2012
09.05

Lowering the Cost of Gas and Almonds

Connected cars are sexy; connected cattle, not so much. As we all remain thoroughly enthralled by what the likes of Audi and Chrysler are doing with machine-to-machine, we barely even notice the role the technology is playing with farmers or oil and gas companies, for example. But what these companies are doing with M2M could change our lives—literally—and that to me seems pretty cool.

Take the oil and gas market, for starters. Typically companies in this space don’t reveal too much as it relates to their identity. So the news this week of a “leading American oil and gas company” that is adopting a wireless network to facilitate communications between its wells, drilling rigs, and other assets to its centralized offices remains pretty generic at the surface.

But the news, from Redline Communications Group Inc., by the way, represents a growing trend where oil and gas producers are uncovering value in being able monitor and control operations at oilfields. The value here lies with the ability to monitor drilling activity for the purposes of optimizing production. By pulling together a range of sensor data, such as pressure, temperature, and flow, problems can be quickly identified and rectified before they halt production. Could it ultimately lead to reduced downtime and eliminate those frustrating “production problems” that lead to higher prices at the pump? In all likelihood it should.

In a way, such a use case for M2M harkens back to the roots of machine-to-machine, which is on the plant floor, where manufacturers would remotely monitor production lines and equipment to protect against that dreaded “downtime” that seems to drive up costs across the board. With this oil and gas example I see a trickle down to my local gas station (eventually … ideally) and that seems exciting.

But let’s look at another place where M2M can ultimately provide payback; my local grocery store. I hear a story like Rogers Almond Corp., using remote monitoring and control technology to watch its crop levels and its gets me thinking how great this can be for the food supply.

While the immediate need for the technology involved monitoring its irrigation system in order to protect against over-spilling of the system, the next phase involves monitoring ground temperature and moisture, salinity, above canopy temperature, wind velocity, and pressure levels of filter pumps. It all might seem irrelevant to delivering that can of almonds to the grocery store, but it’s not. Just like with the oil and gas field, the lower chance of any hiccup occurring during farming processes involved with the almonds means the lower the prices for that product will be once they hit the market.

The technology comes from a company named Cermetek, and is just the latest example I have seen in smart farming, if you will. Everything from almonds to poultry farming seems to be using some type of remote-monitoring technology to ensure nothing goes wrong. On the surface, it’s all about improved production, but I have to think that the technology can go a long way to ensuring the food supply remains safe and free from bacteria that can ultimately wind up on my plate too.

So while the connected cars, homes, and devices are cool, it’s the stories like these two that make me believe this is truly making a difference in life. Such uses don’t seem to grab a great deal of headlines, but perhaps they should.

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