5G Use Cases: Sensor networks for farming and agriculture
The huge leap forward in connectivity that 5G will bring is set to increase profitability, efficiency and safety across a number of markets globally and many would argue, none more-so than in agriculture and farming.
5G will provide real-time data in amazing ways and when used alongside agricultural practices, these new abilities to monitor, track and automate systems in lightning fast speed with will give rise to smart-farming.
Agricultural IoT (internet of things) devices will allow farmers to better measure things on a day-to-day basis. Things like crop communication; Allowing sensors to communicate moisture, fertilization and nutrition levels as well as report on current and predicted weather patterns to allow for improved crop management and livestock analysis; Monitoring of livestock maturity and nutrition, again using sensors to connect and transmit data to a central hub and allow farmers to know exactly when livestock is ready for processing.
With 5G, these measurements can be extremely precise and allow the farmer to track a vast number of environmental factors down to inches.
Because agriculture and farming carry a high-risk and low-reward factor, these increases in precision and productivity are vital.
What is required and why can’t we use existing technology?
A lack of comprehensive rural broadband poses a big problem for ‘smart-farming’.
In order to function, IoT platforms require a wireless internet connection that is both fast and reliable. Systems that are currently in place are failing because even in the areas that do have high speed connectivity they are failing due to high demand.
Current technologies aren’t advanced enough to cope with the data quantities and speeds required for smart-farming. In order to provide a stable connection, carriers need to utilise developing technologies such as massive MIMO and network slicing as well as using small-cells or similar to provide stable connectivity over large distances.
Smart farming isn’t just a technical innovation, it is absolutely necessary to help to feed an ever-increasing population struggling with the stresses of climate change but with existing infrastructure it won’t be possible.
A recent report found that almost 80% of rural areas in the United Kingdom are outside of 4G ‘range’. This current level of network availability simply isn’t good enough.
5G networks will need to increase quality of service, and utilise developing technologies such as network slicing at the core network. Not only that but at radio/access level carriers must work to reduce device cost, energy consumption and increase reliability, coverage and spectrum efficiency.
Serious development and deployment of network infrastructure need to reach these areas before smart-farming can truly become a reality, but if it can be achieved it would change the industry on an unprecedented level.