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Australian state-wide network will help farmers to live off the LAN
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Australian state-wide network will help farmers to live off the LAN

Posted by Zenobia HegdeNovember 22, 2016

The Internet of Things will soon be rolled out across farmers’ fields in an Australian state, according to the Australian website, The Lead. South Australia is set to become the first fully interconnected state in the Southern Hemisphere through a regional Internet of Things (IoT) network.

What began as an initiative to connect each of Australia’s big cities to an IoT network has expanded into a state-wide project in South Australia which will enable primary industry stakeholders to take advantage of the new technology.

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.

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

The programme 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,” Gallis added.

Renald Gallis, the vice president for Ecosystem and Marketing at Thinxtra

Renald Gallis, vice president for Ecosystem and Marketing at Thinxtra

The regional network will be particularly useful to the state’s AU$21 billion (approximately US$16 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 (US$22).

The IoT network will also be more energy efficient, allowing devices to last longer, because it is purpose-built for low data transfer,

“It has 300 times less power consumption than 3G or WiFi, 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.

The regional programme will not only benefit regions in the state known for its premium food and wine but will also help its capital, Adelaide, achieve its development objectives.

Adelaide is the first Cisco smart and connected ‘Lighthouse City’ in Australia, is the first city outside United States to join Smart Gigabit Communities Program and has pledged to use technology to help it achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.

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