EcoSAT as a product and a concept was around long before its eventual release on the market. In fact I have been working on the product since 2012, and there were others working on it long before that. I suppose there was a lot of time spent 'finding our way' over the years. We didn't exactly know what the product should do and even then, once we thought we did know - we then didn't know exactly how to make it happen.
Before I started working full time with EcoSAT and even now really, I hear the comment from many people that you could just ask the farmers for feedback - but not surprisingly farmers aren't really interested in providing feedback. They might let you know when something doesn't work, but more often that not, no news is good news.
To give you an example, some of the early prototypes were built around what little feedback we did have. An all too common question - I just want to know if there is water. 'Easy' I said to myself as a bright eye'ed and bushy tailed designer. But it wasn't long after we delivered our first prototype that we discovered our simple little solution wasn't as useful as we had hoped it to be. There were so many issues it is embarrassing to think back to. Since then, the question has pretty much remained the same, but we have learned to be much more ambitious with our answers.
And that is really what created EcoSAT I suppose. The idea that there was no point having a product that could reliably answer just one question, 'Is there water'? because for the amount of work it was going to take to build a product to answer that question - why not have it answer as many questions as possible:
* Is my electric fence on
* Is the fence still effective
* How much water have i pumped today
* Whats the weather like out there right now
* And so on
The second major influence in the creation of EcoSAT (Speaking from the designers perspective of course) is the idea that a farm could be run somewhat like the largest imaginable factory.
* Raw products come in
* Something happens to them which is monitored and controlled closely
* Products go out
Back then I did have experience in automation and monitoring but these three steps make it sound so much simpler than it really was. At the same time - why did it need to be complicated? The concept is the same today in the way we do things, but in order to make it valuable there needed to be flexibility. Flexability in everything!
Flexibility in how they communicate, and so the different colour products were born.
* EcoSAT GOLD (Uses global satellite monitoring)
* EcoSAT BLUE (requires mobile data)
* EcoSAT GREEN (Links using UHF to GOLD and BLUE)
* EcoSAT BASIC (Nation wide satellite remote monitoring - stand alone)
Flexibility in how the information is delivered.
The first choice for simplicity was emails, easy done! But once again this method required the user to wait at the computer for their notifications to arrive. No way that is going to happen! So as the product grew and my understanding of what communications farms and stations have available to them we added SMS, but this also required mobile coverage. Not a fantastic addition but it did mean that you could be notified away from the computer so that was better. Next came the automatic voice dialer.
When I was first putting the voice caller together we could choose between a number of male or female voices. When I read that the female voice was called 'Alice' I just had to choose it since our head office is located in Alice Springs and to this day I have a picture of Alice Springs as the contact photo for when she (or should I say 'it') gives me a call. The thing that I like most about Alice is that for the real remote places where mobile coverage is just not a possibility, it often goes hand in hand with poor internet. But I have never seen a cattle station without at least a land line, which was perfect for Alice to work on.
The final method to notify the users was through our Apps. You might say that this required phone coverage or at least internet and your right it does. But the thing I like about this method is that for users who are constantly in and out of coverage areas the app will check for updates when it can, notifying you if something has happened while you were 'out bush'. It does the checking for you.
When I read back over the core features the EcoSAT system offers today it boils down to a few basic functions:
* A wide range of sensors (Virtually limitless. Seriously!)
* A wide range of connectivity options (3G/4G, Satellite, UHF)
* A wide range of notification options (SMS, Email, Apps, Website)
These functions have come to be the core part of our system because they are what the users rely on. Getting the right information in a convenient and timely manner is the starting point to building the worlds largest factories.