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  • Dusty Sonnenberg

The Need for Speed, High-Speed ISOBUS

All aspects of life seem to be moving faster, and agriculture is no exception. Terms like high-speed internet, high-speed planters, high speed sprayers, and now High Speed ISOBUS (HSI) are becoming commonplace.

ISOBUS is frequently used when discussing how the various components of precision agriculture technology communicate with each other, such as monitors, controllers, etc. The technical definition of ISOBUS is an open standard of the interconnection of electronic systems. It is an international communication protocol that sets the standard for agricultural and forestry electronics. ISOBUS was introduced 20 years ago. It refers to the ISO standard 11783. Some describe ISOBUS as being similar to the central nervous system of a body. It standardizes protocol and allows technology from different brands and companies to communicate efficiently with one another. Instead of having multiple cables and monitors in the cab of the equipment, the goal of ISOBUS is to allow all items to “plug and play” with standard plugs, cables, and software and also have the same basic user interface.

“ISOBUS is still serving the industry very well and will continue to do so for years to come, but the industry has recognized that ISOBUS is holding back the development of far more demanding systems that aim for higher performance and accuracy of control," said Andrew Olliver, vice chairman of the Agricultural Electronics Foundation.

The Agricultural Electronics Foundation (AEF) was formed in 2008 by seven OEMs and two associations that were interested in ISOBUS technology who agreed there was a need to collaborate, create and implement a system.

Now in 2022, the foundation is introducing High-Speed ISOBUS (HSI). While still in development, the goal of an enhanced High-Speed ISOBUS network is to provide unprecedented bandwidth for data collection and brand-to-brand functionality. The new HSI was publicly demonstrated for the first time at Commodity Classic in New Orleans, LA, at the AEF’s Plugfest.

"HSI will deliver greater precision for the future, and that precision will help reduce the amounts of fertilizer and chemicals, improve agronomy, and allow companies to offer products that support sustainability," said Norbert Schlingmann, general manager of AEF.

According to AEF, some examples of how HSI may be used in the future include more direct updates on an operator’s user interface to see the exact state of every row in real-time, whereas today, there might be a few seconds of lag between field and results on the screen. HSI could assist with higher performance and command at the row level for larger planters or for individual nozzles on sprayers. HSI would also enable faster software updates and improved diagnostics.

According to David Smart, project team 10 lead at AEF and former senior staff engineer with John Deere, there are currently limitations to the CAN-based ISOBUS in the field. The eventual implementation of an enhanced, high-speed ISOBUS network will provide unprecedented bandwidth for data collection and brand-to-brand functionality.

“For high-end implements, with the need for much higher precision command and control, HSI will be beneficial, but at this point, it does not need 4,000 times the speed,” says Smart. “But we also want to design a system that’s good for the next couple of decades, not run for the next five years.”

“HSI is not here to turn your fleet totally obsolete. It may be five to 10 years before this technology becomes the new standard on implements from equipment manufacturers. HIS compatibility with the existing ISOBUS is an incredibly essential piece, and it’s one of our first major steps when we open up the door to this new highway,” said Smart.

For the average operator, HSI technology is still a little way off. The current CANBUS and ISOBUS technology will continue to work with many pieces of equipment for many years to come.

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