In search of a simple, yet satisfying explanation of the Internet of Things (IoT) it seemed logical to scour the one place I was sure to find an answer; the Internet.

But after only a few mouse clicks, I found myself down a virtual rabbit hole, bombarded by forecasts and predictions for how the IoT revolution will change the world. The projections are compelling and some, even convincing.

Still, I was more interested in finding out what qualifies as a “thing” in IoT. Turns out, almost anything. The concept is wrapped around the connectivity of physical devices to the internet, transferring information, and there seems to be very little that isn’t under the IoT umbrella.

As one website noted, “almost anything with an on/off switch” can be part of the IoT. Smartphones and tablets easily come to mind as essential IoT vessels, but so  are coffee makers, lamps and refrigerators.

That’s seemingly good news for the ag industry and companies looking to capitalize on the migration of consumer technologies into tractor cabs and other farm implements. Manufacturing “smarter” equipment is part of the process, along with integrating technological conveniences designed to simplify and standardize how farmers, dealers and companies exchange data.

But as optimistic as companies are about adapting current and future commercial tools like Echo and Alexa into ag, they also acknowledge the challenges associated with the transition. Security is one area, which presents some concern.

With farm data already being commoditized,  protecting the value of farm information will be increasingly important. As Cody Light, senior marketing specialist with AGCO notes, “People want to know that their data is safe no matter what they're doing. And when you start broadcasting things over the internet there's a lot of smart people out there who can tie into the data.”

Security and privacy problems likely won’t slow the advancement of IoT in ag, although they will certainly need to be solved to ensure the industry can fully utilize its potential. Some of that potential is highlighted within the pages of our upcoming 3rd Annual Essential Guide to Precision Farming Tools.

As more conceptual designs develop into commercial products, connectivity and automation are shared functions among new innovations. APIs (application programming interfaces) are the standard, rather than the exception, as products are designed to communicate with competing platforms and enhance, not hinder, the user experience.

After all, we’ve become much more of a “push-button” culture, either consciously or indirectly relying on remote services and support. Adjusting our home thermostat with a mobile app or utilizing voice command to turn on our television may still be futuristic concepts to many, but consider the ability to chronicle tractor uptime down to the minute remotely in real-time or visually troubleshoot the most complex precision problems from the cab of your service truck. 

More and more “things” will be designed and manufactured in ag with IoT integration, and according to research by analyst firm Gartner, there will be more than 26 billion connected devices by 2020. Agriculture will certainly have its share — the head of John Deere Labs noted the company already has 75 connected software tools companies are using through cloud-based API connections.

It will be worth watching how adoptive and adaptive dealers and farm customers are to this evolution.