Farm producers and dealers alike should have an easier time mixing and matching different brands of ISOBUS-equipped tractors and implements after AgriTechnica 2019.

Representatives of the Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation (AEF) say they will introduce a three-part effort at further standardizing tractor access and use of various manufacturer control systems, displays and implements that increasingly use the ISOBUS protocol. AEF is made up of 220 manufacturers, software developers and related businesses supporting advances in electronics in farm equipment.

Andrew Olliver, a product manager for CNH International, who also wears the marketing and communications lead hat for AEF, says the global farm equipment exposition in Hanover, Germany, in November will see significant movement toward standardization of security protocols for ISOBUS equipment access, the unveiling of USB-based storage capacity for ISOBUS systems, and updates to AEF’s database of ISOBUS equipment comparisons.

Meet TIM

Olliver says a new ISOBUS Class-3 function named TIM (tractor implement management) will allow  implement control of certain functions on the tractor, and with the introduction of TIM in November, engineers and software developers will have the full infrastructure needed to begin developing TIM-enabled equipment.

“Manufacturers have already released Class-3 systems into the market, but they all have their own proprietary layer around them,” he explains. “They don’t want just anybody’s implement controlling anyone else’s tractor.”

TIM will provide an industry-accepted security layer designed by AEF and using public key infrastructure (PKI) originally developed years ago by the banking industry for security. With it, any TIM-certified implement will be able to control any TIM-certified tractor.

“That implement and tractor could come from anyone in the ag industry,” he says. “The announcement of TIM and updated conformance tests for TIM-certified products is expected to spawn the launch of several new lines of TIM-certified equipment within months of AgriTechnica.”

ISOBUS File Server

Olliver says a file server is the second AEF thrust this year and notes it probably will be common knowledge within the industry by late summer.

“The file server provides information storage capability within an ISOBUS system, and can be accessed by a USB connection,” he explains. “The idea is you could install a file onto the system which the ISOBUS implement needs, such as a new language file.

“Imagine you’ve got an Eastern Europe produced pull-type sprayer and the language protocol is in Czechoslovakian. By having a file server onboard, one could email that language file to the customer, who then would install it into the system, and the implement could update itself with the correct new language file.”

Another use for a file server might be updating the firmware on an implement, a process that currently might take a dealer’s representative several hours to drive to the farm and make the update. Again, updated software could be emailed to the customer who could save it on a USB stick, insert it into the system and the file server picks it up and installs it.

The Compatibility Search

The third prong of AEF’s “What’s New at AgriTechnica” is its updated compatibility database of ISOBUS-capable equipment.

“Currently, access to our database is given to manufacturers and then they can give access to the dealers,” Olliver says.  “We’ve noticed, however, not as many manufacturers as we’d like have been rolling out access to the database to their dealers.

“Because of that, we’re planning to introduce a feature by which dealers can actually create their own access to the database when they enter their information to create an account. They would have to list which manufacturers’ products they sell and which brands, and that would trigger an email to the manufacturer which would say, ‘Dealer XYZ says he’s a dealer for your products. Would you allow him access to the database?’”

Olliver says the “opt-in” approach should help improve numbers of dealers accessing the database to improve the ability of dealers and customers to select compatible equipment for the customer’s specific needs and equipment fleets.

Meanwhile, AEF members meet twice a year, once in the U.S. in the spring, and again later in Europe, for their Plug-Fest conference. There, software developers and engineers actually plug their newly-designed software and firmware into prospective ISOBUS systems to test for full compatibility. The next AEF Plug-Fest will be in September in Southern France.