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Plastic bean-shaped sensors monitor crops for precision agriculture 

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The internet of beans

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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 the grain storage. They are charged wirelessly and report data throughout the day to a smartphone or remote hub.

Bean-shaped sensor

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 producer of BeanIoT, is developing a multiplatform 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 are not only a fit for grain bins. Holland said a producer can reassign the sensors for use in a livestock barn, chemical shed, honeybee hive or agricultural 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.

Bean-shaped sensor with description

Source: BeanIoT

BeanIoT testing is already attracting attention. Fengrain, a farmer-owned, U.K. 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 multisensor 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 of 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 said. “[The “internet of things”] is ready for farming, and the world of possibility for agriculture is endless.”

BeanIoT functionality is not 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 and seek
    • Locate keys/ glasses/ purse/ phone/smart watch
    • Parcel transit data-logger
  • Sports and wellbeing
    • Gauge performance and team interplay
    • Assisted living including fall detection and proximity
  • Agri-Tech
    • Bulk storage and 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

This article originally appeared on RCRWireless.

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