We tackle connectivity on the farm...
More often than not technology on the farm isn’t a match made in heaven... The dream of seamless, high-speed wifi and reliable connectivity seems to be just that - a dream! The reality is almost the opposite, patchy coverage which tests farmers' patience every single day! It seems as though every month there is a new app or gadget that aims to make farming more simple and efficient, however their ability to perform reliably is so often limited by a farm’s cellular coverage and connection.
Here at Halter we intend on having our collars on every farm across New Zealand no matter the state of their coverage. Now that’s a big call, and one that we certainly don’t take lightly so we’ve brought in our Head of Software Engineering Jordan to give you the rundown on how we’ll make this happen. With over 10 years experience in product development working at the likes of EROAD and Amazon to develop innovative and reliable products we know we have the right man answering your questions!
Halter enables Farmers to manage and monitor their cows from their phone... how does their phone talk to our collars?
You’ve probably heard of cloud computing but essentially it allows us to store and access information remotely via the internet instead of using a computer’s hard drive. Halter is a cloud based system allowing farmers to access information whenever they like, from wherever they are!
Just like when you use your phone to access Facebook or your emails, farmer’s will communicate to Halter’s system via the internet, or more specifically mobile data or wifi. In turn, Halter will send information to a gateway or receiver on your farm that will then process the information and send it to all of the collars using a different protocol called LoRa. LoRa is designed specifically for environments like the farm - it uses minimal power to broadcast messages and can transmit up to 8 km which means we don’t need to install satellites to transmit the signal.
As part of the installation process Halter will evaluate the connectivity options of the farm and install the optimal internet connection (if required), typically either cellular, rural broadband or satellite broadband, which will ensure everything runs reliably!
Cellular coverage on the farm is often really patchy and occasionally the connectivity or power goes out, how does Halter get around that?
As I mentioned earlier, the first thing we will do is ensure each Halter farm has the best connectivity it can. Next we support farmers to create a weekly schedule for the movements and operations of their farm, in advance. This schedule is stored securely within our cloud system and constantly synchronised with all collars on the farm. Because the schedule is created in advance, if for some reason, the connectivity went down, the schedule for the next 24 hours is stored on the collar, allowing the schedule to still be executed, even if the collar doesn’t have connectivity.
We also have a failsafe mechanism that allows a farmer to temporarily disable collars and take manual control of the herd until connectivity comes back online. This would only be necessary if a farmer needed to move the herd or update their plan while connectivity is down.
Halter collars will continuously be updated without a farmer ever having to remove the collar… how?
We use a technology called Over The Air Programming (OTAP) to send updates to the software running on the collar. This allows Halter to roll out upgrades to collars without a farmer ever having to take them off their cows! We simply push a button and all the collars are updated to have the latest, greatest version of software. The capabilities of Halter will continuously be advancing and in turn so will the capabilities of the farmer!
We hope we haven’t lost you in the nitty gritty that is internet and connection, it certainly is the less glamorous side of technology but one that we treat with extreme importance as we look to develop a product that farmers can rely on day in and day out! If you’re less concerned with the details of ‘how’ Halter tackles connectivity on the farm then perhaps all you need to take from this is simply that we’ve got your coverage sorted!