A database of compatible technology is designed to be a handy problem solving tool for dealers.

Ray Frantz, precision agriculture systems evaluation engineer with CNH, talks about the value of developing compatibility standards with precision equipment and formulating a comprehensive list for dealers to reference. A standardized list will save dealers time in the field and offer a handy tool to solve compatibility questions.

But the Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation (AEF), along with more than 140 members — including equipment and technology manufacturers — is working to diminish the frustration of trying to get different components to work together.

“Right now, every company has their own protocol, so it’s a lot of work to try and integrate the different components,” says Michael Downing, firmware manager for Trimble Agriculture. “Having a standard gives us a common understanding of what that interface needs to be and hopefully we’ll get to the point of plug-and-play. I don’t think it’s quite there yet, but soon, it will make everything easier.”

More than 50 companies gathered at the AEF Plugfest on April 23-26 at the Univ. of Nebraska campus in Lincoln, to conduct compatibility tests of precision task controllers, virtual terminals and software programs. The event is a stepping stone for companies to achieve certification that their product conforms to the universal ISOBUS 11783 standard and AEF guidelines.

Hundreds of products have passed conformance testing and populate a database maintained by AEF. At this point, only manufacturers have had access to the database, but that is expected to change by the end of the year.

“We want to integrate dealers this year and give them access to the database so they can easily check the compatibility of equipment,” says Jan-Hendrik Woelker, database coordinator for AEF. “They will be able to see which products are involved and which manufacturers are involved.”

Woelker says the plan is to launch the dealer database at Agritechnica in Hanover, Germany, this November. Once the database becomes live dealers — and eventually farmers — can access a list of ISOBUS-compliant products through their manufacturers and automatically cross check compatibility with customers’ existing equipment.

If a compatibility problem pops up, dealers can download a diagnostic report through the database and pinpoint the problem. Dealers can either try and tackle the issue on their own or open a “compatibility ticket” with the manufacturer.

The long-term benefit for dealers, Woelker says, is that they will have a defined network of support to troubleshoot compatibility problems that pop up, rather than rely on trial and error.

“For example, if there is a problem with one software version, it’s something that might keep coming up with other farmers and for other dealers,” he says. “Once they solve the problem, they can share the answer in the database and help others avoid the same issue.”

Ideally, dealers will be able to solve compatibility problems before they even occur, but the database won’t eliminate every challenge, Woelker says. And there is still some question as to how much access dealers will have depending on the equipment brands they carry.

“Manufacturers are responsible for administration of the database to their own dealers,” Woelker says. “That’s not easy because most dealers are multi-branded. We have to create an interface for the dealer that provides them access to what they need to see.

“But we also have to permit access to a dealer who only carries one brand and they won’t be allowed to see other products.”

Despite the lingering issues, manufacturers say the AEF database will ultimately be a time-saving tool for dealers and breed confidence with customers that the products they purchase are certified ISOBUS-compliant.

“This is going to cut down on a lot of the work it takes to find a solution,” says Ray Frantz, systems evaluation engineer for Case IH. “The nice thing about the AEF database is that it will be cut and dry. Either you are in conformance or you’re not.”