Understanding how connected silos work: the technologies used
Thanks to connected agriculture, professionals in the sector now have the opportunity to improve their working conditions. Farmers, agricultural cooperatives, breeders and food suppliers now have the opportunity to use new technologies to help them with certain tasks.
Among these different solutions, the connected silo is becoming more and more democratic and offers many advantages, especially for stock management. Indeed, the connected silo makes it possible to know at any time the filling rate of the latter and thus makes it possible to better plan the replenishments.
Contrary to what one might think, the functioning of a connected silo is quite simple. We propose you to discover the different technologies used to make it work.
The connected silo: an application of the Internet of Things (IoT)
The connected silo is part of what is called the Internet of Things or also written IoT. But then what is the IoT?
If you are not necessarily familiar with the term, you have probably already used an object that works thanks to the IoT. More and more objects are nowadays connected to the internet to offer more and more functionalities.
The IoT has three key features:
- Tracking an object;
- Controlling an object;
- Optimizing an object.
Once connected to the internet, the object becomes intelligent. It is then able to capture information, process it and retransmit it via a communication network or to other connected objects. Once the information is captured, it is communicated and stored on a private server or in the cloud.
An IoT system is composed of:
- a connected object;
- a wireless communication network;
- a data collection, hosting and processing platform;
- an application or service for users;
- supervision or a data security.
A connected object can be designed solely for its primary function and become connected later or be directly designed as a connected object.
In addition to the power source to operate the object and the connectivity to communicate information, the first element to operate a connected object is the sensor. It is thanks to the sensor that the connected object will be able to collect data or information and this is precisely what will be installed on the silo to become a connected silo.
The sensor of a connected silo
The connected silo is thus part of the long list of IoTs or simply connected objects. To connect a silo, it is necessary to install a sensor that allows to collect data related to the filling rate, to transmit them, but also to receive orders from the user.
Composition and installation of the sensor
The sensor of a connected silo is actually composed of two parts:
- the sensor itself;
- the electronic unit.
The sensor contains a strain gauge as well as analog-digital conversation electronics. The sensor is screwed to the bottom of the silo. The housing containing the power supply and communication electronics is connected to the test body. The sensor assembly is then protected by an insulating foam to provide thermal protection.
The sensor is thus installed quickly (about 15 minutes) on the foot of the silo, at human height and has a reliability of about 10%. Other technologies such as probes, radars or scales that also allow knowing the filling level of the silos can be more accurate, but their installation is more expensive and complicated to set up. These different technologies must be fixed inside the silo or under the silo base, which is much more time-consuming.
The function of the sensor: collecting, processing and communicating data
The sensor allows to transform physical data (here, the filling rate of the silo) into digital data. The latter is then communicated through internet connectivity. Finally, communication can be established in the other direction so that the sensor receives instructions to perform certain actions.
The sensor operates independently. It does not need to be plugged in to operate since it has a battery designed to last between 5 and 10 years.
The networks used by the sensor
The connectivity of the sensor of a connected silo is ensured by a radio antenna that establishes communication between the object and the various networks.
The networks used are not the same as those used for telephony. They are wireless networks such as ZigBee (mini private networks), LoRa (long-range radio waves) or Sigfox (high coverage at low speed). All these networks are secure networks to ensure the confidentiality of the data collected and hosted.
The functionalities proposed thanks to the sensor
The services and tools provided by the sensor to the connected silo include:
- the possibility to consult the filling level;
- an e-mail alert system;
- an indicator (KPI) for monitoring cycles or order frequencies;
- the ability to automate deliveries.
Thus, thanks to a mobile application to be installed on an iOS or Android compatible smartphone, the silo owner can facilitate his inventory management in a simple and secure way.