Going to CES 2022 in Las Vegas was dramatically different than in previous years, yet it was the same. There were fewer people and exhibitors, but companies large and small from around the world still participated in the annual showcase of new technologies for consumers and businesses. John Deere’s first fully automated tractor held center stage in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center next to Sierra Space’s DreamChaser spaceplane and all-electric semi-trucks.
While the pandemic caused global disruptions and supply chain delays, it hasn’t stopped people creating new ideas and product over the past two years, with businesses turning them into reality for display in Vegas. By the numbers, there were over 2,300 exhibiting companies, 40,000 attendees and 1,800 global media with 30 percent of attendees traveling from outside the U.S. representing 119 countries. Vehicle technology, digital health, and artificial intelligence were the big buzz, with more than 800 startups leading the charge on innovation.
It’s hard to think of John Deere as a data company instead of an agricultural company, but it has been making the evolution over the past decade with productivity improvements like connected equipment reporting back location, vehicle health, and providing precision navigation for crop production, just to name a few. A single John Deere tractor can generate megabytes of key performance metrics per day, and that’s without bringing self-driving operations into the discussion.
One Nebraska farmer I spoke to at the John Deere booth in Las Vegas used his cell phone to show the location of his 30 tractors and what each one was doing at that moment across the thousands of acres of farmland he works on. Each had a little tractor icon overlayed on an overhead Google Earth image. With a property that large and as many vehicles and people involved, occasionally equipment gets “lost,” but can be found in seconds through the app.
Productivity has also gone up because he’s monitoring the fuel consumption of the vehicles his father drives. Dad wants to get as much plowing done as possible but doesn’t keep an eye on the gas tank, so now there’s an alert that goes out to him when the gauge goes below a quarter tank. “He ran out of gas at least four times [in the past],” said the farmer, with the tractor sitting idle while someone had to go out to the field and refuel it, tying up another person’s time. Now he can call Dad and tell him to drive back to the barn instead of pushing his luck getting another couple of acres in.
Designing the all-electric Doosan Bobcat T7X Compact Track Loader happened in the cloud, across multiple time-zones and nations -- not on a paper drawing board. While construction equipment isn’t my usual jam, it was impressive to see Bobcat has built a more reliable and powerful loader with significantly reduced operational costs by eliminating over 50 quarts of oil and other fluids. It’s cleaner and quieter, both bonuses for urban sites and companies that want to reduce their environmental footprint.
Doosan’s Bobcat is only the first in a wave of redesigned heavy building equipment with Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) outlining a vision of autonomous ships and intelligent construction robots. In the future, homes and offices will be built faster and at less cost says HHI – yes, it sounds all too familiar, but stick with me – through digitally mapping worksites prior to the first dirt being moved, leveraging AI-driven processes to optimize workflow and direct equipment to do the proverbial heavy lifting.
Precision agriculture and smart construction are only two of the many applications coming into being as a combination of local computing power, fiber broadband, and the cloud come together to create new concepts to increase efficiency, improve quality of life, protect the environment, and save time and money. As the future continues forward, so too does the need for more broadband to support building and delivering new services to the places where they are needed.