-------------------------Monitor------------------------ The Newsletter for PC-Based Data Acquisition and Control Issue 127 www.windmill.co.uk February 2009 --------------------ISSN 1472-0221---------------------- Welcome to Monitor. This month we are pleased to feature a guest article by Dr Bruce Grieve, Director of Syngenta Sensors University Innovation Centre. Read how advances in sensors, telemetry systems and wireless communications could help agribusiness react to increased populations, water shortages and other challenges. I hope you find the newsletter useful, but should you want to remove yourself from our mailing list please go to http://www.windmill.co.uk/newsletter.html CONTENTS ======== * Affordable Sensors: Changing the Rules of the Game for Future Farming * Excel Corner: 8 Tips to Speed up Your Spreadsheet * DAQ News Roundup ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ Affordable Sensors: Changing the Rules of the Game for Future Farming ________________________________________________________ Read the full article at http://www.windmill.co.uk/agriculture.html In recent years, worldwide natural and population events are dramatically increasing the pressures on arable farming. First, and possibly foremost, is the projected growth in world population from 6.5 bn in 2006, to 8 bn by 2025 and 9.3 bn in 2050. Such headline figures are exacerbated by population demographics in the increasingly prosperous developing nations, notably China and India. The wealth generation in the urban regions of these 'economic tigers' is causing an economic migration away from near subsistence level farming and into the cities. Another effect of increasing disposable income, is the trend towards a high protein - ostensibly meat - diet. To rear poultry for protein, rather than derive it directly from crops, requires around four times the land area in order to deliver the feed volumes. The statistics are even worse for cattle which require approximately eight times as much land area for production of feed. In addition to the demands placed on agriculture in feeding a growing populace, the competition for fresh water is having a negative impact on conventional farming practices. Agriculture is the principal user of clean water with around 70% of all rainfall going into irrigation and other farm duties. A third, and related factor, is climate change which is giving rise to more arid environments in some of the worlds most important farming areas. Even those countries which are not forecast to see a reduction in rainfall are not immune, as the unpredictable nature of the weather in intensively farmed areas means that harvesting cannot be routinely scheduled and may be cancelled altogether if saturated soils prevent farm machinery being deployed. A further secondary effect of climate change is the variability in crop pathogen occurrence and disease spread. A recent example being the UK potato harvest of 2008 where the damp summer resulted in the highest occurrence of potato blight since the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840's. On top of these global trends is an increasing awareness by politicians of the importance of securing their own country's domestic food and fuel supplies. In the next couple of decades numerous governments in the oil based economies intend to derive substantial volumes of their transport needs from second generation energy crops. As a consequence, yields from existing arable land must increase by 50% if the current 400M hectares of Amazonian rain forest are to be protected. Historically Latin America has provided for the shortfall in food for Asia. However, this is unlikely to be sustainable in the future. Given this context, the worldwide implications for farming dictate that radical changes have to occur to avoid devastation. The Wireless Sensors Revolution =============================== The ever increasing access to information on the move, from a combination of low-cost electronics, wireless telemetry and novel sensor science, has already changed the way we shop for goods, travel around, communicate with colleagues or spend our leisure time. This revolution is set to continue apace as micro- and nano-engineering are merged with information science and inexpensive printable plastic semiconductors. These changes have been catalysed by a number of circumstances which are mostly unrelated to the agricultural sector. Examples include the US's 'Enhanced-911' phone capability which embeds a new generation of low cost GPS receivers within mobile phone handset to pinpoint the location of a call made to the emergency services. Such systems are rapidly increasing the availability of cost effective wireless enabled positioning technology that may act as a platform for sensing systems. Again in the US, the supermarket chain Wall-Mart has dictated to its top 100 suppliers that they must provide Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags on all their inventory. Existing tags are too expensive to meet this need without increasing costs to supermarket consumers so the industry is moving towards printable polymer electronics in an attempt to hit the goal of a sub 1 cent tag. Such circuits techniques may then be used to form disposable sensor platforms for 'smart item' tagging and other duties. The growth in portable computing has also given rise to the ubiquitous availability in homes, businesses and cities of RF bandwidth with direct access to internet portals. In addition to the development of the new generations of electronic hardware there is a matching increase in device intelligence. Closer to the agricultural sector dramatic reductions in gene mapping costs are allowing scientist to examine the methods by which parasites detect their hosts and to emulate these within sensor systems. From this background, agriculture is equally well placed to take advantage of the sensors, electronics and information revolution as other customer driven sectors. The lack of strategic take up of these agri-electronics technologies by any of the major agriscience businesses can be seen as an opportunity rather than a hindrance. Charting the Landscape for Agri-Electronics in Farming ====================================================== In order for a biotech business to take advantage of sensing and informatics it is necessary to set into context how such systems may offer benefits to the food and farming sector. Once the potential market drivers have been identified then the technology challenges can be road mapped to address these demands. Route to developing Sensor Systems for Agriculture ================================================== At the one extreme the launching of an in-house agri- electronics design team is a possibility but this approach has a number of limitations, notably the lead-time and costs of recruiting skilled personnel as well as maintaining a suitably sized group and associated infrastructure. At the other extreme is the intelligent purchaser model, whereby the necessary systems are acquired from third parties such that they meet an agreed specification. This has some superficial appeal for those applications where a clear market demand can be defined for existing electronic systems which are currently almost capable of doing the duty. These types of potential products are few and far between as such obvious exemplars will typically have been previously exploited. The intelligent purchaser approach is also deficient for introducing truly novel technologies as blindly following market-pull is unlikely to make the necessary linkages between the status-quo and the future possibilities. This may be summarised by the phrase; 'how can you buy a technology that does not exist to enable a market that is not currently possible'. Syngenta have adopted the University Innovation Centre (UIC) model. This addresses these issues by adapting an open innovation approach similar to that pioneered by Rolls-Royce, the aerospace company, and their University Technology Centres (UTCs). The Syngenta concept has parallels to the UTCs in having ring-fenced academics tasked with delivering the medium term proof-of-concept technologies, via direct business funding, and the related longer term underpinning sciences, via grant proposals in partnership with the Research Councils. Where the critical difference lies is in the scope of the technologies addressed. Unlike the UTCs, which are designed to replace and enhance previous in-house core capabilities, the Syngenta concept is to use the Centres to identify and deliver technologies which are currently not core to the business and may never be core. The model is that the UICs work alongside the company's business development teams to identify the markets that can be opened up by having access to hitherto unavailable enabling technologies. They then deliver the prototypes for verification in field trials and at that point handover the now proven technologies under a Syngenta / University license to third party device manufacturing companies. About the Syngenta Sensors University Innovation Centre ======================================================== The Syngenta Sensors UIC researches sensing systems and information communications technologies for agriculture and farming. The Centre is working in several areas, including: new sensing technologies; RFID; wireless sensor networks; energy harvesting; and information and knowledge management. Read the full article at http://www.windmill.co.uk/agriculture.html ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ Excel Corner: 8 Tips to Speed up Your Spreadsheet ________________________________________________________ In Microsoft Excel, performance is affected by the way data and formulae are arranged on the worksheet. Here are some options to try to speed up your spreadsheet. 1. Organize your worksheets vertically. Use only one or two screens of columns, but as many rows as possible. (If you have imported readings collected by the Windmill Logger program then your data will be arranged this way.) 2. According to Microsoft, when possible, a formula should refer only to the cells above it. As a result, your calculations should proceed strictly downward, from raw data at the top to final calculations at the bottom. 3. If your formulae require a large amount of raw data, you might want to move the data to a separate worksheet and link the data to the sheet containing the formulae. 4. Formulae should be as simple as possible to prevent any unnecessary calculations. If you use constants in a formula, calculate the constants before entering them into the formula, rather than having Excel calculate them during each recalculation cycle. 5. Reduce, or eliminate, the use of data tables in your spreadsheet or set data table calculation to manual. (A data table lets you see how different input values affect the results of a formula. You create one with the Data menu.) 6. Activate the Automatic Except Tables option. From the Tools menu choose Options and then Calculation. 7. Do not use the Precision As Displayed option on the Calculation tab, as this will slow recalculation. (Precision As Displayed calculates numbers based on their formatted values rather than on their actual values. It is typically used to prevent rounding errors with currency, or when using lookup or comparison functions.) 8. Array formulae and Lookup functions can significantly slow down your spreadsheet. Could you use pivot tables or database functions instead? Related Topics: =============== Data Acquisition in Excel Array Formulae Pivot Tables Optimizing Worksheets for Fastest Calculation (Microsoft) Excel Best Practices (Ozgrid) ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ DAQ News Roundup ________________________________________________________ Welcome to our roundup of the data acquisition and control news. If you would like to receive more timely DAQ news updates then grab our RSS newsfeed at https://www.windmillsoft.com/monitor.xml. Read http://www.windmill.co.uk/newsfeed.php for notes on how to display the news on your own web site, read it via e-mail, mobile phone or in your browser. Self-Organising Sensor Network A University College London spinout has launched a versatile wireless sensor network inspired by the behaviour of creatures that act together, such as flocks of birds. Senceive's Flatmesh product allows hundreds of sensors to form a robust, non-hierarchical radio network 'mesh', where each unit communicates with its neighbours rather than via central routers. Source: The Engineer https://www.theengineer.co.uk/Articles/310036/ Temperature Controller Market Growing Only in Asia-Pacific The worldwide market for temperature controllers is in decline. Of the major geographic regions - Americas, Asia-Pacific and EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) - VDC Research Group found that the only temperature controller markets experiencing growth are those in the Asia-Pacific region. There continues to be a trend in temperature control from manual control, to temperature controllers and onto PLCs, PCs, and DCSs. Source: VDC Research http://www.vdcresearch.com/_documents/pressrelease/ Highest Capacity Flash Memory Yet SanDisk has announced a significant advance in flash-memory technology that enables 64 gigabits of data to be stored on a chip the size of a fingernail. The new, more spacious flash chips do this by holding four bits per memory cell, as opposed to the standard one or two bits per cell. Source: Technology Review http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/22108/?a=f IEEE Approves 1902.1 Standard for Wireless Visibility Networks The IEEE has approved a new wireless standard which improves upon the network protocol known as RuBee. RuBee is a bidirectional, on-demand, peer-to-peer, radiating, transceiver protocol operating at wavelengths below 450 Khz. This protocol works in harsh environments with networks of many thousands of tags and has an area range of 3 to 15 m. Source: IEEE http://standards.ieee.org/announcements/ Sensors Cut Food Waste Today many of the foodstuffs we eat in the UK are grown in warmer climates of the world and can have travelled thousands of miles before their journey ends on a plate. But exposure to extreme heat or humidity during the journey can mean vast amounts of produce are no longer fit to eat by the time they reach the UK. Now scientists at Sygenta Sensors UIC are developing low-cost radio frequency identification (RFID) sensors that provide real-time information about the produce, allowing problems to be detected before it's too late. Source: The University of Manchester http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/ ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ * Copyright Windmill Software Ltd * Reprinting permitted with this notice included * For more articles see http://www.windmill.co.uk We are happy for you to copy and distribute this newsletter, and use extracts from it on your own web site or publication, providing the above notice is included and a link back to our website is in place. An archive of previous issues is at http://www.windmill.co.uk/newsletter.html and an index of articles at http://www.windmill.co.uk/newsletter.html Windmill Software Ltd, PO Box 58, North District Office, Manchester, M8 8QR, UK Telephone: +44 (0)161 833 2782 Facsimile: +44 (0)161 833 2190 E-mail: [email protected] http://www.windmill.co.uk/ https://www.windmillsoft.com/
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