HomeInternet of Things (IoT)Plastic bean-shaped sensors monitor crops for precision agriculture

Plastic bean-shaped sensors monitor crops for precision agriculture

The internet of beans

Thumb-sized “plastic beans,” are being filled with sensors and tossed into grain bins and storage facilities for precision agriculture, getting rid of the need for handheld devices or elaborate moisture monitoring systems, according to an article on Farm Journal’s AGWeb.

The sensor pods can be dropped in an auger and become part of its storage. They are charged wirelessly and report data throughout the day to a smartphone or remote hub.

source: Bean IoT
source: Bean IoT

The beans are able to send out a signal when they read measurements outside of normal conditions. Currently in testing, BeanIoT uses sensors and wireless connectivity for practical farm applications. It measures temperature, humidity, air quality, altitude, gasses including CO2 and movement in bulk-storage grain.

How they work to provide precision agriculture

Designed to be worn, carried or deployed throughout the home or factory, each bean contains a bluetooth radio, electronic compass, gyroscope and sensors. All the components “speak” with one another using an adaptive wireless mesh network of static or moving nodes.

Each device has a common array of environmental sensors which, when combined with low-power wide-area networks, collects big data and works with cloud services for analysis, according to BeanIoT.

“There’s a sweet-spot for an accurate picture of moisture, temperature and CO2 activity,” said Andrew Holland, CEO and founder of BeanIoT. “Imagine gaining access to a continuous flow of data on storage conditions.”

RFMOD, the producers of BeanIoT, is developing a multi-platform app capable of programming beans on the go. The beans can be configured individually or in groups to measure different parameters and limits as a user requires. Once beans are in place, a producer has multiple monitoring options. The data shows up on a tablet or smartphone as a layered sensory map visualization.

The beans will only send out information when necessary, staying dormant and conserving energy until then. If a problem exists, the bean wakes its neighbors and sends out wireless alerts. The battery charge lasts 14 months and recharges in a few hours.

Interest and a number of use cases

The beans wouldn’t only be a fit for grain bins. Holland says a producer can reassign the sensors for use in a livestock barn, chemical shed, honeybee hive or agriculture equipment. Using location tracking, a bean could be placed in or under equipment so if machinery leaves the farm property, the remaining beans sound the alarm and send the owner instant alerts.

source: BeanIoT
source: BeanIoT

BeanIoT testing is already attracting attention. Fengrain, a farmer-owned, UK grain marketing and storage operation moving 700,000 tons of crops each year, has taken an interest in the technology, according to AGWeb.

“The proposed multi-sensor capabilities of BeanIoT certainly tie in well with our unceasing drive to improve product quality, while saving money through new efficiencies,” according to Paul Randle, director or business development for Fengrain.

Holland hopes to complete testing in 2016 and push into the U.S. market in 2017.

“We want to make these bean sensors at scale and cheap for everyone,” he says. “IoT is ready for farming, and the world of possibility for agriculture is endless.”

BeanIoT functionality is not only limited to agriculture. It is designed to present a number of use cases within several markets, including:

  • Smart building
    • Air quality, HVAC, gestured lighting control
  • Track & Seek
    • Locate keys/ glasses/ purse/ phone/ smart watch
    • Parcel transit data-logger
  • Sports & Wellbeing
    • Gauge performance and team interplay
    • Assisted living incl. fall detection and proximity
  • Agri-Tech
    • Bulk storage & conditioning (e.g. grain / potatoes)
    • Valued asset tracking
  • Entertainment
    • Crowd / entertainment
    • Gesture / game controller / Air-Mouse
  • Retail / Advertising
    • Beacon / in-store promotion
    • Product information at point of sale
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