THE Internet of Things (IoT) will soon be rolled out throughout rural South Australia.
It's a big tick for the Croweaters as they become the first fully interconnected State in the Southern Hemisphere through a regional IoT network.
What began as an initiative to connect each of Australia's big cities to an IoT network has expanded into a State-wide project in South Australia to enable farmers to take advantage of the new technology.
The network, developed by French IoT service provider SIGFOX, will allow users to connect a range of compatible devices to track and control a variety of services wirelessly.
Australian IoT developer Thinxtra has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the South Australian Government to roll out SIGFOX wireless technology throughout regional areas, creating the nation's first networked State.
The program was made possible by support from South Australia's Investment Attraction agency.
Thinxtra spokesman Renald Gallis said South Australia had been prioritised because the State Government wanted the roll-out immediately and investment attraction has provided free sites for Thinxtra to use.
"It's a contribution," Mr Gallis said. "We are setting up the stations at our cost, they're providing free sites for us, so I'd say it's a 50/50 contribution.
"It's a great opportunity for South Australia to have the network so they can work on solutions for smart agriculture and smart cities, to be more advanced, to be more innovative."
The regional network will be particularly useful to the State's $21 billion agriculture, food, wine and forestry export industry, with a range of uses from irrigation control to tracking crop conditions.
"In the case of the agricultural industry, it can be used to track any kind of asset you have anywhere," Mr Gallis said.
"That's something you wouldn't be able to do with 3G - first because in regional areas you often don't have that sort of network, and also the range of 3G is very short, it's about one kilometre.
"The big advantage of our IoT technology is that it's very long range - the base station can be 20-50km away in a regional area."
Compared to other technology, IoT networks will also prove cheaper for the end user, with common devices such as a tracker costing less than $30.
The IoT network will also be more energy efficient, allowing devices to last longer, because it is purpose-built for low data transfer,
"It has 300 times less power consumption than 3G or wi-fi, so you can have very small devices with a very small battery that can last 10 to 20 years, depending on your application," Mr Gallis said.
"You can connect very cheap sensors, with very cheap connectivity for about $2 a year with devices such as a tracker for livestock, for example."
The South Australia IoT network is expected to be completed by June 2017, with a national roll-out slated for the end of 2018.
The regional program will not only benefit regions in the State but also help Adelaide achieve its development objectives.
Adelaide is the first Cisco-smart and connected Lighthouse City in Australia, is the first city outside the United States to join Smart Gigabit Communities Program and has pledged to use technology to help it achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.
By 2020 it is estimated there will be more than 50 billion IoT devices installed around the world.
Meanwhile in WA, we're dealing with the Tangled Net of Things, better known as politicians.
Topcon's new market move
TOPCON Agriculture and SDF plan to enter into a non-exclusive long-term partnership agreement.
Announced last week, this latest arrangement is designed to strengthen both positions in the global markets for agriculture machines and precision farming.
SDF is a leading manufacturer of tractors, diesel engines, harvesting machines and other agricultural equipment, distributing under brand names such as DEUTZ-FAHR, SAME, Lamborghini Trattori, H((xFC))ürlimann, Gr((xE9))égoire, Lamborghini Green Pro and Shu-He.
"Topcon Agriculture's products and services are aimed at enhancing efficiency, productivity and workflows to virtually every phase of farming operations while pairing with SDF," Topcon Agriculture CEO Fabio Isaia said.
"The anticipated agreement will facilitate active and continuous co-operation between our two organisations, and also in the planning and development of IoT (Internet of Things) solutions for the agriculture market.
"Topcon Agriculture has a core emphasis on creating IoT connected field and farm management solutions by integrating high precision technology, software and data.
SDF has eight production sites throughout the world, 13 commercial branches, two joint ventures, 141 importers and more than 3000 dealers.
The latter figure is probably the main reason Topcon made a move.
Trumpeting 2017 sales
THE understatement of the current global financial market is uncertainty, as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take the baton as world leader.
And as with everything, there is a trickle-down effect.
So it was no surprise for Torque to discover that United States news agency Farm Equipment News has forecast a modest outlook for ag sales in 2017, albeit positive.
Its forecast for sales of 4WD tractors and combine harvesters is for an improvement of three per cent compared with the significant decline in sales in 2016, with inventory levels remaining "flat".
"The prospects of a high level of grain inventory in the US and around the world does not give rise to hope of increased commodity prices in 2017," the agency said.
According to the agency, falling commodity prices had a devastating effect on combine sales during 2016 creating a major headache for those machinery dealers who took a punt and increased inventory.
"There is every indication that farm debt will continue to inch higher next year and that will have a dampening effect on equipment purchases," the agency said.
What was that about making America great again?