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High speed ISOBUS technology demonstrated at Plugfest 2022

The future of precision farming is here (or coming soon at least) with the High Speed ISOBUS (HSI) publicly demonstrated for the first time at Commodity Classic in New Orleans.

ISOBUS of the future, just not yet

The Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation (AEF) revealed the HSI at its Spring Plugfest 2022 where the team demonstrated the new HSI working with digital cameras and monitors, as well as with an implement and an existing tractor display.

The HSI is capable of moving 1 gigabit of data per second. Compared with current ISOBUS technology which only moves .25 megabits of data per second, that’s about 4,000 times the increase in bandwidth. 

For the average operator, HSI technology is still a while away from even entering the conversation. Current CANBUS and ISOBUS technology will continue to work with many pieces of equipment for many years to come — most implements won’t quite need the HSI just yet.

“For high-end implements, with the need for much higher precision command and control, it [still] does not need 4,000 times the speed,” says David Smart, project team 10 lead at AEF and former senior staff engineer with John Deere. “But we also want to design a system that’s good for the next couple of decades, not run for the next five years.”

HSI is not here to turn your fleet totally obsolete, says Smart. It may be five to 10 years before this technology becomes the new standard on implements from equipment manufacturers.

“[HSI] compatibility with the existing ISOBUS is an incredibly essential piece, and it’s one of our first major steps when we open up the door to this new highway,” he says. 

Typically AEF releases guideline documents when developing new technologies, and it expects to see the guidelines for the HSI released in the next two years. From there, it’s up to equipment manufacturers to start working on the implementation of HSI into their equipment.

A diagram showing the increased bandwidth the high speed ISOBUS technology is capable of.
HSI is not necessary yet to run implements, but this diagram shows the increased capability the technology would have someday.
AEF

AEF shared some examples of how HSI may be used in the future. One of the potential benefits is more direct updates on an operator’s user interface to see the exact state of every row in real time, where today there might be a few seconds of lag between field and results on the screen. The HSI could assist with higher performance and command at the row level for larger planters or for individual nozzles on sprayers. It would also enable faster software updates and improved diagnostics, meaning operators would spend less time waiting for loading bars, and more time in the field.

Wait … What’s Plugfest?

Engineers at work during AEF's Plugfest 2022 at Commodity Classic in New Orleans
AEF

If you think back, maybe 20 years ago or so, connecting implements to your tractor was a bit of a hassle. Every implement had its own display, so when you’re working in the tractor, your right side might have gotten a little cluttered. This is where ISOBUS technology — and AEF’s Plugfest — come in. 

ISOBUS was developed in the early 2000s as a common language among most manufacturers to ensure equipment compatibility between different companies. 

“They quickly discovered that there was a lot of incompatibility,” says Andrew Olliver, vice chairman for AEF. “I was developing my tractor software. You were developing your implement software. We were both following the standard, but for some reason, when we plugged the systems together, they didn’t work.”

The first Plugfest took place in 2001, where engineers from different manufacturers met up to work together to fulfill the promise of ISOBUS compatibility. Representatives showed up with tractors, planters and sprayers, plugged them together in a field, and drove around to see how they worked together.

“Thankfully, things have moved on since then,” says Olliver. 

In 2008, the AEF was formed by seven OEMs and two associations from across the world that were interested in ISOBUS technology, and all agreed there was a need to collaborate on development and improvement. Today, the AEF’s core members consist of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, AGCO, CLAAS, CNH Industrial, SDF Farming Technology, FederUnacoma, John Deere, Kuhn, Kubota, Pottinger, and VDMA. Beyond the core members, there are over 200 companies and institutions in AEF’s member list.

ECU speed dating

Engineers at work during AEF's Plugfest 2022 at Commodity Classic in New Orleans
AEF

Now Plugfests are a biannual event held in the United States and Europe, and the experience has been a bit more refined. As Olliver calls it, "Plugfest is a bit like ECU speed dating." 

At this year’s Plugfest that took place alongside Commodity Classic in New Orleans, AEF had 16 tables available, each with a different ECU. Engineers are given 50 minutes at each table to connect their implements and see how well they work. Instead of pulling up tillage tools or planters like at the first Plugfest, engineers bring a box full of cables and software representing the implement and hook them up to the different tractor displays available. 

“[Plugfest] is a chance to try things out, see if it works,” says Olliver. “If something doesn’t work, is there a simple change you could make straight away to make it compatible? If you can’t make the change straight away, then everybody swaps CAN logs and business cards. They go back to the office next week, and see ‘Ah, I was looking at the can log. I can see this is what’s wrong.’” 

Olliver says the Plugfests have a spirit of collaboration among manufacturers that in the end helps farmers when purchasing and using equipment so they aren’t limited by the first brand they choose. AEF has a certification test for each piece of equipment to ensure that manufacturers are conforming to guidelines and working to the ISOBUS standard. 

Certified equipment is available to view in the AEF ISOBUS database so farmers are able to make sure all of their equipment is compatible when making a new purchase. For more information, visit aef-online.org

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