There have been more than 900 grain-bin entrapment deaths nationwide since 1964, according to data compiled by Purdue University’s Agricultural Safety and Health Program. Illinois had 10 grain entrapments in 2010 alone. Now there is a new app that’s helping to ensure a grain rescue tube can always be located. The Illinois Grain Rescue Tube Locator app uses a GPS system to locate the nearest grain rescue tube in relevance to your location, a key component when saving farm workers from drowning in grain filled storage bins. In other words it will tell you which fire department or rescue team nearest you has a grain rescue tube. For those not familiar with a “grain rescue tube,” it’s generally a 5 foot-tall aluminum cylinder that comes in four curved pieces. Firefighters or rescuers place each piece of the tube carefully around a victim who has fallen into a grain bin. They then latch the tube together to help prevent more grain from pushing up against the victim. The rescuers then begin to scoop the grain out of the tube, helping to give the victim more room to breath. These tubes have been used to save numerous lives since they were first introduced about 8 years ago. Now you can track down the nearest tube with just the click of a button. Remember, about 40% of last year’s 33 grain entrapments across the country ended in death. Meaning response time is critical. Currently the app only maps the location of available grain safety tubes in Illinois. The Illinois Corn Marketing Board, together with the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois (creators of the app) are urging other states to consider investing in similar life saving tools. Check out this video preview of the App in action. The actual app is available for download in the iTunes and Google Play stores.
This might seem like a story that doesn’t belong in the Ag section, but with farmers of all ages incorporating smartphones and mobile technology into their operations it’s becoming more important. In terms of the big picture, the global smartphone audience surpassed the 1 billion mark in 2012 and according to a study done by eMarketer, is estimated to total 1.75 billion by the end of this year. Pew Research takes it a bit further and tells us at the local level some 58% of US adults own a smartphone, including 43% in rural areas. Some private estimates are projecting about 50% of all US farm operators are using a smartphone. Of course these phones not only allow farmers to make calls and texts when out in the fields, they also give farmers access to apps that are helping them run their operations from the palm of their hand. It seems like every day there’s a new app built and released specifically for farmers. Farmers making the jump into the smartphone market for the first time have to make a tough decision…to go with the Apple or the Android based operating system. You might be surprised, but Apple only has 42% of the US smartphone market– and merely 12% of the global market — but in my opinion the company is starting to more clearly dominate the mobile tech battle. Data collected form “Black Friday” proves the same, where Apple’s iOS traffic accounted for 34.2 percent of total online traffic, more than double that of Google’s Android. In addition iOS sales accounted for 21.9 percent of total online sales, nearly quadruple that of Android, which drove only 5.8 percent of all online sales. Bottom-line, the Android operating system might have greater market share, but Apple’s iOS operating system is more popular when it comes to usage. Therefore if you’re a company looking to roll out a new app, you absolutely want to make certain it works best on iOS because that’s where the most action is taking place. With this in mind you have to conclude when the biggest agribusinesses like Deere, Case, DuPont, Monsanto, DTN, CME etc., roll out new technology the Apple platform will be of huge importance. Yes, you may have to pay for certain apps on the Apple platform that you don’t have to pay for on Android, but I truly believe with Apple you will have access to the “best” for years to come. Moral of the story, the “Apple vs. Android” battle has been going on for several years, but from my perspective I think Apple is starting to gain an edge. If you’re looking for a NEW phone this holiday season, I would go with the iPhone 6.
How many of you have an old notebook where you store all the maintenance records, serial numbers and pertinent details about your farm vehicles? Well guess what – there’s an app for that! TractorPal can keep track of all your farm vehicles including not just your tractors and combines, but your truck, your 4 wheeler, the backhoe, sprayers, lawn mowers and attachments too. So right on your phone, you’ve got a clear picture of all your on-farm equipment where you can add other important information as well, like the purchase date, price paid, original mileage and anything else you don’t want to forget. It has tools for managing vehicle maintenance too, putting the history of things like oil changes and tire replacements at your fingertips. What’s more, it can send reminders when service is due, and you can customize the timeframe for those. For every part you replace or filter you change, you can keep the part and serial numbers stored in the app so you aren’t at a loss the next time you’re at the parts store! Another convenient feature is the ability to email reports of all those details, whether it’s to yourself, the dealership or a prospective buyer. One thing I’ve come to realize is it really takes someone with a farming background to develop technology that is actually useful to farmers. TractorPal is no exception. Keith King, one of the app’s co-creators, comes from a long farm tradition – he told me he’s traced his family history back to the 1700’s and all along the way, they’ve been farmers. He grew up on his family’s farm in South Dakota and got the idea for TractorPal directly from those equipment notebooks that his father and grandfather always had. Being a big computer fan his whole life, it was only natural that he realized there had to be a better way to keep track of it all. He and his partner came up with the idea for TractorPal in October of last year and, with help on the technical side from a developer, launched the app in March. Right now, all of the data is stored on the user’s smartphone, but in the next couple of weeks they’re rolling out a new version that will sync all the data to the cloud. The app is available for both iOS and Android and can be downloaded for free. The free version limits it to just one vehicle, but for $4.99 you can open it up for unlimited use. If you’re looking for a more convenient way of tracking your vehicle inventory and maintenance, check out more details about TractorPal here!
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