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CONNECTING FARMERS WITH THE INTERNET OF THINGS

22-11-2016
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South Australia is aiming to become the first fully interconnected state in the Southern Hemisphere,   thanks to efforts between private companies and the SA state government.

What began as an initiative to connect each of Australia’s big cities to an Internet of Things network has expanded into a statewide SA project, aimed at connecting regional and rural areas to the IoT.

Australian IoT developer Thinxtra has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the South Australian Government to roll out wireless technology across regional areas, creating the nation’s first networked state.

The network, developed by French IoT service provider Sigfox, will allow users to connect a range of compatible devices to track and control a variety of services wirelessly, enabling primary industry stakeholders to take advantage of emerging technology.

The program was made possible by support from South Australia’s Investment Attraction agency, said Renald Gallis, the Vice President for Ecosystem and Marketing at Thinxtra.

“South Australia has been prioritised because they wanted the rollout now, and investment attraction has provided free sites for us to use,” he said.

“It’s a contribution – we are setting up the stations at our cost, they’re providing free sites for us, I’d say it’s a 50/50 contribution.”

“It’s a great opportunity for South Australia to have the network so they can work on solutions for smart agriculture and smart cities, to be more advanced, to be more innovative,” he said.

The regional network will be particularly useful to the state’s AU$21 billion agriculture, food, wine and forestry export industry, with a range of uses from irrigation control to tracking crop conditions.

“In the case of the agriculture industry, it can be used to track any kind of asset you have anywhere, so to track your cattle and see where they are for example,” Gallis said.

“That’s something you wouldn’t be able to do with 3G – first because in regional areas you often don’t have that sort of network, and also that the range of 3G is very short, it’s around 1km.

“The big advantage of our IoT technology is that it’s very long range – the base station can be 20-50 kilometres away in a regional area.”

Compared to other technology, IoT networks will also prove cheaper for the end user, with common devices like a tracker costing less than AU$30.

The IoT network will also be very energy efficient, allowing devices to last longer in the field than their contemporary counterparts, largely because it is purpose built for low data transfer.

“It has 300 times less power consumption than 3G or wi-fi, so you can have very small devices with a very small battery that can last 10 to 20 years, depending on your application,” Gallis said.

“You can connect very cheap sensors, with very cheap connectivity – around $2 per year with devices like a tracker.”

The South Australia IoT network is expected to be completed by June 2017, with a national rollout slated for the end of 2018.

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