Vineyard Using Technology to Monitor and Improve Growing Conditions
NEW YORK; Dec. 1, 2004—Accenture (NYSE: ACN) today unveiled a technology “toolkit” that makes it quicker and easier for businesses to deploy an emerging class of applications based on networks of wireless sensors.
The new offering, the Accenture Sensor Telemetry Rapid Deployment Toolkit, enables companies to cut the time it takes to build a new application by an average of four to six weeks.
Developed by Accenture Technology Labs, Accenture’s research and development organization, the toolkit comprises software that allows data collected from sensors to be put to work immediately throughout an enterprise.
“The toolkit represents a shortcut for companies wishing to build applications today using sensors and off-the-shelf and proprietary software, among other components,” said Glover Ferguson, chief scientist, Accenture. “It gives them the capability to quickly deploy remote, sensor-based monitoring applications with minimal software development investment.”
Sensor-based applications have a wide variety of applications, from helping grow plumper wine grapes and locating burnt-out street lamps to monitoring the location and contents of rail cars loaded with volatile chemicals. In fact, the toolkit has been field-tested with an application developed by Accenture Technology Labs researchers to monitor growing conditions at a vineyard in Northern California’s wine country.
Pickberry Vineyards, which grows high-end grapes for premium winemakers, is already benefiting from the application, which helps improve growing conditions by using sensors for around-the-clock monitoring of conditions such as soil and air temperature, relative humidity, moisture, light, wind velocity, leaf wetness and barometric pressure.
"By careful monitoring of vineyard conditions, the sensor network provides the ability to improve wine grape quality,” said Lorna Strotz, a co-owner of Pickberry Vineyards. “In today’s competitive market, improved quality can significantly enhance vineyard profitability."
A network of 30 sensor nodes has been deployed over 30 acres of vines at Pickberry. Using a cellular connection, the network relays the environmental readings back to a server at Accenture Technology Labs in Palo Alto, Calif. The data are monitored via a Web-based portal, which provides vineyard management with up-to-the-minute information around the clock. The portal can be accessed from any personal computer.
Because the grapes are highly sensitive to even very small environmental changes and different areas of the vineyard can differ in temperature by as much as 10 degrees, the sensors provide the vineyard’s management with an effective way to maximize the efficiency of their water, soil nutrient and labor as well as the quality of their crops.
“Pickberry demonstrates how embedded computing, sensing and communication capabilities in an agricultural environment create an infrastructure for better management decisions, helping reduce water, soil-nutrient and labor costs and increase product quality,” said Bill Westerman, director of development of Accenture Technology Labs in Palo Alto.
The experience gained from the Pickberry pilot contributed to the development of the starter kit and validated the strength of the infrastructure, including the ability to perform in harsh conditions. It also uncovered unforeseen challenges, such as curious rodents who enjoyed gnawing on the sensors. As a result, the scientists had to harden the sensors by encasing them in animal-proof plastics.
“The sensor network makes possible a higher yield of top-quality grapes — no small accomplishment given the price differences between table-wine grapes, which sell for about $65 a ton, and premium grapes, which can sell for more than $10,000 per ton,” Ferguson said.
The sensor-based technology used at Pickberry has a range of different applications that are also being explored, from monitoring the corrosion of assets such as underground pipelines and electricity pylons to safeguarding museum pieces from harmful environment conditions and theft.
“In our lab’s experiments and field tests, we have found that there are sensors to measure most physical properties and detect most events, so it made sense to build our infrastructure in such a way that it can be used to monitor things as diverse as nuclear radiation and termite activity,” Ferguson said.
Sensor Telemetry Rapid Deployment Toolkit is part of an emerging area of technology, which Accenture calls sensor telemetry, that uses sensor technologies and two-way wireless communications to gather insight from products, people and places, and then build new business opportunities based on that insight.
“It’s another step toward realizing Accenture’s technology vision of ‘Reality Online’ – a world where objects can sense, reason, communicate and act,” Ferguson said.
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Committed to delivering innovation, Accenture collaborates with its clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. With deep industry and business process expertise, broad global resources and a proven track record, Accenture can mobilize the right people, skills and technologies to help clients improve their performance. With more than 100,000 people in 48 countries, the company generated net revenues of US$13.67 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2004. Its home page is www.accenture.com.