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Verizon buys Sensity and launches farm pilot with sensor tech

Matt Hamblen | Sept. 13, 2016
Carrier's Internet of Things program is expanding

Verizon has been busy building a diverse Internet of Things (IoT) portfolio that includes sensors used on farms as well as on city streets.

On Monday, the wireless carrier announced it is buying Sensity Systems for an undisclosed sum.

Sensity, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., has focused on using energy-efficient LED lighting to help cities build an IoT platform on city streetlights. The platform can include the use of various sensors on a streetlight pole to monitor weather and city services ranging from parking to public safety.

Last year, Sensity began work with Cisco in Kansas City, Mo. to install LED streetlights that can be dimmed for precise ambient light conditions; the system is estimated to eventually save that city $4 million a year.

Last week, Verizon announced an IoT pilot with The Chef's Garden. The Milan, Ohio farm grows hundreds of varieties of specialty produce sold direct to chefs around the world.

chefs garden 

Verizon has installed a weather station at The Chef’s Garden to monitor weather and moisture conditions to more precisely measure the water needed by vegetables that are sold to gourmet chefs.

On the 300-acre specialty farm, Verizon has installed a weather station to measure local data in the field. Sensor probes have been placed in select locations to measure soil moisture and temperature. There's also a temperature sensor focused at the tip of some plants to see how much stress a plant is under from heat and light and how much water is needed for precise irrigation.

The flavors of some varieties of produce are affected by stress from too much heat or a lack of water. With the help of sensors, the farm can supply water only where needed and can save energy by not pumping excess water from the ground. Workers also save time when they don't need to check on water needs.

Data from the various sensors is sent over Verizon's wireless network to the cloud where it is analyzed. With tools such as PostgreSQL -- an open source database -- and the Python programming language, Verizon can graphically depict moisture conditions. Farmers can see that graphical information on iPads that they carry into the fields. They can then regulate the water being applied via drip irrigation to the roots of the plants.

"We release water at the proper time because we are able to count and measure the heat units needed to produce a crop," said Lee Jones, who works with his father and brother to manage the farm with the help of about 160 team members. (Jones goes by the name 'Farmer' Lee Jones, claiming Farmer as his title.)


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