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Wearables and your time, efficiency on the farm

Jeff Caldwell 12/02/2013 @ 4:12pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Google Glass isn't even available to U.S. consumers, and farmers are already developing ways they'll be able to use the device and other wearable computers like it.

The initial reaction from farmers to the new device – the most prominent and visible early entry into the market for wearable computers – focused on it freeing up the user's hands, making it possible to document and utilize visual data while doing things like working on a piece of machinery or driving a tractor or combine in the field. In other words, a hands-free smartphone.

Now, a few months later, farmers' plans for the device are evolving into a lot more than that. Now, farmers are already making plans to put them to use in ways that are exclusive to the new classification of digital technology.

"Wow. The possibilities are endless. We do a lot with data, and a part of the importance of being able to utilize data is finding a way to make it a matter of record. This is unbelievable that it can be this easy," says Bode, Iowa's Chris Weydert immediately after trying on a Google Glass for the first time. "We do yield maps and all those things, and that's all become pretty easy. This is seamless. The speed of implementing a decision, making a deal or getting a purchase done . . . my mind's just going nuts with the possibilities of what you can do with this."

Handling ag data

A lot of that lies with the work Weydert does with Ben Rahe. He's Weydert's agronomic information adviser (his data guy) with Premier Crop Systems, a regional agronomy firm based in West Des Moines, Iowa. The seamless, virtually friction-free transfer – and more importantly, utilization – of information opens up the door to new efficiencies that will likely change Rahe's work altogether, he says.

"When it comes to data and information, growers and myself working together, we can bury ourselves right now with just the data coming from the monitors. I don't know if this will be data in all cases. In some cases it will be, but when you're taking pictures or documenting conditions from Google Glass as you're harvesting, is it data or observations? We're going to have to sort that all out," Rahe says. "It'll take a whole other set of intellectual time and R&D from the grower's standpoint and from other service providers to figure out what's important and what's not.

"The ability to record is step one. Step two is if you have the data source and you're unlocking potential you didn't have before, that's value there. Then, capitalizing on that value is what the rest of the industry is going to have to do," he adds.

The simple act of documenting something in the field is one thing, too. What that instant documentation – regardless of its use later on - allows the farmer to do it entirely different, especially at critical times of year like corn harvest. Documenting something in a way that allows the farmer to keep the wheels turning, avoiding downtime and its many costs, can create new efficiencies that haven't existed up until now.

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