5G Open Innovation lab tackles edge apps for Smart Ag

5G Open Innovation lab tackles edge apps for Smart Ag

Earlier this month the 5G Open Innovation Lab (5G OI Lab) launched its first application development field lab for the agricultural industry with dedicated access to a 5G-capable, CBRS LTE-based network and edge computing platform fueled by technology provided by the partners of the 5G OI Lab.

The Food Resiliency Project, an economic development initiative funded by a grant through the CARES Act, establishes a virtual and physical space for Snohomish County to bring together food growers, and distributors with technology companies to collaboratively develop new capabilities that will improve the resiliency of Snohomish County’s agriculture sector and minimize future food service disruptions for consumers and regional agribusiness.

“Every modern industry benefits from data and analytics, explains Jim Brisimitzis, General Partner of the 5G Open Innovation Lab. “Agricultural sites typically lack the high-speed Internet access necessary for connecting devices and generating the data growers and industry suppliers need to make real-time decisions for optimal impact. With the support of Snohomish County and our partners, we’ve proudly built an application development field lab with two dedicated sites through which our ecosystem members, partners, academia, and industry can collaborate to experiment, test, and learn. The outcome is the development of commercial use cases by way of research and innovation that agricultural vendors like John Deere and Cargill, for example, can use today.”

“Agriculture has always been a key sector in Snohomish County. This last year has taught us how vital it is it to ensure we have a steady, local supply of food,” adds Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “Our partnership with 5G Open Innovation Lab can help safeguard our agriculture industry by providing farmers the tools they need for success, while securing fresh food for our community. We will continue to support innovation to strengthen and diversify our economy.”

The foundation of the field lab is a dynamic testing platform with dedicated access to a 5G-capable, CBRS LTE private network through co-development access points. The two agriculture sites operating in Snohomish County are: Swans Trail Farms, a retail farm and event venue featuring apple orchards, strawberry fields, and a pumpkin patch; and Andrew’s Hay, Inc., a commercial grower and supplier of premium feed for horses, cattle, livestock and seed crops. Each site will connect to an edge computing environment allowing developers to tap into cloud computing capabilities essential for latency-sensitive and compute-intensive applications. IoT applications include soil sensors measuring temperature, volumetric water content, oxygen levels and photosynthetic radiation, as well as supply chain and logistics tracking of food from farm-to-table to ensure safety and security.

The dynamic testing environment enables edge computing by using Dell servers based on Intel Xeon processors, VMware‘s Telco Cloud Platform operating system for 5G applications and the Intel Smart Edge multi-access edge computing platform. Wireless access is provided by T-Mobile with live radios connected to T-Mobile’s broadband network for Internet backhaul and access to Microsoft’s Azure hyperscale cloud infrastructure, and the Microsoft 5G-capable network core. Expeto, an alum of the 5G Open Innovation Lab program, was selected to provide the wireless network core orchestration and end device (SIM) management platform. Two of the initial partners leveraging the field lab to drive learnings and solution development with the installation of IoT sensors and advanced research are Washington State University and innova8.ag, another alum of the 5G Lab’s program.

The Amdocs next-generation OSS and service management platform will make automating and managing the multi-vendor environment more efficient. With Amdocs network policy and converged charging systems, farmers will be able to investigate the monetization elements and business models for planned commercial use cases.  F5 will provide security software for the private networks and the applications running on them.

The Lab selected the Nokia AirScale Radio for ultra-low latency and the ability to adapt to evolving architectures with a future-proof solution for 5G networks. A simple unpack and deploy model was used to enable farmers to utilize the network to homeschool young children, automate planning and harvesting, and measure soil conditions.

The Expeto Nextworking platform enables network managers to set and manage application policies over a unified framework across private and public mobile networks and control all core network functions within one interface. Expeto will be responsible for the ongoing management over the coming year. The Expeto platform delivers what smart farming applications and field devices need: highly reliable, outdoor wireless networking with the low latency, full end-to-end data path control and security. Within the Nextworking platform, farmers can be confident they can both scale their operations and protect their wireless network data across both public and private networks. Lab participants and farmers will be able to manage these hybrid networks as easily as traditional Wi-Fi but with all the security and robustness of a stand-alone private LTE solution.

The Lab selected Seattle-based Ballast Networks to design, manage and deploy the hardware, switching infrastructure and networking gear at both sites. The development environment and access points at both sites are designed to be operational for ten years.

The 5G Open Innovation Lab is also a founding member of Washington’s Innovation Partnership Zone (IPZ), a statewide initiative, sponsored by the City of Bellevue and administered by the Washington State Department of Commerce. The IPZ is designed to stimulate regional economic growth by providing access to intellectual capital, and to accelerate the development of new technologies, marketable products, company formation, and job creation.

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