Rapid advancements in autonomous machinery are providing the first glimpses of what an autonomous future may look like. From autonomous orchard sprayers to autonomous trenching operations, the concept of machines that can operate independently with little or no human intervention is gaining momentum. However, for autonomous systems to function effectively, connected workflows are essential.
Connected workflows are a system of processes that are linked together to enable the efficient transfer of data and information between different elements of an autonomous site/farm, namely the machine, cloud software and people. In the context of autonomy, connected workflows are essential in ensuring that different components of an autonomous system effectively coordinate with each other.
A great example of connected workflow in our everyday lives is rideshare applications. We use an app to achieve the task of getting us from point A to point B in the least amount of time with the least amount of cost. Algorithms provided by these apps enable a seamless workflow to pair us, the passenger, with a driver that meets our time/cost requirements. It provides us with updates on when our driver will arrive and when we will reach our destination. This workflow is connecting a vast array of riders to a vast network of vehicles which in turn, enables us to achieve our task of getting from Point A to Point B with minimal time and cost.
In situations where multiple systems are operating in the same environment, connected workflows enable greater coordination between different autonomous systems. Take for example, a trenching operation in a construction environment with multiple autonomous and human operated machines. The trenching machine may be autonomous while the truck hauling the material may be human operated. A connected workflow allows the software to optimize both the trenching operation and the number of trucks required based on haul time and truck capacity. It will also provide instruction to the human operator(s) when pulling up and departing from the trench site. Connected workflows enable these machines to communicate with each other and their human counterparts, ensuring that they operate in a coordinated and efficient manner while avoiding collisions or other issues.
In addition to improved task efficiency and human machine interaction, autonomous workflows enable strategic site/farm optimization and provide tactical data. Autonomous and highly automated operations can now be greatly optimized based on cost estimation, scheduling and machine path plans. A connected workflow delivers updates in near real time, based on data flowing back and forth between the site/farm for near real-time decision making and optimization to complete the project.
Connected workflows also enable greater scalability. As autonomous systems become more prevalent, the number of systems in operation will increase. Connected workflows enable different autonomous systems to communicate with each other and work together effectively. This will be essential in situations where multiple autonomous systems are operating in the same environment, such as on construction sites and farms.
Trimble is focused on developing the technology required to automate machines and the software and workflows required to drive greater efficiency in the overall project/farm operation. With our rich suite of cloud software, machine control technology and IoT solutions coupled with our 20+ years of domain knowledge, we are well positioned to achieve this objective. As autonomous systems become more prevalent, the importance of connected workflows will only increase, becoming a critical component of any successful autonomous solution.