Taking Off-road Online

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Precision Farming FieldRecently it’s become apparent that technology isn’t limited to just helping people at home or in the office. Now rugged laptops and tablets are even starting to drive their way into the most rural and rugged locations to automate all manner of outdoor applications.

A good example of this reach is Precision Farming. In an article published by “Farmers Weekly” last year it was estimated that around 60% of farmers are now using technology, aided by the increasing availability of mobile devices built for these environments. Utilising GPS with a vehicle-mounted rugged tablet will now allow more accuracy and efficiency in completing tasks such as crop dispersion, yield mapping or measuring soil distribution. Having grown up in the West Country myself, I know many people who carry out these activities on a daily basis that have adopted mobile technology and found that it has enhanced their roles. Their time can now be put to better use on strategic business activities, allowing a focus on maximising profits and diversifying income streams.

It is not only farmers who are reaping the rural rewards. Geologists are also moving to mobile computing for applications such as Digital Geographical Mapping (DGM) as opposed to the previous paper maps that were used to understand the distribution of the land. Rugged tablet computers can automate processes by providing an easier way to carry around relevant documents. These can be shared instantly across multiple audiences, and also amended in the field. As tablets have become more lightweight and user friendly, this is enhancing the user experience even more.

You may be wondering, why tablets? Surely there are PDA’s or cheaper mobile equivalents which can perform the same function?

This is answered by the application itself. Although simple mapping and small amounts of data might be provided adequately by a PDA device, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software is designed in order to help you take your office outside and on-site in a fully capable fashion. Even a technophobe would agree that a digital pen on a sunlight readable screen will allow you to make the same required drawings and notes as the pen and paper system GIS was previously captured on.

The device itself gives you the ability to download relevant spreadsheets and documents via GPRS or WIFI. Useful when filling out pre-standardized forms created by Project Managers or Supervisors. Furthermore, when working in groups of surveyors, tablets have the communication technology provided to share all manner of PDF’s, drawings and photos instantaneously. More critically, when updating central servers with real time information (for example, emergency situations such as natural disasters) they empower the user with the ability to react to these situations quickly and efficiently.

Of course, as the applications grow to fit these tasks, the technology must grow with it. This poses all sorts of issues. Your device needs to withstand anything from the vibration of the heavy machinery that it may be mounted to, to the blustery winds and rain that are a hazard of any outdoor career. Without these safeguards, you may find yourself replacing devices much more often than necessary. Making the investment of ruggedised technology pays dividends in these environents, and allow you the peace of mind that the device you use is reliable.

Tagged in: Automation, Digital Geographical Mapping, Farming, Geology, Outdoor tech, Precision Farming, Transport

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