In the maritime world, where the open sea presents vast connectivity challenges, the SpaceX Starlink satellite system has quickly emerged as the leading connectivity solution. Bringing high speed internet to vessels of all sizes with relatively lower pricing compared to traditional VSAT solutions, there are now options for vessels and Managed Service Providers alike. Managed Service Providers have been deploying two primary installation configurations, single and dual Starlink installations, that give flexibility to deployments and allow for both cost and footprint constraints.

Larger vessels often opt for dual Starlink antennas and terminals. Capitalizing on the inherent advantage of Kognitive Networks bandwidth bonding, this setup ensures seamless connectivity, with one antenna covering any dropout experienced by the other, ensuring uninterrupted internet access crucial for operational efficiency and safety at sea. However, some vessels and network managers prefer a single Starlink terminal, to reduce costs or when faced with limited mounting options. As detailed below, Kognitive Networks can provide robust connectivity with either configuration.

Understanding the Dual Antenna Advantage

The dual Starlink terminal installations offer higher capacity and improved reliability when there are intermittent connectivity issues like those observed with Starlink and other satellite or cellular connections. Kognitive Networks’ Advanced Bandwidth Bonding, a technology that combines the bandwidth of both terminals to improve reliability of data transfers, mitigates single terminal dropouts by intelligently routing flows through the available links. Additionally, the process not only maximizes internet speed and minimizes connectivity loss while providing a WAN-link fallback, ensuring that operations remain unaffected during periods of signal loss from one antenna. It’s a solution that caters perfectly to the needs of larger vessels, demanding the highest level of connectivity assurance for their extensive operations.

Large File Transfers

Working closely with maritime customers as they integrate Starlink on their vessels, it is observed that Starlink terminals have frequent dropouts, with frequent short-duration (1 to 2 second) dropouts (i.e. packet loss, connectivity loss), in some locations with a frequency as often as every 60 to 120 seconds. The dropouts cause application reliability issues, particularly for large file transfers and syncing (100MB or more), and can cause transfer failures and retries. There are methods to work around connectivity drops, such as ‘file-chunking’ and data transfer resumption solution, however many enterprises services do not support these capabilities.

Challenges with Starlink Terminals in Native TCP Mode
  • Frequent short durations dropouts, occurring as often as every 60 to 120 seconds
  • Dropouts can cause failures in large file transfers
Traditional Solution: File-chunking
  • A method where large files are broken down into smaller segments.
  • Improves reliability and allows resuming transfers from the last successful chunk in case of interruptions.
  • Used in various applications:
    • Cloud storage services
    • Content delivery networks (CDNs)
    • Video streaming platforms
    • Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing
    • Distributing software updates
  • Costly, not scalable

With Kognitive Advanced Bandwidth Bonding, if one terminal drops the data transfer will continue on the other terminal, so file-chunking is not needed. Thus, the dual-terminal Starlink install has emerged as the most reliable configuration for connectivity deep at sea.

The Single Starlink Terminal Challenge

Not all vessels are equipped or have the capacity to support dual Starlink terminal installations. Smaller vessels, or those with budgetary constraints, often rely on a single Starlink. While more cost-effective and spatially efficient, this configuration lacks the redundancy offered by dual installations, leading to significant disruptions in connectivity. Working with a large maritime shipping operator, this was particularly evident in providing reliable enterprise connectivity on the vessel where file servers/systems routinely performed large data file transfers. A single moment of signal loss would halt the entire transfer process, necessitating a restart – and in many cases, the in-house IT organization needed to intervene. Such interruptions not only hampered operational efficiency but also posed risks to critical communications and data exchanges – and were frustrating for crew and support staff alike.

Multi-Path Kognitive VPN (MPK-VPN): A Game Changer for Single Antenna Installations

Kognitive Networks’ MPK-VPN POP Dropoff with integrated PEP (Performance Enhancing Proxy) is excellent at mitigating the unique challenges faced by single Starlink terminal vessels. Within the Kognitive Edge platform, administrators can enable this technology on a single site or vessel basis.

Kognitive Networks employs a proprietary PEP designed to optimize IP data transfers when using satellite or cellular communications where packet loss and latency are prevalent. By incorporating fast retransmission to compensate for sustained and systematic packet loss, sequence numbering for packet reordering, and rate-based flow control, Kognitive’s PEP significantly enhances the speed, reliability and efficiency of file transfers. These tailored mechanisms allow for the correction of errors without end-user retransmission, ensure packets are processed in the correct order, and adjust sending rates in real-time to maximize network throughput—making Kognitive Networks’ PEP a sophisticated, proprietary solution for overcoming the inherent challenges of TCP-based communications in demanding network environments.

MPK-VPN: Multi-Path Kognitive Virtual Private Network
  • Establishes VPN tunnels to public or private hubs using the Kognitive Performance Enhancing Proxy (PEP) with integrated Bandwidth Bonding
  • Provides regional Point of Presence (POP) drop-off capability for WAN interfaces
  • Mitigates the challenges faced by single Starlink terminal vessels
  • Greatly improves performance of Starlink, 5G, VSAT links
Benefits of Kognitive PEP
  • Simply to activate: can be enabled on a per-vessel, per-WAN source basis
  • Significantly enhances the reliability and efficiency of file transfers, eliminating the need for ‘file-chunking’

The integration of the MPK-VPN POP Dropoff feature has shown remarkable success in mitigating the enterprise network failure rates for large file transfers, which previously plagued single antenna vessels. This solution not only ensures the reliability of data transfers but also eliminates the need for complex workarounds like file-chunking, streamlining operational processes onboard.

The Future of Connectivity – Kognitive Hub and the Multi-Path Kognitive VPN

Kognitive Networks’ latest innovation, the Multi-Path Kognitive VPN (MPK-VPN), leverages an elegant hub-and-spoke model to tackle connectivity challenges inherent with enterprise communication particularly when using single/multiple links in satellite and cellular communication. This new technology is engineered to optimize the transmission of data over multiple paths simultaneously, enhancing redundancy and ensuring uninterrupted connectivity. By intelligently routing data through the best performing paths and with integrated PEP, the MPK-VPN minimizes packet loss, improves speed, reduces latency, and improves overall network reliability with the added power of Advanced Bandwidth Bonding. Designed to address the specific needs and shortcoming of wireless connectivity in remote operations where traditional VPN solutions fall short, the Multi-Path Kognitive VPN is a pioneering connectivity solution for enterprises that need both robust and adaptable connectivity solutions to tackle the unique challenges in building and maintaining their own global communication infrastructures.

Kognitive Networks – A Partner for Reliable Data Connectivity

Kognitive Networks is helping managed service providers and sophisticated enterprises ensure robust connectivity that directly improves their operations and bottom line. To see how Kognitive Networks can drive innovation through better connectivity using Starlink as well as legacy VSAT, cellular, and traditional wired interfaces, contact us and schedule a demo today.

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Agricultural technology has long helped humans cultivate the earth more efficiently, sustainably, and productively. The history of AgTech is rich with milestones, each signifying a leap forward in how we approach farming. Today, as we navigate the complexities of feeding a growing global population more sustainably in an increasingly competitive global food market, precision agriculture has been shown to improve yields, increase efficiency, and reduce water and fertilizer use. Even though much of modern agriculture technology has been scientifically validated, a McKinsey study reported that less than 40% of small and medium sized farms are using remote sensing and precision agriculture hardware. Less than 10% of those farms have adopted automation, robotics, and electronic equipment.

Why a low adoption rate?

Historically, the relationship between growers and innovators in adopting technology has been cautious and complex. For farmers, the stakes of integrating new technology are high. The seasonal nature of farming means that any technological failure could jeopardize an entire season’s yield and plunge a farmer into economic distress. On the flip side, technology startups face challenges in gaining access to real-world testing environments. The high-risk, high-reward nature of agricultural innovation often results in limited trial opportunities, leading to small sample sizes and slow iteration cycles. Additionally, the physical distance from farms complicates direct engagement, requiring innovators to immerse themselves in rural settings for extended periods as their technology matures.

Connectivity

In today’s digital world, collecting high quality agricultural data poses little issue – yet there are immense challenges managing data streams and accessibility in converting raw data into actionable insights.  Effective deployment now necessitates not just technological innovation but also robust remote connectivity solutions, especially given that most farms are in remote areas. John Deere, a name synonymous with agricultural innovation, noted that there is no reliable connectivity in 30% of US and 70% of Brazilian farm acreage, and has signed an agreement with Space X for custom Starlink deployments to supplement the reach of its JDLink™ Connectivity and Operations Center™.

While integrated satellite connectivity is a great step forward for the industry, not all growers have chosen John Deere equipment. Many existing technologies – even those that already integrate with John Deere’s platform – will require separate internet and cloud connectivity to transform collected data into real world solutions. The 2024 AgTech Summit at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the initiatives by the Center for Digital Agriculture (CDA) both shine a light on the importance of innovative and open Tech Stacks to advance the state of agriculture, by connecting growers and their dealer networks to innovators and inventors.

Whether it’s as a complement to John Deere’s leading market moves or as an enabler of other technologies in synergistic industry verticals, Kognitive Networks firmly believes that the key to bridging the gap between growers and technology startups lies in ensuring robust connectivity and secure remote access.

Kognitive Networks supports Starlink natively, with seamless integration and simplified workflows that bring connectivity to locations that have never been accessible before. Through the Kognitive Edge platform, farmers can reliably and securely connect their data collection and automated machinery to the wider internet for analysis and processing with novel algorithms, next-generation optimizations, and new AI tools. With the Konnect™ remote connection protocol, instant sharing of data and device access with partners facilitates troubleshooting, reduces risk, and keep machines running. By empowering growers and inventors with these critical connectivity tools, we can significantly shorten the innovation feedback loop and diminish the risks traditionally borne by growers.

Tracing the Path of Agricultural Innovation

AgTech_Evolution_Farmers_Satellites

The 19th Century: Seeds of Mechanical Advancement

The 19th century’s agricultural revolution was marked with paradigm shifting inventions, like Cyrus McCormick’s 1831 mechanical reaper that transformed crop harvesting and John Deere’s 1837 steel plow, which revolutionized soil preparation. These innovations marked the dawn of mechanized farming and set the stage for future technological advancements in agriculture. The era’s innovation peaked with John Froelich’s introduction of the gasoline-powered tractor in 1892, significantly enhancing farmer productivity and opening a new chapter in agricultural efficiency.

The Digital Dawn

As mechanical innovations quickly helped to transform the landscape with improved speed in the 19th century, tractors set the stage for an advanced level of productivity in the 20th century. Digital Agriculture innovations like GPS and VRT hit the industry in the late 20th century and true precision swept through agriculture, improving individual acreage yields and farm efficiency on an unprecedented scale.

Variable Rate Technology (VRT)

Emerging in the 1980s, VRT allowed for the variable application of inputs like fertilizers, chemicals, and seeds at different rates across a field, significantly enhancing efficiency and reducing waste

Global Positioning System (GPS)

The commercialization of GPS in the 1990s enabled efficiencies through accurate field mapping, automated steering systems, and predictive analytics with higher accuracy sampling and precision feedback. Today, more than 50% of staple crop growers are using automated guidance

Now, as we push into the 21st century, the pressure for higher yields and sustainability is met with the strain of labor shortages. New technologies like remote sensing and automation have the potential to fill the labor gap through the promise of greatly improved efficiency and automation. With precise measurement, predictive analytics and true automation, the 21st century farm could theoretically be operated 24-hours a day.

Remote Sensing

Since the early 2000s, remote sensing technology leveraged planes and drones with cameras to collect detailed data on crop health, soil moisture, and environmental conditions. This enables farmers to monitor vast areas efficiently, leading to early stress detection, optimized irrigation, and improved crop management strategies, enhancing yield and sustainability with minimal labor input.

Automated Machinery and Robotics

The introduction of self-driving tractors, drones, and robotic systems for tilling, seeding, irrigating, spraying, and harvesting has significantly reduced labor requirements and improved yields in farming operations. Smaller scale automations like See & Spray technology allow for targeting application of herbicides, replacing traditional scouting, spotting, and spraying with integration autonomous systems. With precise mapping, sensing, and adaptive navigation through technologies like LIDAR, autonomous field operations like mowing, rolling, aggravating, aerotilling, seeding, and harvesting can be accomplished at the ideal time, without the once-necessary constraint of daylight.

This next stage of advancement needs to address two key elements:

1. How can these technologies can be linked together, to actualize the promise of invention and innovation and turn data into solutions?

2. During the adoption cycle, what can be done to safeguard the grower – the one who takes the lions-share of risk and benefits from the marginal improvement of the technology each season?

Cloud Connectivity and Remote Access can bridge the gaps between collected data, processing, automation, and control – synergizing the potential of the digital model and actualization in the mechanical world. What is still missing is a way for all inventors and producers to quickly share data and control of systems so that productivity isn’t lost during the innovation process.


The Tech Stack: A platform for productivity

Today, realizing the collective promise of these innovations requires a farmer to develop or adopt an comprehensive tech stack that incorporates their entire production system – from soil to seed and harvest to market. Several companies have made great strides in connecting growers, innovators, and manufacturers already. These well known manufacturers have been developing Tech Stacks focused on agricultural technology, with varying levels of wireless connectivity options and remote access functionality:

John Deere – JDLink™ Connectivity and Operations Center™

JDLink connects machinery to provide vital insights into equipment operation and health, enabling farmers to optimize maintenance and minimize downtime. Complementing this, the John Deere Operations Center™ serves as a central hub for managing equipment, fields, and data, facilitating informed decision-making and streamlined farm operations. John Deere’s strategic acquisitions, such as Blue River Technology and Bear Flag Robotics, further bolster its tech stack by introducing autonomous tractors and precision agriculture tools like the See & Spray technology, which targets weeds with remarkable accuracy to significantly reduce herbicide usage.

Case IH – AFS Connect

Advanced Farming Systems (AFS) Connect™ platform by CNH Industrial represents a comprehensive approach to farm management. AFS Connect™ allows farmers to monitor and control their equipment, fields, and data in real time, providing new levels of operational insight. The platform integrates seamlessly with a suite of proprietary precision farming tools provided through AFS to offer optimized planting, harvesting, and crop management solutions, with telematics for real-time machine diagnostics and performance monitoring to ensure that farmers can maximize efficiency and reduce downtime.

AGCO – Fuse® Smart Farming

AGCO’s Fuse® Smart Farming Solutions offers a more open approach to precision agriculture. The Fuse® platform focuses on connectivity and data management, allowing equipment from various manufacturers to communicate and operate seamlessly. This open approach encourages innovation by supporting interoperability with third-party technologies, contrasting with competitor’s closed systems. Fuse’s technologies include guidance and steering, telemetry (AgCommand®), and variable rate application, ensuring optimized machine operation and resource use. AGCO’s commitment to providing mixed-fleet farming operations with practical, integrated farming solutions positions it as a key player in advancing agricultural technology.

Whether a closed platform or one built on open access, the current agricultural tech stacks all need the flexibility to integrate 3rd party data, devices, and connectivity.  

The Role of Dealers in Disseminating Innovation

Agriculture dealers play a crucial role in bringing technological advancements to farmers. These entities are not just sales channels, but vital partners in implementing and supporting AgTech solutions. Many of the leading Agriculture Dealers have been steadily increasing the tech footprint that they offer their customers.

Nutrien Ag Solutions

Nutrien Ag Solutions stands as the world’s largest provider of agricultural inputs and services, with over 1,500 retail outlets across 45 states. They are differentiated through a pioneering digital agriculture platform, Agrible, which offers predictive analytics and precision agronomic advice, thereby enhancing farmers’ ability to make data-driven decisions. This platform, alongside Nutrien’s comprehensive range of products and services, underscores the company’s commitment to integrating advanced technology for sustainable farming practices.

GROWMARK

GROWMARK, Inc., a leading agricultural cooperative with 590 retail outlets in 20 states, excels in providing a broad spectrum of agronomic products and services. It sets itself apart through FS Advanced Information Services (AIS), a suite of precision agriculture and data management solutions that optimize farm productivity and efficiency. GROWMARK’s strong cooperative model and technology-driven approach enable it to offer tailored, innovative solutions that meet the specific needs of its members and customers.

Helena Agri-Enterprises

Helena Agri-Enterprises, with its presence in 48 states through 467 retail outlets, is renowned for its comprehensive range of agricultural inputs and services. They stand out by offering proprietary products and the Agri-Intelligence platform, an advanced suite of precision agriculture tools and services aimed at maximizing crop yield and efficiency. This focus on technology and innovation, coupled with Helena’s extensive network, provides farmers with the resources and insights needed for optimized farm management.

CHS Inc.

Operating 270 retail outlets in 16 states and widely known as a leading global agribusiness, CHS Inc. is collectively owned by farmers, ranchers, and cooperatives across the U.S. CHS is distinguished by its investment in cooperative energy solutions and its partnership with innovative tech companies to implement automation and precision agriculture tools. These efforts are part of CHS’s strategy to enhance operational efficiency and sustainability for its members through cutting-edge technology and cooperative principles.

Simplot

Part of the J.R. Simplot Co., Simplot operates 250 retail locations in 33 states and is one of the largest privately held food and agribusiness companies in the world. It differentiates itself with the Simplot Grower Solutions platform, offering customized agronomic advice and a suite of precision agriculture technologies. Through strategic partnerships with tech companies, Simplot empowers farmers with advanced tools and data analytics for improved decision-making and sustainable agricultural practices.

RDO Equipment Inc.

With its extensive network of over 75 locations across the United States, RDO Equipment Inc. offers a vast inventory of new and used agricultural machinery from leading manufacturers, coupled with unparalleled customer service and support. The company provides expert advice, flexible financing options, and comprehensive after-sales services, including parts supply and maintenance, facilitated by a team of highly trained technicians. Emphasizing precision agriculture solutions, RDO Equipment Co. leverages cutting-edge technologies and data analytics to enhance the productivity, sustainability, and profitability of modern farming operations.

For dealers to support the machines and automated devices they sell, they need well-integrated connectivity solutions that allow them to operate support and troubleshooting channels remotely. While each dealer can choose to adopt one or even a few Tech Stacks to implement specific integrations and productivity enhancements, their customers have legacy equipment with connectivity needs and the potential to forge partnerships that require dealers to be more technology agnostic. Thus, an open platform for connectivity and innovation that supports interoperability of equipment across manufacturers is the best fit to move the industry forward.

Embracing the Future with Open Innovation in Connectivity

The genesis of productivity and innovation has come to rely on robust connectivity. While growers, dealers, innovators, and equipment manufacturers are all engaged and moving forward toward a more productive future, a unifying tech stack would benefit the industry while improving communication between all parties.

Kognitive Networks is committed to a vision of efficiency, advocating for technologies that promote an interconnected and innovative agricultural ecosystem. The future of agriculture depends on our ability to collaborate, innovate, and share openly, ensuring a sustainable and productive global food system for generations to come. To see how Kognitive Networks can drive innovation through better connectivity in agriculture and beyond, contact us and schedule a demo today.