National Narrowband Network Company (NNN Co) — which is rolling out is own low power wide area network for IoT based on the LoRaWAN technology — is calling on the Government to spend $800m to build a LoRaWAN network covering 2.5m square kilometres to support IoT applications for Australian agriculture.
It argues that If the $800 million investment leads to a five percent increase in agricultural productivity then the annual benefit to Australia would be $2billion of additional revenues per annum.
The call was made in NNN Co’s submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry’s enquiry into agricultural innovation. It was one of 83 submissions received by the enquiry as at 18 October.
NNN Co says Australia has a number of initiatives underway in agricultural technology, including a group focussed IoT in agriculture, but says the direction and focus of these multiple initiatives is unclear and the result is that “Australia has a number of exciting innovations, but without the momentum to scale and deploy these rapidly across the country in a cohesive manner.”
The submission argues that without the early introduction of a suitable network, the acquisition and consolidation of critical data will take longer than ideal. “The building out of a suitable network is the critical first step. Any connectivity solution needs to be both a commonly accepted standard and suitable for Australian conditions,” it says.
It says its research “confirms that LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network specification) is the best solution for Australia, given our unique conditions,” because “The LoRa specification provides the closest fit to Australian needs. Our close engagement with the LoRa Alliance has enabled us to test this in the field, confirming our confidence in this increasingly widely adopted global standard.”
NNN Co is calling on the Government to undertake a proof of concept trial of its proposed technology to determine its capabilities, confirm costs, maintenance requirements, and the best approach to installation and set up.
National agricultural IoT body needed
It is also calling for the establishment of a national body comprising the Department of Agriculture, State Agriculture agencies, CSIRO, Farm Lobbies, major agricultural suppliers, representatives of the farming communities, universities and research groups, and major innovators in this space.
This body will have “the mission to provide focus and communication of needs, initiatives and outcomes for the provision of a coordinated approach to the innovation in agriculture including data collection and analysis and the use of IoT in agricultural innovation.”
The submission has also called for spectrum in the 928MHz to 935MHz band to be set aside for the sole purpose of IoT related activities.
Telstra low key on agri IoT
Telstra — which was talking up IoT considerably at its AGM this week als0 made mention to IoT in its submission, but not to any great extent. It said: “One of the most significant new trends we are seeing is the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). Billions of connected devices are starting to be connected across all sorts of industries. In agriculture the possibilities of the IoT is endless and is already taking place. The use of sensors allows farmers to be more productive by reducing the time they need to spend on low value activities.”
The submission then gave a number of examples of agricultural IoT applications, but made no specific IoT-related recommendations.
The terms of reference of the enquiry were that the committee “inquire into and report on the role of technology in increasing agricultural productivity in Australia” with particular regard to
- improvements in the efficiency of agricultural practices due to new technology, and the scope for further improvements;
- -emerging technology relevant to the agricultural sector, in areas including but not limited to telecommunications, remote monitoring and drones, plant genomics, and agricultural chemicals; and barriers to the adoption of emerging technology.