A True North Star for IoT in Remote Agricultural Operations

Tuesday 1/25/22 07:05am
Posted By Winnie Ma
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Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Imagine yourself as a manager of an agricultural operation located where many would classify as – the middle of nowhere. Energy for some of your onsite services comes from large propane tanks, while fuel for your tractors is provided by tanker trucks that traverse the area. Your harvested resources are stored in large hulls, some to be shipped out when full and replaced by empty hulls, while others are stationary and require frequent emptying. Now picture yourself visiting each of these assets in extreme temperatures to manually measure their product levels. This is followed by more work to schedule refills, pickups, and drop-offs – a time consuming and potentially error-prone task.

Scenarios like these led to the formation of Saskatoon-based North Star Systems (North Star), an agricultural technology solutions provider and developer of the Tattle Systems solution.

North Star’s founders knew that agricultural suppliers face constant inefficiencies in delivering their products to farmers. Key challenges include a lack of knowledge about asset locations, the amount of product needed and when, and external variables like the impact of weather on progress and schedules. North Star believed there was a better way to get products to farmers in less time while reducing costs, reducing the environmental impact, and improving overall customer service. Their solution was to adopt IoT devices, sensors, and cloud technology, to monitor assets in remote locations at any time from anywhere.

We recently caught up with Jane Tu, Technology and Development director at North Star Systems, to learn more about their Tattle Systems solution.

Overview of the Tattle Systems Solution
Tattle Systems comprises the North Star’s Tattle Device, along with their cloud-based management software and Tattle Systems GO mobile app. Together this solution connects sensors to devices, and devices to the user, through any smartphone, desktop, or tablet from any location. This combination creates an innovative data solution with real-time control and remote monitoring capabilities.

The Tattle Device is a solar-powered IoT module installed in a rugged case and features the IP54 standard, an operating range of -40 to +60 °C, and certifications for use in hazardous environments. Its mounting options include brackets to fasten it onto assets or onto North Star’s proprietary mounting stands. The device is also available with high-strength articulating magnets for quick mounting on both flat and rounded surfaces like fuel tanks.

The Tattle Device can connect to a variety of sensors to measure fuel, pressure, etc., though Jane says the most common ones are pressure transducers and dials/floats.

The device also has built-in GPS and supports multiple connectivity options including cellular, Bluetooth, LoRA, and Wi-Fi. Much of this functionality is provided by the Quectel BG95 series of multi-mode LPWA modules and the Quectel EG91-NA LTE Category 1 module , which is powered by our Qualcomm 9205 LTE Modem and Qualcomm 9207 LTE Modem, respectively.

Intelligence at the Very Remote Edge
A key benefit of the Tattle Device is that it brings intelligence to storage assets (e.g., pressure vessels) at the edge and cellular-based cloud connectivity to remote areas. In conjunction with the portal and app, the system can remotely monitor and send/receive alerts on product levels from virtually anywhere. This allows operators or product suppliers to better plan refueling and resupply, especially when assets are on the move (e.g., tanks of fertilizer pulled by tractors). This, in turn, helps them optimize operations, increase efficiencies, and reduce costs.

North Star appreciates the balance of quality and cost that our products provide. And according to Jane, “one can never have too many tests, given the number of operating variables which North Star’s solutions have to contend with.” This has made for a cost-efficient and cost-effective product that is reliable and dependable, and provides the necessary connectivity wherever business takes them.

Going forward, North Star expects their solutions will be used increasingly outside of agriculture and that AI and ML will become more integral to these types of products.

Qualcomm 9205 LTE Modem and Qualcomm 9207 LTE Modem are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.