How does a farmer working in a remote region make sure that far-flung water tanks are kept fully stocked? For many, it involves regular treks around the farm to make visual checks. It might make more sense, then, to use IoT technologies and conduct those checks from their smartphone.
It’s just one example of the kind of application that Australian IoT start-up Myriota believes could transform life for farmers, especially those working in areas where connectivity is scarce. The company’s technology consists of a small, low-cost circuit board that interfaces with sensors and then sends the data collected via Myriota’s own satellite network.
Recently, the company announced the successful first deployment of its satellite water-tank monitoring system, in a project co-funded by the Australian and New Zealand Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRCSI) and the Australian Livestock Spatial Innovation Program (ALSIP).
First units deployed
The first units were deployed at the University of New England, Armidale in the state of New South Wales, with further deployments planned in other areas in the weeks ahead, according to the company. Around 30 units will be fitted to water tanks in total. These units are designed to be easy-to-fit, requiring no specialist equipment of skills, with each installation taking around 5 minutes, according to Andrew Beck, principal engineer at Myriota.
“We have deliberately designed this product to be as simple and robust as possible”, he said. “Anyone who can use a set of pliers and zip ties will be able to install these devices. The communications technology is advanced, but it needs to be very easy to use for the farmer.”
Satellites are vital to this system. Myriota has developed a low-cost, credit-card sized satellite transmitter which sits in the monitoring equipment, alongside a pressure sensor which monitors water levels.
That information is sent to a low earth-orbit satellite, from where it is transmitted to the cloud. It can then be accessed via a web-based app. Farmers can also set their own alert parameters – receiving a text, for example, if water levels drop below a certain point.
This project is all about freeing up farmers’ time to spend on more critical work, as Tom Rayner, business development executives for Myriota told Internet of Business. “IoT solutions need to add value for decision-makers and not burden them with additional tasks and processes. Farmers are no different to other industrial IoT users in that regard.”
“We have designed our water tank monitor to be easy to install and maintain to allow farmers to concentrate on what they do best. We have adopted the same philosophy with our transmitter modules. They need to be as simple as possible for systems integrators to apply to all manner of sensors and machines.”
In part, that’s because farming is not the only focus for Myriota. In fact, this trial – although agricultural in focus – has been designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of the company’s technology, which is “equally applicable to any remote industrial IoT application on the planet,” according to Rayner.
“Our satellite communications platform differs from other technologies in that it allows very large populations of transmitters to communicate direct to orbit without the need for expensive ground stations or backhaul hubs. This means IoT connectivity in areas where it simply isn’t cost effective to install and maintain terrestrial infrastructure,” he explains.
Rayner claims that Myriota has seen evidence of demand from many other industries. “We have several deployments that are about to be released in a variety of industries. The specific deployments include connected marine science buoys, large-scale asset tracking and monitoring, commercial fishing vessel tracking, and a couple of applications in defense.”
Myriota also hopes to be able to announce a connected electricity meter trial in the coming weeks, he concludes.