Presenter: Dr Andrew Skinner, Engineering Director, MEA (Measurement Engineering Australia)
Description: Three years ago MEA successfully launched an On-Farm Internet of Things system called Plexus. The system moves soil moisture and climate data across the farm using a solar-powered 2.4GHz ZigBee mesh network and up to MEA’s ‘Green Brain’ web-application in the cloud that allows farmers to access their irrigation data from anywhere, at any time.
To break into this field required a huge investment of funds over three years, a multi-disciplinary approach that hauled together electronic, mechanical, communications, software and web engineers plus external industrial design skills, a manufacturing link into China and all sorts of technical skills to set up the production line.
Dr Skinner said: “It also took some thirty years of making environmental measurements in the bush to battle-harden the team. We then had to sell Plexus and keep it working until we crossed the ‘valley of death’ between early adopters and the early majority.”
Over the past three decades MEA has built more than 2500 systems for wind and solar monitoring, irrigated agriculture, remote weather station networks, a web-enabled radio measurement system for Australian farmers, novel soil moisture displays for African farmers, salinity sensors for farmers in Bangladesh and a new-to-world sensor for getting living plants to talk to irrigators about their state of water stress.
This is an end-to-end case study of the development of an IOT product - from sensors to radio to communications to web-applications, as well as marketing, product development and service.
About the presenter: Dr Andrew Skinner’s founded MEA (Measurement Engineering Australia) in 1984 to carry out the three-year SA Wind Energy Survey. While running the company full-time, Andrew completed a Masters Degree and PhD in environmental measurements. His forty-year engineering career began in 1971 with studies in electronic engineering at the SA Institute of Technology. Andrew was awarded a Dean's Commendation for his PhD thesis from Adelaide University in 2009 and was the Engineers Australia South Australian Professional Engineer of the Year for 2015.