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May 22, 2014
Silence is Not Appreciated When Talking ISOBUS
Jack Zemlicka, Technology Editor
When it comes to successfully getting one brand of farm equipment to communicate electronically with another, one of the major roadblocks has been the willingness of manufacturers to openly work together on a solution.
Understandably, companies have been protective of their proprietary precision platforms. But as technology has evolved, this approach has increasingly come at the expense of customer satisfaction with equipment functionality.
This month, I had the opportunity to attend my second Plugfest event in Lincoln, Neb., a testing grounds for farm equipment compatibility, facilitated by the Agricultural Electronics Industry Foundation (AEF).
Talking with representatives from many of the nearly 50 companies in attendance, I got a sense that there is renewed interest in working together toward universal compatibility. One engineer from a relatively small precision manufacturer notes that he’s had a lot more success of late working with “big iron” manufacturers on ISOBUS issues.
“Communication is a lot more open. In the past, I’d hear, ‘We’ll look into that and get back to you,’” the engineer says. “Sometimes, we’d be spinning our wheels trying to work around problems that they were going to fix in 2 months.”
So what’s driving this collaborative progress?
Some say it’s because farmers are a lot more tech savvy than they were a few years ago. Customers are voicing their frustration with equipment incompatibility to dealers, who in turn contact the manufacturer looking for answers.
As one engineer from a farm equipment manufacturer noted at Plugfest, “Farmers know what ISOBUS is now, whereas 5 years ago, it was a foreign concept.”
The consensus seems to be that true plug-and-play capability is still several years away, but it will be interesting to see what the near future holds for quelling farmers’ immediate compatibility concerns.
The AEF is set to unveil an equipment compatibility database to dealers by the end of the year, and then eventually to farmers. This initiative should simplify and improve the way ISOBUS problems are diagnosed and solved.
However, another major hurdle on the horizon for AEF and company members is coming up with a standard data sharing platform that dealers and their customers can use to communicate in the same technical language.
This is a priority in the coming year, says one AEF representative, and manufacturers are working closely with farm management information systems (FMIS) on a solution.
“Each manufacturer of an FMIS product is going to have their own flavor, but we want that data when it flows back and forth to be consistent,” the AEF representative says. “That’s where the customer is able to meet their own expectation with the technology they own.”