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Mobile to the Max

Mobile technology began with cellphones that let you, well, talk. We’re way past that now. Are you getting the most out of your smartphone?

My first cellphone was a Motorola bag phone, and when I first hoisted that puppy into my tractor back in the ’90s, I was pretty sure it represented the pinnacle of modern communication. It weighed about five pounds, was the size of a breadbox, and had enough wattage to double as an arc welder.

Mobile to the MaxWe’ve come a long way baby. Over the years, we’ve added a lot of functionality to mobile devices that allow us to communicate in ways we couldn’t even imagine possible 20 years ago. In fact, a smartphone does so many things that it challenges us to get the maximum benefit from all it can do. You have to be aware of your smartphone’s capabilities and develop what I call a “mobile mindset.”

Say your combine breaks down and it’s not something you can immediately diagnose. Maybe it’s losing power or shutting down randomly, which is affecting performance. You have a smartphone, so obviously you can call the combine technician at the dealership—but you can also do much more.

Take a picture of the serial number of the combine and anything else that would be helpful for the mechanic to see. If the machine is making a strange noise, record it on your phone. Email the picture and audio files to the mechanic or parts department before you call.

Better yet, have a real-time video conversation using a smartphone app like Skype, Google Hangouts or FaceTime (iPhones only) so you can let the mechanic see and hear the machine for a virtual assessment. Just remember that both you and the person you’re talking to must have the same app on your phones for this to work.

You can use the same approach for sharing what you see in the field with your agronomist, or even to give your veterinarian an indication of animal health issues.

If an in-person visit is unavoidable, create a GPS location with the mapping software on your phone and email it to the mechanic to make it easy to find you.

Even social media can enter the picture. If you’re on Twitter, post a message or a photo from your smartphone: “Having a problem with my Acme 5230 combine. Losing power at random intervals. Anyone else experience this? #acmecombine” You may be surprised by the number of helpful responses you get and how quickly they come.

If you have employees or family members who need to be informed of your situation, consider an app such as Voxer that makes your smartphone function like a walkie-talkie so you can communicate with the entire team just as you would with a
two-way radio or mic phone.

Time can be the most precious of all commodities for farmers, and the mobile mindset is all about efficiency. If you can use these communication tools to save a lengthy drive (particularly if it’s only to find out that the necessary part is not in stock), then you’re winning.

Situations in which you need to use these communication tools may not come up often, but it’s good to know what you can do with a smartphone when the need arises.

Lastly, and most importantly, keep the phone on your person when you leave the cab. if you get in trouble, a cellphone could save your life.


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