Comms to support the less sexy IoT world

Published on the 15/02/2017 | Written by Anthony Caruana

Pivotel ecoSphere equipment

While home automation and smart cars battle for the title of the world's sexiest IoT, rural businesses are pushing forward - if the communications are up to the job…

Faced with trying economic conditions, farmers are compelled to embrace automation and remote monitoring tech to operate their properties as inexpensively and efficiently as possible. However, in the era of electronic herd management and remote equipment operation, it’s the ability to remotely communicate that can be the biggest obstacle.

Australian comms company Pivotel supplies this industry with the tools to stay in touch: satellite phones, satellite broadband, personal and asset trackers, docking kits, M2M (machine-to-machine) connections and maritime communications.

Its new ecoSphere equipment unites 4G and satellite communications to enable remote businesses to connect remotely. Although Telstra, Optus and Vodaphone are often considered the only mobile carriers in the country, Pivotel has carved out a niche as the little-known fourth licensed mobile carrier by focusing on the needs of Australians in remote areas.

Information from sensors on a property are transmitted to the homestead or office via a 4G network tower installed on the farm. The solar- and battery-powered base stations provide uninterrupted on-property service independent from the power grid, so operators have complete visibility of their properties to respond to incidents or events in real time.

David Lamb, a professor of physics and precision agriculture from the University of New England said, “Smart farming now, and certainly in the next five to ten years will be about our ability to communicate with, within and between farms. Connection and communication is the key.”

Pivotel isn’t the only company looking for a piece of the lucrative IoT pie. Australian IoT developer Thinxtra is rolling out the dedicated low-power, long range SIGFOX wireless technology across regional areas in South Australia. SIGFOX can connect devices over distances of 20km to 50km and has the potential to create a large mesh networks. This has led to boasts by the South Australian government that it is set to create the first fully interconnected state in the Southern Hemisphere through a regional IoT network.

The potential for rural communities is significant. Sensors can detect changes in soil and water supply, track animals, provide insight into livestock health and monitor localised microclimates on large properties.

With rural communities under constant pressure from droughts, floods and climate conditions that impact crop and livestock growth, having greater insight with lower labour costs has the potential to be a game changer. But only if the communications are up to the task.

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