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German industry is poised to exploit rural broadband

Peter Sayer | March 16, 2015
Internet speeds of 50Mbps are nothing but a pipe dream for most inhabitants of Britain, while even 5Mbps would be a welcome boost for many living in remote areas.

"We know the data belongs to the farmer. We let the farmer decide what is shared. it's restricted to the field and to the task." If fertilization is delegated, farmers may choose not to share the projected yield of their crop, just the amount of fertilizer to be spread per square meter.

The information exchange goes both ways: Contractors may use the system to send data back, perhaps including a map of how much fertilizer was spread where to show they had met their contractual obligations. But they don't have to transmit other information the system is capable of gathering, such as the time it took them to complete the job, or their tractor's fuel consumption, which might give their client an idea of their costs — and thus leverage to negotiate on price, Aurin said.

SAP isn't yet ready to launch Digital Farming as a product: It's still a proof of concept, with SAP working with partners, including makers of agricultural machinery and data aggregators, to explore what kind of information it can incorporate into the system.

Aurin wouldn't name names, but Claas, another venerable German company, is already gathering much of the information that would be useful in SAP's system from sensors on its latest tractors. It had one on its stand, an 830 Axion that uses GPS to steer itself and determine how much fertilizer to apply at each stage of its route based on either a geographic database or on live data from infrared sensors used to determine crop height and health.

Product marketing manager Benedikt Wiggen didn't mention SAP, but said Claas is working with a young software company, 365FarmNet, which provides a cloud-based system for gathering and processing farm data. Barely two years old, it already has links with 15 industry partners and is spreading from its native Germany to Poland and other countries, Wiggen said.

The presence of a 7-tonne, 5.7-meter-long chunk of machinery on the show floor is a throwback to Cebit's roots in the Hanover Fair, which initially focused on heavy industry, but other areas of the show focus on more contemporary industries, including mobile app development. This year's Cebit innovation Award winner was Fovea, an app for forestry workers.

Rather than using traditional surveying techniques and cans of spray paint to identify areas of woodland to be cut — a process that can take hours — workers can now use the app to perform the same task in a matter of minutes, said German Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka, awarding the prize at Sunday night's opening ceremony.

The app can help forestry workers determine which trees to cut and, using the phone's camera, calculate and immediately report the volume and value of wood they have to sell.

Assuming, that is, that they can get a network signal.


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