The AI and machine learning innovations taking John Deere to the next level of precision agriculture

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Plenty of companies are talking about artificial intelligence and machine learning today in vague, disconnected terms. It will certainly influence our strategy; not sure how, but everything’s coming up AI, right?

As a pleasant antidote to all that bluff and bluster, how about this from John Stone, senior vice president of the Intelligent Solutions Group at agricultural manufacturing giant John Deere? “AI and machine learning is going to be as core to John Deere as an engine and transmission is.”

Make no mistake about it, these are certainly exciting times for the 180-year-old Deere & Company. The company has in the past several months acquired Blue River Technology, a machine learning-centric startup, as well as opened up a lab in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Yet this is just the way things have been done for some time at the company – it’s just the technology has changed with it.

Than Hartsock, director of precision agriculture solutions at John Deere, has been involved with the company for much longer than his almost 17-year tenure, having grown up on a commercial grain farm in Ohio. In the late 1990s, his education – Hartsock has degrees in soil and crop science – involved working on projects around soil sensing technologies. Deere acquired NavCom Technology, a provider of global navigation satellite system (GNSS) technology, at around the same time. “It was clear, even when I was in high school, that John Deere was uniquely committed to precision agriculture,” says Hartsock.

It was the Internet of Things long before anyone came up with a proper name for it. Yet this initial investment translates to a serious advantage for the company today. “Those early investments have allowed us to, I would say, position the integration of those components into our equipment into our machines, across machines, and into our dealerships,” explains Hartsock. “It went from ‘okay, this is something Deere is doing [and] it may not be completely clear why we’re doing it’, [and] now it’s at the forefront of our company. It’s how we think about our value proposition to the industry, to farmers, crop producers, and customers.”

No stone is left unturned, no crop is left unfurled – and this is where Blue River comes in. The company provides what it calls ‘see and spray’ technology, which utilises machine learning to process, in real-time, images of weeds and crops and tell the sprayer what and where to spray. It makes for a vast improvement on anything a human can do – but it remains important to keep human expertise.

“Farmers, and their advisors and contractors – these are individuals that bring decades and generations of knowledge about the practices, about the land that they farm,” says Hartsock. “The way we see it is the technology – even artificial intelligence and machine learning – provides them the tools to essentially extend and scale their knowledge.

“Imagine the smart spraying scenario… you could imagine an agronomist, a farmer needing to come into that field ahead of time,” Hartsock adds. “What’s the state of the crop? How much input do I want to invest in this crop at this stage? The machine is going to be able to discern between weeds and crops, but I need to decide economically, agronomically, how much I want to invest.”

Hartsock will be speaking at IoT Tech Expo Global in London on April 18-19, discussing how agriculture has become a prime example of optimising on connected technologies. Inside the industry technological advancement has never been clearer – but what about outside it?

Take self-driving cars as an example. You can’t move for hype and headlines around them, but what can they actually do today? Compared to a smart tractor, one can argue it’s mostly child’s play – and Hartsock wants to make clear how smarter machines and the IoT have ‘infiltrated’ agriculture.

“When you look at a planter and a tractor, in many cases, nearly all cases, that planter or that seeder will have a sensor on every row that’s measuring every seed and every row that’s dropped into the soil,” says Hartsock. “It will have a sensor that measures the motion of the planter row unit to make sure the row unit is keeping in close contact with the soil, and if it’s not maintaining contact, the sensor informs an actuator to apply more pressure to the row unit.

“That’s just the planter,” he adds. “The tractor is equipped with many sensors around the engine and transmission, and then that tractor, like most of our large ag machines, is equipped with a 4G modem that then provides connectivity between those sensors and data that’s being acquired, and then connected to the cloud.

“Once the data gets to the cloud we give the user, the farmer, the contractor, the authority over the data to dictate control and share with other partners and other companies,” Hartsock says. “You really then have this ecosystem that evolves, develops, for usage of the data… all generated out of the work that’s being done in the field by that smart machine.”

Than Hartsock will be speaking at IoT Tech Expo Global, in London on 18-19 April. Find out more about the event here.

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Samsung offers a timeline of all its camera innovations in mobile phones

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Today, Samsung released a timeline offering a view of the past 18 years and the progress that it has made with its camera phones. Check the infographic at the very bottom of this post. The South Korean phone maker’s first camera phone was released back in the year 2000 (SCH-V200) and allowed you to store up to 20 photos and you needed a computer to actually see the 0.11 MP photos. A couple of years later, Samsung released a flip phone with a camera that was embedded right into the screen’s hinge (SCH-X590). This allowed the camera to be rotated freely between the front and the back,…

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These Sleep Innovations 12-inch memory foam mattresses are heavily discounted today only

A better night’s sleep.

Amazon has Sleep Innovations’ 12-inch memory foam mattresses on sale for as little as $ 259 each today. This is a one-day deal and drops them to some of the lowest prices we’ve ever seen.

Each has 12 inches of memory foam with DuoComfort Design including a SureTemp memory foam top layer and Support-Plus foam bottom. You’ll be comfortable in any position that you sleep in, whether it be your back, side, or even stomach. These come with a quilted cover, but you can opt for a smooth cover for an additional fee.

The options available include:

These prices are only good for one day, so don’t miss out. Amazon also has 25% off this Sleep Innovations 4-inch mattress topper and a heavily discounted air mattress with DreamCoil support.

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Overstock.com Garners Global Attention from VR/AR Association for its AR Mobile Innovations

Months after Overstock.com, Inc. announced the launch of its augmented reality (AR) feature within its iOS shopping app, the organization’s senior vice president of software engineering, Amit Goyal, was named as the chair to VR/AR Association (VRARA)’s global retail and e-commerce committee.

Along with Goyal’s responsibility as chair, he will serve as president of the newly formed Utah chapter, growing VRARA to 51 global chapters, 19 of which are located in the U.S., a provided statement explains.

“We’re thrilled to have Amit Goyal join VRARA and chair our retail and eCommerce committee,” said Kris Kolo, Global Executive Director of the VR/AR Association. “His retail industry expertise and insight from building Overstock’s shopping app and AR function marks a crucial addition to VRARA’s growth.”

The award-winning iOS shopping app allows shoppers to view how products, like furniture, rugs, décor and other home goods, fit in their home using a smart phone or tablet with iOS11. With true-to-life-size 3D models in the highest resolution, shoppers have an accurate representation of the product directly in their home or office.

“Augmented reality is changing the way people shop,” said Goyal. “At Overstock, we focus on price, assortment and convenience, and our augmented reality feature brings an innovative convenience to shoppers. It’s important for our customers to see how these products will fit with their décor or simply if it will fit in their living rooms. So, we have invested significant resources to insure we are at the leading edge of AR and we’re proud to bring what we’ve learned and achieved to VRARA.”

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These Tech Innovations Use Your Senses to Give You a Better Night’s Sleep

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The Science of Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is key to productivity during the day. Even without science backing up this assertion, we know that if we’re tired, we’re not going to be able to perform like we can when we’re rested. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Persons experiencing sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life…” So we have a lot more riding on a good night’s sleep than lingering grogginess and unproductive temperaments.

Luckily for us, there have never been more aids to help us get the best night’s sleep imaginable. And we’re not talking about loading up on Nyquil. For each physical sense or mental ghost that keeps you up, there’s some kind of tech or supporting science that can assuage.

Image source: StockSnap/Pixabay

Good Taste

While there may not be a specific tech innovation (outside of ancient herbal tea) that can help you get a better night’s sleep, understanding the science of how food affects your sleep cycle will help you make an informed, and consequently healthier, decision. Professor Richard Wiseman, head of Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom has published his research in some of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals. In his book Night SchoolWiseman explores the science of sleep and has a surprising suggestion when it comes to eating before bed: “Research shows that you can easily increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep by eating a small portion (under 200 calories) of food that is rich in carbohydrates.” According to researchers from Kanazawa University in Japan, the three hormones involved in the regulation of energy homeostasis and sleep/wakefulness can be controlled by ensuring your body will not feel hungry during the night, leading to better sleep.

Image credit: Brendan C/Flickr

See Yourself to Sleep

Our bodies’ reaction to light is an important part of how our natural sleep patterns (circadian rhythm) regulate. This is why jet lag messes with our sleep schedules. Philips has developed a light that can both help you get to sleep, as well as wake up using light therapy. This device, the “Wake-up Light,” is designed to simulate both sunrise and sunset to make your going to sleep and waking up more aligned with how natural light operates, thus working with our natural rhythms.

The technology is backed by scientific research and was published in the journal Chronobiology InternationalAccording to Philips, “The main results from both groups confirm that waking up with gradually increasing light prior to the alarm time is of overall better quality than without light, the energy level of the users at wake-up is improved, participants reported easier rising, better mood, productivity, and quality of social interactions.”

Image source: Philips

A Sound Sleep

It is common for people to be unable to sleep without some kind of backup noise. However, depending on the means used to create that backup noise, there could be other factors that hinder your sleep. For example, if you use a television for ambient noise, the light emitted could disrupt your natural sleep pattern. Also, the noise from a television may be too varied and unpredictable, depending on what is being displayed. Scientists have been studying the effect noise has on sleep and have discovered that the addition of white noise can help to lessen the impact of  “peak noise” (e.g. events like doors slamming). According to the National Sleep Foundation and research by Rhode Island Hospital and Brown Medical School, “If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, creating a constant ambient sound could help mask activity from inside and outside the house.”

We used to have to rely on bulky ambient or white noise machines to achieve this goal but now you can get the same results with a simple, free app on your smart phone. There are many apps to chose from but CNET does list a white noise app developed by TMSoft as one of the five apps that can improve your life.

Image credit: Wonderlane/Flickr

Smart Scents

Smell could very well be considered one of our most underestimated senses. Psychology Today says that “Smell is often the first warning of safety or danger, friend or foe. Smells have the power to drive your behavior on an instinctive and subconscious level.” They go on to explain how it is possible to harness this power to our advantage.

The Clinical Sleep Research Unit at Loughborough University in England have developed the Sensorwake Oria, a system dubbed as an “olfactory alarm clock.” It mixes the scents of powdered rose, peach, pear, talc, and musk to help put you to sleep, and scents of soap and sandalwood to ease you into a deep REM sleep. Pair this with the Barisiuer, a fancy alarm clock that allows you to wake up the enticing scent of freshly brewing coffee.

Image credit: Sensorwake

Deep Sleep Bear Hug

Touch can be highly comforting and essential to our emotional well-being. Weighted blankets are a widely used means to help those with disorders on the autism spectrum, also those with anxiety, mood, and borderline disorders can benefit from these haptic devices. They can also help others just sleep better, especially insomniacs. According to the Journal for Sleep Medicine & Disorders,  “A weighted blanket may aid in reducing insomnia through altered tactile inputs, thus may provide an innovative, non-pharmacological approach and complementary tool to improve sleep quality.”

This brings us to the Gravity Blanket, described as “a premium-grade, therapeutic weighted blanket that harnesses the power of deep touch stimulation to gently distribute deep pressure across your body.” Gravity Blanket was able to raise $ 4,729,263 on Kickstarter. It comes in an assortment of weights to best match your body type with the most helpful fit, which is about ten percent of your body weight. The best way to describe the feeling of using a Gravity Blanket is that of a skilled bear hugger or as one reviewer put it, “it’s like a really warm, fluffy suit of armor.” So whether you love spooning but hate the taste of your partner’s hair or if you prefer sleeping in a bubble, the Gravity Blanket can help provide you with the most comfortable and restful night’s sleep imaginable.

Image credit: Gravity Blanket

There are a myriad of ways to harness our senses to sleep easier and better. Try mixing and matching these approaches to find the best possible combination. Waking up more well rested does wonders for your health and productivity. It has been estimated that we spend a third of our lives sleeping, so let’s make sure we’re getting the most we can out of that time.

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13 Tech Innovations to Watch


The day–to–day grind can be daunting: Bills need to be paid, errands need to be run, and work must be accomplished. But occasionally, the wonders of what is possible with technology hits us. Among them are devices, systems and programs that not only make life better (read: easier), they also open up possibilities for new branches of development. To find out what recent technologies excite members of the Young Entrepreneur Council, I asked the following question: What’s the best tech innovation you’ve seen in the past quarter and why? Their best answers are below: 1. 360-Degree Selfies We live in…

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10 tech innovations that will revolutionize the digital world

Technology has been shaping the way we work and live for decades. As everything in our world is becoming increasingly digital, new software and applications continue to emerge and arguably make our lives easier. Whether it’s artificial intelligence, a new web coding format or wearables, unique technology has the power to change the world. To find out what the next big technical innovation is and how it can make an impact, I asked 10 entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council: What will revolutionize the web in the next five years beyond Facebook and Google, and what effect will this have…

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