Roaming the sultry grounds of the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill., last week, the mood among attendees and vendors appeared to be largely optimistic, despite most precision companies acknowledging that sales have slumped since last year’s event.

A few manufacturers unveiled new hardware, or next generation technology to replace outdated systems. But the focus for many companies was squarely on increasing functionality and access of existing platforms.

For a number of precision companies, this came by way of their newly formed application programming interfaces (APIs) and capitalizing on a seemingly insatiable consumer appetite for mobile apps. Companies including Trimble, AGCO and DigiFarm each launched cloud-based interfaces designed to improve connectivity across several data management platforms.

To this end, companies are also moving toward the mobile app model pioneered by Apple and other consumer technology developers to offer a clearinghouse of useful ag apps developed by third parties.     

As explained by one company representative, “Customers expect a display today that acts like a tablet, they expect the touchscreen, expect to have a Web browser or maybe even a Netflix app, so it becomes sticky when there is a piece of hardware that doesn’t keep up with the trends.”

This thought was reinforced by questions that visitors posed to company representatives responsible for explaining the value of the new product launches. One farmer talked through the limitations of his current cellular data plan and if he needed to enroll in a separate plan (the answer was no). Another visitor wanted to know if he could access the newly introduced apps through his Android phone (the answer was yes.)

Spending some time observing the interaction between booth visitors and precision company product specialists, it was interesting to see how the conversations have changed compared to even 2 years ago, when many discussions seemed to center on hardware capabilities, rather than connectivity.

As one precision dealer exhibiting at the show noted, “Things have changed a lot in a short time. We are getting questions that we probably wouldn’t have even been able to answer last year about data collection and transfer.”

Who knows what questions visitors will pose at next year’s show, but it will be interesting to see how well manufacturers listen.