may result in a defective component. It can also detect recurring trends along those lines, suggesting a batch of components with common structural problems or perhaps an issue earlier in the assembly process creating such problems. That, in turn, alerts human operators to the problem and allows them to correct the problem before it causes more damage.

An industrial panel PC allows human monitors to quickly spot the issue through HMI: pinpointing the spot on the line where the problem is occurring and allowing the process to be shut down in order to correct it. That saves untold costs by stopping the problem early, as well as helping to indicate which (if any) assembled products may be affected by the issue.

Predictive Maintenance Saves Time and Money

When it comes to assembly lines and similar industrial apparatus, little problems can turn into big headaches very quickly. A single faulty machine can grind production to a halt while it gets repaired: costing the company huge amounts in lost productivity. Regular maintenance can identify trouble before it starts, but that can take a great deal of man hours, and often involves shutting production down regardless.

IoT can change that equation. The network of sensors that comprise IoT provides an ocean of data that can be analyzed and assessed. Machines can self report scheduled maintenance to operators, making sure that routine checks aren’t overlooked, which can lead to bigger issues down the road. When an IoT machine does breakdown, they can send information that identifies the exact nature of the problem, preventing a small fix from turning into a long and expensive repair issue that can arise from misdiagnosing a problem.

RFID Readers Improve Automation in Warehouses

IoT technology can also be used in warehouses and storerooms as a means facilitating automated management. For example, automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) can sort and organize products for distribution. Sensors are placed along the production like and radio frequency ID tags (RFID) can identify the specific SKU of each box. That, in turn, allows them to be sorted accurately and stacked in the right section.

Controllers can use an industrial touchscreen PC with an RFID reader to keep track of the process, and to make adjustments or changes as needed. For instance, if a new product comes into the warehouse, the SKU for that product can be entered into the system and a storage spot assigned to it. The AS/RS will then automatically adjust the process to ensure that the new product ends up where it’s supposed to go. Not only does this significantly streamline the organization process, but it can help workers quickly identify the location of a given product that might otherwise get lost in the rows and stacks of storage.

Processing Power Matters

Considering the number of interconnected devices and the volume of data created by IoT, any system needs to be able to keep up. Every sensor and data reader in a given network produces data, and that data needs to be processed and analyzed, often in real time. That means higher processing power, lower energy use, and the ability to integrate numerous different data stream seamlessly. Indeed, recent articles by Deloitte Consulting and SAS cite the rise of more powerful processing abilities as one of the chief factors enabling IoT technology.

Any kind of industrial panel PC employed for us in an IoT  environment needs high processing power to accommodate the large amounts of data involved. It also should be upgradable, if possible: allowing you to expand its power by upgrading CPUs and RAM as required. That lets you further expand your use of IoT tech while still relying on the same computer to monitor and control the information you receive.

 

Cybernet Manufacturing produces a line of panel PCs designed to work with the Internet of Things. Contact us today to discuss your options!