Dallas Semiconductor Corp is quietly making money with Touch Memory Buttons, which are the result of a breakthrough called one-wire technology. This enables chip functions to be merged to a single connection instead of multiple connections. According to the Wall Street Journal, they have been customised for agricultural use by Agricultural Data Systems Inc of […]
Dallas Semiconductor Corp is quietly making money with Touch Memory Buttons, which are the result of a breakthrough called one-wire technology. This enables chip functions to be merged to a single connection instead of multiple connections. According to the Wall Street Journal, they have been customised for agricultural use by Agricultural Data Systems Inc of Laguna Niguel, California and are coin sized metal buttons that crop pickers pin to their shirts or drop in a pocket. Stuffed with an unusually compact chip, the buttons serve as mini databases, telling payroll computers how many boxes of fruit each field worker gathered. The buttons can be read in the field with a wand-like probe that records the name of the worker, the type and quality of crop, and information, such as the time, date and location of the field being picked. The information can be immediately downloaded into a laptop computer, enabling a grower to monitor how the harvest is going. At the end of the day, the data is transferred to a payroll computer. Farmers get a more accurate account of the work going on in their fields, and can use the buttons to tell which fields are more productive, which have riper crops and how better to deploy their picking crews. It cuts administrative costs and improves office efficiency by replacing punch cards or a system of giving tokens to each worker for each box of fruit or vegetables and manually counting the punch cards or tokens at the end of the day; data which then has to be entered into a computer. At present roughly 35 California and Florida farms are using them. This application for touch memory technology is still so new that the United Farm Workers of America has just begun an examination of how it might affect union members. In one instance workers became alarmed the system would enable owners to track them from job to job, in effect keeping a record of their employment history. The concern was that the system could enable farmers to favour some workers and blacklist others. Dataquest sees the button competing successfully against bar coding, a read-only technology. With touch memory stored information can be amended to be kept up to date. Already, the buttons are being used by the US Postal Service and Ryder Truck. In March, Ryder System Inc announced it would mount the buttons on rental trucks and use them to store service records. The system is expected to cut paperwork, reduce truck downtime and improve the efficiency of maintenance shops. The buttons are installed on mailboxes and read by carriers. The Postal Service learns whether boxes are being picked up on time or whether they’ve been missed. Dallas Semiconductor says the buttons could contribute significant revenues in three to four years, having brought in $6m of business last year and possibly double this year. Agricultural Data systems says that a system to serve a farm with 100 employees costs about $8,000.