What mobile plan should IMS Gateway use with a cellular modem?
IMS operates over both 3G and 4G mobile networks such as Spark, Vodafone and 2 Degrees. We recommend that mobile plans should be on a “pay monthly” account with at least 1.5 GB data allowance, not a prepay account. That way there is little risk of either the account running out of available data or funds.
The IMS gateway obtains data from the farm site from at least two sources: the sprinkler system and the sensor system. On some mobile plans this can seem like two different devices attached to one mobile account, known as tethering or Hotspotting.
On smartphones Hotspotting allows you to share a data connection with your friends and family. However, on some plans (for instance Spark unlimited data plans) this is not allowed unless an extra tethering option is purchased. If a mobile network detects that Hotspotting is occurring where it is disallowed, the network will stop allowing data through and display a warning message.
For this reason, we recommend choosing only mobile plans that allow Hotspotting or is enabled as an added extra.
How often is data sent from a gateway to IMS?
Farm sites that use fixed set sprinkler control send updates on the state of the sprinkler system every hour or so. In addition, the gateway will check to see that there is a connection between the gateway and the IMS cloud server.
Many farms also have sensor devices such as flow meters, soil moisture measurement, tank level monitoring and so on. This data is sent approximately every 15 minutes.
Some farms do not run irrigation but do monitor sensors, for example a farm just monitoring stock water tanks. This sensor information is sent about every 15 minutes.
How much data is sent from the gateway?
The amount of data transferred depends on the number of sprinklers and sensors on the farm. Each sensor sends only a very small amount of data (10s of bytes) every 15 minutes. When combined with sprinkler data the total amount sent is of the order of 1-3 MB per day often less and well within the 1.5 GB allowance. For example, 3 MB per day is only about 90 MB per month
There are other contributors. The Gateway runs on a small computer running Microsoft Windows. The operating system and other applications that use the internet also use data, though we configure the PC to use as little as possible the regular updates to windows cannot be entirely prevented and sometimes they are large (about 500 MB). We allow for this in the budget for data but on rare occasions when combined with the need to access the gateway for support purposes the 1.5 GB allowance will be exceeded and for this reason, we recommend that prepay plans are not used.
Why must there be an internet connection?
The IMS Irrigation Management System enables farmers to monitor and control their fixed set sprinklers from virtually anywhere by making all the information available via our cloud-based web application. Farms that run IMS must install our gateway hardware and provide an internet connection to it in order to work.
Commonly Farmers will use their home broadband connection and router to connect our gateway to the Internet and this is perfectly adequate. However, on farms where the gateway and the router are some distance apart this is not always feasible, for instance if the gateway is installed in the milking shed which does not have internet.
In these instances, we offer a cellular data modem which connects the gateway to the internet via a cellular connection if there is reasonable mobile data coverage in the area.
We can also offer point-to-point Wi-Fi links for pump sheds and dairy sheds housing a gateway to connect them back to the farm’s broadband router as another option.
For more information on the IMS internet connection options, please click here.