Cheers to Wi-Fi - Page 4

By Lisa Phifer

November 15, 2007

Growing market

If Scheid's experience is any indication, wireless has tremendous potential to aid the winemaking industry. At this summer's Wine Industry Technology Symposium in Napa, participants discussed all kinds of vineyard information systems, including industry-specific software and hardware products that leverage networking for data access, process automation, and systems integration. Other novel uses include fermentation tank management, BATF Form 702 and Bioterrorism Act compliance reporting, and vine-to-bottle traceability and costing.

So why didn't I run into more of these applications during my brief road trip? For starters, wine making is a primarily an agricultural activity, less accustomed, equipped, or staffed with IT systems than your typical office park business. Larger, distributed vineyards and wineries clearly have the most to gain and invest in wireless applications, but smaller vintners will probably follow as industry use spreads, familiarity grows, and prices drop.

Furthermore, I focused exclusively on Wi-Fi, but 802.11 isn't the only wireless game in town. For example:

  • Scheid also uses Acrolon TankNET, a Web-based fermentation control system that provides real-time, centralized access to tank thermostat readings. Thermostats can be connected by Ethernet or powerline "wireless Ethernet."
  • Monterey Pacific in the Central Coast uses SureHarvest for Vineyards, a fully-integrated vineyard management software system that supports varied input devices for field data collection, including PDAs connected via Bluetooth, LAN, or WAN.
  • Provenance Vineyards in St. Helena use POS Resources Winery Solutions. This tasting room point-of-sale system, customized for the wine industry, is supplied with all necessary hardware, including kiosks, hand-held scanners, and wireless networking.

Many other wireless-enabled products are now available for use by the wine industry. Today's early adopters understand that wineries and vineyards can benefit from this kind of applied information technology. A few years from now, I would expect to see more wireless activity in the valley—including, but certainly not limited to, Wi-Fi. After all, when it comes to wireless technology, the sky's the limit.

Lisa Phifer owns Core Competence, a consulting firm focused on business use of emerging network and security technologies. She has been involved in the design, implementation, assessment, and testing of wireless products and networks for nearly 15 years.

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