Can you use Wi-Fi to water your crops?

The benefits of choosing a private Wi-Fi network over more traditional communications

I bet most of us don’t remember the time we had to use a cable to connect to the internet. Wi-Fi service has become such an integrated part of our lives. In this scenario, it’s quite easy to forget that in many applications, wireless communication has not been introduced widely – yet.

I came across this fact when my team of automation engineers were extremely excited about a wireless communication product, which they had promised to a customer in Abu Dhabi. I wasn’t that enthusiastic initially, as the use of Wi-Fi is not really news in the modern world.

However, once I got a deeper insight into the project, I was as excited! The innovation here was really about combining existing technologies and applying them into a new field, so that the customer can experience improved value for the money spent.

The application I am talking about is irrigation, which is so important to keep greenery alive in the Middle Eastern desert climate. Large irrigation systems distribute water over a wide area in a controlled manner. This requires communication between the control system and valves distributed in the field. Traditionally, the communication has been implemented by installing fiber optic cables. Wireless communication had also been implemented by GSM… so what’s news now?

The real benefits of implementing Wi-Fi technology into this application become apparent when you look at the traditional methods more closely. Optic fiber requires a more costly hardware installation. GSM require SIM cards and communication may face disruption because voice always has priority over data communication. Also the GSM solution will cost you every time the device sends a message. These issues can be avoided by installing a private Wi-Fi network and using that as communication platform for irrigation controllers.

This is the innovation my engineers tried to explain me and I must say that I also feel there is something here that could potentially change and improve the way large irrigation systems are configured. Long range Wi-Fi technology is available and can be connected to PLC controllers to enable a real solution offering.

Wi-Fi really has the potential to become a buzzword in the irrigation automation field.

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About the author

Aki Maenpaa

I've been with ABB since 1993 and held a number of roles in motors, drives and power electronics marketing and sales. Currently I am a local division manager based in the Southern Gulf and I'm responsible for ABB's Discrete Motion products and services offering in the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait.
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