Is a New Era of Data Compatibility, Security on the Horizon?

March 13, 2014 04:19 AM
Is a New Era of Data Compatibility, Security on the Horizon?

Aaron Ault, a senior research engineer for the Open Ag Technology Group at Purdue University who also farms, says he shares two common frustrations when handling his operation’s field and yield data – compatibility and security.

"I know firsthand the frustration of working with closed systems on my farm," he says. "As a farmer, I need the freedom to select the right hardware, software and services for my operation. Also, farmers are naturally concerned with what will happen to their data when they sign up with service providers."

Ault has been tapped to serve as the project lead for the newly formed Open Ag Data Alliance (OADA), an open standards software project created in March to ensure farmers have full data access, security and privacy. Initial members include AgReliant Genetics, CNH Industrial, The Climate Corporation, Growmark, Purdue University’s Open Ag Technology Group, Valley Irrigation, Wilbur-Ellis Company and WinField.

OADA plans to develop open reference implementations of data storage, as well as transfer mechanisms that have standardized security and privacy protocols. The ultimate goal of this is 100% compatibility and interoperability among all data-collecting equipment. OADA also hopes to foster an online community at the website that will encourage participation through anything from contributing software coding expertise to simply providing suggestions for improvements.

OADA organizers say that to maintain the group’s integrity, it is equally important to define what the group is not – it’s not a lobby group, it will not provide cloud storage it will not produce or sell any products, and it will not endorse or oppose any products.

Greg Smirin, COO of Climate Corporation, says OADA will be able to draw inspiration from other industries – such as healthcare, banking and even the construction of the Internet itself – in its march toward totally open software.

"This challenge is not unique to agriculture," he says.

As just one example, Smirin says the Internet has a standard, authenticated method of showing a user they have arrived at a secure website, such as the padlock image, authenticity seals and a URL that begins with "https."

"We need to enable these kinds of mechanisms [in agricultural data sharing] in order for safe interactions to occur," he says.

Climate Corporation CEO David Friedberg adds that once open software standards were developed in these other industries, progress greatly accelerated. His hope is OADA can usher in high-speed progress to the agriculture industry.

Ault says he hopes OADA will also help champion an end of causing farmers to be what he refers to as "terms-of-service takers."

"We’ve had to put up with whatever terms that providers offer us," he says. "That has made farmers reluctant to share their data. OADA’s interoperability should provide farmers the freedom to use any provider they choose to trust."

For more information on OADA’s goals and guiding principles, visit

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