Manufacturers are addressing the need to integrate apps into precision products to provide flexibility and efficiency.

Jack Zemlicka, Technology Editor

There is increasing crossover in the technology farm customers utilize in the cab of their farm equipment with what they keep in their pockets or carry in their hands.

Precision equipment manufacturers are recognizing the need to integrate iPad, iPhone or Android applications into their products to offer farmers flexibility, but also to provide dealers with mobile platforms to answer customer questions on the spot.

“There is opportunity for dealers as we grow into this technology,” notes Trevor Mecham, Advanced Farming Systems (AFS) marketing manager for Case IH. “The big thing we’re looking at as a part of this integration to wireless technologies is to create an easier learning environment for customers when they go to their dealership.”

At the 2013 National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Case IH unveiled its new “Red Center” — an interactive precision farming display where customers can work with dealers in-house, to navigate AFS features through a mobile app set up on an iPad.

Mecham and others acknowledge that moving forward, customers will demand more mobility with their precision farming technology.

But will there be a point when transportable devices like iPads and laptops replace yield monitors or displays in the cab?

It’s a possibility, say some manufacturers.

“There is certainly some redundancy with what those different pieces of technology provide,” one farm equipment manufacturer told Precision Farming Dealer at the NFMS. “If I’m a manufacturer only making monitors, I may question my business model going forward.”

One precision technology manufacturer suggests that in the future, tablets may be a useful alternative to monitors on smaller farm operations, where there are only 1-2 operators in the field.

However, on a larger farm, he sees the potential for disaster if a farm owner’s data is all kept on computers moving in and out of different farm equipment.

“You don’t want tablets walking off the farm because that’s basically your whole farm,” the precision manufacturer says. “You really need to trust your employees.”

The potential that tablets will someday replace monitors is “in its infancy state, at best,” notes Russ Morman, inside sales representative for Ag Leader Technology.

Morman says there are unanswered questions about liability, reliability and data protection that need to be answered before mobile devices will be relied upon the same way yield monitors are today.

Still, Mecham says there is momentum and consumer appetite to, at some point, consolidate precision technology into the most convenient and efficient package for customers.

“I think we’ve only scratched the surface. Already we’re seeing a lot of those available apps with yield information viewable to the customer and in a practical sense beyond just a wow or cool feature,” he says. “I think we’ll see those tablets or displays as having the capability to take it with you and snap it back into the tractor cab to manage data, agronomic information or engine efficiency.”

“All of those things are encompassed in the main artery of that machine and technology is now driving that iron. I see that continually evolving in the future.”