The Internet of Things (IoT) holds tremendous promise for creating greater levels of efficiency, productivity and safety. Illustrating this concept through the context of a smart home is relatively simple. “Things” like refrigerators and thermostats are connected to the Internet and controlled by a mobile phone. Without any human interaction, your refrigerator can send an email or a text that certain supplies are low and even automatically integrate with a grocery delivery service. It’s all about leveraging technology to minimize inefficiency.
Now consider this same IoT reality on an industrial or agricultural scale. Our agricultural and food industries provide ample examples of the challenges, the great need and how connected technologies can provide potential results.
An estimated 25- 40 percent of food grown, processed and transported in the US will never be consumed. Simultaneously 14 percent of US households are food insecure. Our system is so inefficient that we have an excess of food while people still go hungry. To exacerbate the issue, excess food is dumped into landfills where it becomes a significant source of methane – a greenhouse gas with more than 20 times the global warming effects of carbon dioxide.
IoT contains real promise to be an accelerant to address the challenges of the food industry and system. With the right connected technology in place, we can constantly monitor food as it grows, is processed and is transported ensuring that crop production is maximized.
Innovative companies like Kakaxi, which provides affordable farm-monitoring-and-marketing hardware, present solutions.
As stated on their website, “The Kakaxi device uses sensor technology to capture and broadcast accurate, hyper-local weather data. The device uses an ultra-wide camera to capture time-lapse video of food growth, is solar powered, and connected by 3G. Easy to read graphs detail on-farm conditions via Farmer Dashboard accessible by smartphone or computer.”
Kakaxi is one of many companies working steadily in the field of IoT, which means there will soon be a plethora of sensors, beacons and RFID technologies. But what is important to also understand is that without the backbone of a robust wireless network, this technology is almost useless. Today we depend on 4G to connect our mobile devices to the Internet. In this fast-approaching world where billions of devices are digitally connected, a 5G network will be required, providing speeds of 100 times faster than our current network.
So, what’s standing in the way? Just like a patchwork of farms, every city has a different set of regulatory policies that govern how, when, where and how much fiber can be delivered. Cities that streamline these policies, create a level playing field and encourage competition will see these solutions in place first. Cities that lag behind and stick to draconian regulations will ultimately miss out on this level of infrastructure investment.
So, what’s next? Collaboration is needed between stakeholders in the agricultural sector, technology companies and federal, state and local governments. Deployment of smart technology depends on the ability of local officials to remove barriers to infrastructure deployment, and communities must hold those with the keys to IoT accountable. Our goals should be clear: cut the red tape, encourage innovation, support collaboration and bring more to the table.