Remember my husband's little brush with farm un-safety? Well, after I wrote about it last year, the good folks at GSI contacted us and said they occasionally like to have farmers try out their products. They thought we might be, ahem, good candidates for one of their WatchDog dryer monitoring units.
Essentially, the WatchDog lets you remotely monitor your dryer, via internet access or direct connect – from the house, smartphone, farm, wherever. Or in other words, you don't have to get up in the night, drive to the dryer, check the dryer, fall out of the dryer, get knocked out, wake up and drive yourself home. In fact, you don't even have to leave your bed!
It's beautiful, really. And, factoring in sleep and safety, may well be worth the $2,330 price tag.
This is what checking the dryer has amounted to this fall: the laptop next to the bed. John gets more rest, during what is the most draining and stressful time of the year for him. And I get peace of mind, knowing he is less likely to sustain a head injury in the middle of the night. I really appreciate that.
From the laptop, John can do everything but fire up the dryer. He can shut it down, he can check temperatures, adjust heat and drying settings and monitor grain flow. It's like magic.
It didn't take long to set up either. Our GSI dealer brought the computer board by one day earlier this fall. It took John about 10 minutes to mount it inside the Vision Control box. He figures he spent another 15 minutes setting up the WatchDog with internet address numbers.
How we came to get an internet connection at the dryer site is another story. We had done some checking last winter and learned we had three choices:
1/ Direct connect. If the dryer's within 1,500 feet of a house with a computer, you can run a cable from the house to the dryer. No internet necessary. (No dice for us; house is 3 miles from dryer.)
2/ Cellular modem. From a cellular company, a cell modum is installed inside the dryer control box, connecting the dryer to the internet. (This would've been an option for us but an expensive one. The modem ran $800-900, then a monthly $9 fee. However, the company we spoke with couldn't confirm that the monthly fee wouldn't increase based on usage. They were a little sketchy on a lot of details, actually.)
3/ Ethernet connection. A stand-alone internet connection, at the dryer. (This is what we did.)
As it turned out, a neighboring farmer had been talking to DerbyNet, a local internet service provider, about getting internet service at his farm. At that time, DerbyNet told him they didn't offer service in his area but if they could get an antennae "on top of that grain leg down the road" (that would be ours), the farmer could get service. So the neighbor talked to John and John called DerbyNet. They were a dream to work with; they said if he could find five people willing to sign on, they'd put up the antennae. John found eight; several more are waiting for contracts on their current service to expire, then will sign on with DerbyNet.
(Score for one more option for rural internet access.)
Once the antennae was in place and an internet connection was secured, it was a matter of hooking up wires and connecting the WatchDog with a laptop. Basically, John followed the instructions in the WatchDog manual and it all worked like a charm. We can even check it from my iPhone.
The verdict? Handy. Safer. Easy. Smooth as butter.