Most farmers and graziers will know that a computer is an essential tool these days for running their business and managing their land. However, the computer revolution marches on and we now have new technology available to help in this task. Therefore, thought it might be timely to have a bit of a look at smartphones/tablets and how they can fit into your current technology mix.
The first decision you need to make is what operating system you want to use – ie. Android from Google or iOS from Apple. Detailed discussion of this is beyond the scope of this article – both have their pros and cons so take a little time to compare and price around. Essentially, the choice is between iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad or any of the Android devices from a range of manufacturers.
Smartphones – whether you choose an Android phone or iPhone, please check coverage in your area before committing to a plan. This is far more important to regional and rural users compared to those in major centres or cities so please check first. The smartest of smartphones is not much use if you cannot get a signal. Next most important is to select a suitable and affordable plan – remember that data is expensive so consider usage carefully.
Tablets – most people will immediately think iPad here – Apple defined the tablet with iPad and really created a device which changed the way we use computers. However, iPad is not the only choice and if you want to consider an alternative, there are quite a few to choose from now – generally smaller but can be quite a bit cheaper.
You can select from Wi-Fi only which means you will need to access a wireless network to connect to the internet or WiFi+3G which can access the internet via the mobile phone network. Decide whether you need constant access to the net (3G) or if your existing access to a wi-fi network is sufficient for your needs. Note that GPS applications generally require 3G access for full functionality.
When you get one of these devices, they may be very “cool” but they’re not going to be very much use until you load some useful software – and this is where it gets interesting. There are a whole bunch of “apps” which can help make life a lot easier and/or more fun so check out the variety on offer here: see the Android Market here or access the App Store via iTunes or online here. Here are just a few to get started:
- Agro / Agro Lite – paddock record system for farmers and agronomists. Full version quite expensive but you can try the Lite version for free. For iPhone or iPad
- Spray / Spray Lite – Spray log system for farmers. Full version a bit expensive but you can try the Lite version for free. For iPhone or iPad.
- DTN/The Progressive Farmer – agricultural news, markets and weather. Free but USA focused. For iPhone/iPad.
- IFarmer:Inventory – inventory or recording for livestock management. For iPhone/iPad.
- SDCES Grazing Records – records grazing use and pasture condition. Free. For iPhone/iPad.
- Cattle Breakeven Analysis – tool for quick breakeven calculations. For iPhone/iPad.
- Farmers Partner – Grain marketing/budgeting. Android.
- Google Maps – free and a “must-have”
- Land Area Calculator – calculate area of polygon on a map. iPad only.
- numerous GPS and GIS apps
- Unit Conversion – numerous apps to convert Metric and Imperial units.
- Calculators – numerous apps to choose from.
- Measuring – apps for measuring height/distance from photos, rulers, spirit levels, timers, protractors, compass, etc
- To-Do Lists, Task Managers and Sticky Note apps
- Weather apps – Weatherzone or BOM Water Storage.
- News – numerous apps to choose from.
- Field Guide to Victorian Fauna – a fantastic guide to wildlife (Victoria only but plenty of overlap for NSW readers). Free. For iPhone or iPad
- WA Snakes – describes the 54 venomous snakes of WA. For iPhone or iPad.
- BirdSight Australia – for birdwatchers to records observations. For iPhone or iPad.
- Plant Pathology – encyclopedia of plant diseases. For iPhone or iPad.
- iTunes University: free podcasts from Cornell University, Yale, UCTV, Texas A&M, CSIS, etc
- Climate Mobile – for long term, global climate information. Free. For iPhone or iPad.
Fun and Recreation:
- Games – too many to list. Whatever your taste in gaming, you’ll find something to suit.
- eBooks – all devices can function as an eBook reader and there are a multitude of free books available. Great to have some good reading on hand.
- Music – listen to your favourite music in the tractor, ute or wherever you are.
- Photos – Store your favourite photos or take new ones any time. Note that the first generation iPad does NOT have a camera.
- Podcasts – listen to news, lectures, interviews, etc by podcast when it suits you.
- Social Networking – easy access to Facebook, Twitter, etc from your mobile device.
The list above is just a starting point – everyone will have their favourite apps and we would love to hear about them. Please feel free to comment below and suggest apps which may be of interest to the farming community.
There will also be gaps – whatever type of device you use, if you see a need for an app, then let the developer community know so they can create new apps to meet the market. Likewise with universities, government departments, industry/research organisations, etc – if you want to interact with them via this type of new technology, let them know so they can get on board.