One of the key aspects to advancing wireless machine-to-machine communication is the capability to have reliable cellular coverage, especially in rural areas.

As manufacturers, developers and engineers refine the performance of next-generation tools to be field-ready, steps need to be taken to ensure new automated or sensing technologies are well connected.

Dr. J. Alex Thomasson, professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at Texas A&M University, notes that the real difficulty is in the lack of infrastructure to support real-time and rapid communication of large data sets in rural communities.

We caught up with Dr. Thomasson at the recent Agricultural Engineering Technology Conference in Louisville to get his outlook for improving rural broadband capabilities as a pathway to telematic adoption.

“Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been interested, and is beginning to support the growth of broadband into rural areas in the U.S., which I think is a great thing. My sense though, is that they're predominantly thinking about rural businesses and residences and they're not considering the field level, broad scale availability of broadband wireless. So I think we've got to ultimately come up with different infrastructure solutions. To be honest with you, it's probably too expensive to ever have 5G coverage everywhere in the country, but there are ways we can develop systems that are point-to-point, that are roving systems, on some of these machines and that's some of the technology that we're going to see develop over the next 5 to 10 years.”

Dr. Thomasson adds that while the digital groundwork is already in place in many respects, it’s going to be a matter of deciding the most affordable approach to implementation.