Standardisation and efficiency are guaranteed with ISOBUS technology

By Ronaldo Soares, Forest Manager at Hexagon's Agriculture division.


27 May 2021

Hexagon makes ISOBUS technology available for the forestry sector in 2021. Since January, the market has already been able to enjoy the benefits that this technology provides through the solutions of the HxGN AgrOn platform.

What is ISOBUS?

ISOBUS is an open standard of interconnection of electronic systems developed to meet the forestry and agricultural machinery. It allows communication between sensors, actuators and controllers, enabling with this standard the exchange of data between tractors, implements and onboard controllers of different brands.

Standardisation is regulated by ISO 11783, but has been nicknamed “ISOBUS” as a way to compare with "Can Bus", an integrated communication network in which each manufacturer creates its own protocols.

The intention of ISOBUS is precisely to go in the opposite direction: to define equal protocols for all manufacturers, allowing communication between equipment of all companies. The international standard has been established and is certified by the Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation (AEF).

What are the benefits of ISOBUS?

The great benefit that ISOBUS brings is the guarantee of full compatibility between tractors and agricultural or forestry implements, regardless of brands and models.

Before the protocol, each manufacturer used its own language. If, in a single tractor, four solutions from different brands were used, four different adjustments would be necessary, which made the process more complex and expensive, generating a major problem for the sector.

With ISOBUS, there is full compatibility of data transfer between systems and software, which ensures fast and noise-free communication, improving the accuracy of activities and automation of equipment.

When the standard is not used, the machinery needs a cabling structure for each sensor and a screen for each implement. In the case of the same tractor that is used in several stages of an operation, it is common to find cabins full of interfaces, which hinders handling and makes the activities more complex.

The use of ISOBUS, on the other hand, guarantees an organised installation and a much simpler visualisation. The excess of embedded appliances and unnecessary connection cables are eliminated, leaving a single display to connect the tractor and its implements, ensuring the performance of operations with maximum efficiency.

In addition, with an ISOBUS display, it is possible to read much more tractor information than it would normally offer. Data collection, which is available to the operator in real time by means of a single monitor, helps in the use of the full potential of machinery, in making better decisions and in the consequent increase in productivity.

How does ISOBUS work?

When all agricultural and forestry products use the same language - as proposed by ISOBUS — all implements that are connected to a tractor will be read automatically and their data will be loaded into the same onboard controller.

In an ideal scenario, all products in the world would leave the factory with this standard language. However, as this is not what happens in practice, there are solutions that allow an adaptation, such as HxGN AgrOn ISOBUS Display - a system that enables the implementation of the international protocol through an embedded technology.

The system has two main features. One of them is the Universal Terminal (UT), which allows machines to operate an implement with any terminal and work with different accessories. The other is the Task Controller (TC), which records and provides information on operations and assists in planning. The operator and agricultural or forestry manager may choose to read any data available, according to their situation.

In a hot region, for example, they may want to check the temperature of the cooling system; while, in another location or activity, it may be important to view the hydraulic pressure. This flexibility and diversity of information available is an essential point of ISOBUS.

What are the challenges for deployment of ISOBUS?

ISOBUS in the agricultural market is already working well in some regions, such as Australia, European countries, the United States and Canada, but in other markets, such as Brazil, there is still a major regulatory challenge with manufacturers.

For the forestry sector, in particular, the world reality is a little more difficult, considering that the industry of manufacturers in the area is still small - normally, what happens is an adaptation of agricultural equipment. This, as well as the lack of standardisation, can be major obstacles to the introduction of these new technologies.

However, given the current scenario, the expectation for the coming years is a growth, in broad steps, of the implementation of ISOBUS. Certainly, by generating more efficiency and precision in agricultural and forestry operations, the standardisation of communication in machinery is the future of the sector.