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NNNCo deploys IoT network for cotton farmers

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(Image: NNNCo)

Australia’s cotton farmers will be gaining access to Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, with Australia’s National Narrowband Network Company (NNNCo) to deploy a 3 million-hectare network during 2019.

The publicly available LoRaWAN network, being built in partnership with Goanna Ag, is aimed at enabling IoT-powered irrigation solutions for the cotton industry.

NNNCo will extend its existing LoRaWAN network to cover the area across the Murrumbidgee, Lachlan, Gwydir MacIntyre, Namoi, and Macquarie valleys, and the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, with Goanna Ag funding the network through investment from Westpac and Graincorp Operations.

The network will provide data on soil moisture through the use of sensors including soil probes, rain gauges, local weather data, water and fuel tank monitors, and satellite imagery. This will enable better scheduling of irrigation, according to the companies.

The LoRaWAN network will enable this at a low cost compared to traditional cellular connectivity, Goanna Ag CEO Alicia Garden said.

“Every day that a cotton crop is under stress can cost a grower over AU$100 per hectare. We help growers schedule and apply just the right amount of water to use on crops at just the right time so they can optimise their performance and profit,” Garden said.

The first 100 gateways and 2,000 sensors will be deployed in cotton farms across New South Wales and Queensland this cotton season as part of Goanna Ag’s GoField and GoSense services. The company will also be offering data analytics.

“The network will significantly drive down the cost of connection for data communication and the cost of sensors using this technology,” NNNCo founder and CEO Rob Zagarella said.

“This will make the difference between isolated usage and widespread deployment of the sensors which will in turn provide more granular information and higher value to the industry.”

NNNCo in August also announced that it will be building out an IoT network for the City of Gold Coast covering more than 1,300 square kilometres, with plans to use the connectivity for digital water metering, waste management, and support for parks and fields.

“We’re developing a secure, scalable, commercial-grade IoT network that will enable infinite use cases by businesses, enterprise, and the council,” Gold Coast chief innovation and economy officer Ian Hatton said.

“We chose LoRaWAN technology because it supports large-scale deployments securely, reliably, and cost effectively. NNNCo have been engaged because of their proven ability to build the network and bring commercial solutions that have the potential to significantly add value to Gold Coast residents and businesses.”

NNNCo is similarly building out IoT networks across Newcastle and Lake Macquarie to enable smart city applications such as smart street lighting and water meters.

It has previously worked on IoT trials with Melbourne’s metropolitan water utilities to test coverage, data delivery, and battery life of digital water metering for City West Water, South East Water, and Yarra Valley Water.

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2021 Infiniti QX80 Review – Four-wheeled fratricide

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Sometimes buying smart involves hoops and hurdles, and other times it’s as easy as two dealerships probably occupying the same lot. So goes it for the 2021 Infiniti QX80, the automaker’s biggest and burliest SUV, making its pitch for seven or eight seat excellence but finding Nissan may have stolen its thunder along the way.

The QX80 has road presence, not least because of its scale. A full 17.5 feet long and over 6.5 feet wide, it’s unapologetically huge, draped in chrome and riding – in Premium Select 4WD trim – on 22-inch forged dark aluminum-alloy wheels. For the 2021 model year the line-up kicks off at $69,050 (plus $1,395 destination) for the QX80 Luxe; Premium Select adds all-wheel drive among other things, and starts at $76,450.

Under the vast hood is Infiniti’s familiar 5.6-liter V8 engine. It now produces a hefty 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque, funneled to all four wheels via a 7-speed automatic transmission and a two speed transfer case. It’ll tow up to 8,500 pounds, and do 0-60 mph in about six seconds.

You’ll want a straight road for that. Point the QX80 at the horizon and plant your right foot, and the beefy SUV hunkers down and surges forward. It doesn’t feel so much fast, as potent: I’ve never faced down a rhinoceros as it builds up to a gallop, but I suspect it’s a similar experience to the Infiniti’s acceleration.

At 5,706 pounds it weighs more than the average white rhino, however, and so corners are better taken at more sedate speeds. With the suspension dialed in at the soft end of the scale there’s no shortage of body roll if you try to hustle too rapidly, though the upshot is the sort of plush ride you used to have to drive a 70s Lincoln to achieve. Factor in “you only wanted to use one finger, right?” levels of power steering boost, and it’s clear this behemoth was made for cruising.

Within that niche, it does admirably. The V8 thrums in the background, but generally noise isolation keeps the irksome world outside at a long arm’s distance. Infiniti’s 7-speed slurs discreetly, but an eighth ratio for even quieter highway work wouldn’t go awry. Inside, meanwhile, there’s decent space for as many as eight, though usually Infiniti outfits the QX80 with seven seats. The second row is no compromise, with Premium Select spec getting captain’s chairs and a large center console between them.

The third row is a little smaller, but not so much that only the smallest kids need be slotted back there. Power adjustment helps balance their space with the trunk: there’s 16.6 cu-ft with all the seats up, 49.6 cu-ft with the third-row down, and a positively capacious 95.1 cu-ft with the third and second row down. The seats themselves are a little bulky, however, particularly the captain’s chairs.

Infiniti doesn’t stint on the leather, and there’s tri-zone climate control, heated – though not cooled – front seats, a power tailgate and power moonroof, remote start, and a heated steering wheel. A 360-degree camera, blind spot warnings and assistance, and lane departure warnings and detection are standard, too, as is Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a Bose 13-speaker audio system. Adaptive cruise is standard, too.

That all looks good on a checklist, but the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. Infiniti’s InTouch Dual HD infotainment system looks dated and is frustrating to use. The graphics – particularly in the navigation system – are tired, even with a recent update, and the whole thing feels disjointed. Factor in the profusion of buttons on the steering wheel and center console, and it just doesn’t feel as modern and sophisticated as its rivals or, indeed, a SUV with a near-$80k sticker as tested.

Infiniti has a problem, then, and like in the best horror stories it’s coming from inside the house. Nissan’s Armada has always been the QX80’s more affordable sibling, and since the 2021 Armada revamp it’s no longer the value compromise but the sensible pick, period.

Exterior styling is subjective, but there’s no argument that Nissan’s upgrade to the Armada’s center console puts it leagues ahead of what the QX80 makes do with. A single 12.3-inch wide-aspect touchscreen handles the heavy-lifting, with a straightforward panel of knobs and buttons for the HVAC. It looks better, and feels faster and more intuitive than the Infiniti’s system, and the fact is that the rest of the cabin feels eight- or nine-tenths to what the QX80 offers in terms of materials and comfort.

A top-spec 2021 Armada Platinum 4×4 is $67,900 plus destination, however, or about $10k less than the starting price of this midrange 2021 QX80 Premium Select 4WD. Both share the same engine – and the same driving dynamics – and both are fairly thirsty, the Infiniti rated for 13 mpg in the city, 19 mpg on the highway, and 15 mpg combined. I got about that with my own mixed driving.

Perhaps there’s more cachet in putting a QX80 on your driveway than the Armada, but seldom has paying for a prestige badge resulted in such an obvious compromise. The new Armada has gone from nipping at Infiniti’s heels to overtaking it, and it’s tough to argue against the wise money getting spent on the Nissan.

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Porsche’s tease of 2021 Taycan good news is coming true

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Porsche teased us with the promise of more range from its 2021 Taycan all-electric sedan, and sure enough with the official figures starting to filter through from the EPA it’s good news for EV buyers. Signs that the Taycan – which launched last year to unexpectedly rough results from the US Environmental Protection Agency – was about to improve began circulating earlier this week.

That was alongside the launch of the most affordable version of the electric sedan, the 2021 Porsche Taycan single-motor RWD. Priced from around $81,250 with destination, it came with a list of the automaker’s expected range numbers for the 2021 refresh of the whole Taycan line.

At the time, the EPA hadn’t caught up with its own official ratings, but those have started to appear. Currently, the 2021 Taycan 4S with the Performance Battery and the Performance Battery Plus are listed. The former is new for the 2021 model year, with a 79 kW battery; the latter has a larger, 94 kWh battery, and was rated at 203 miles for the 2020 model year.

This time around, the 2021 Taycan 4S Performance is rated for 199 miles and 79 MPGe combined, and the 2021 Taycan 4S Performance Plus is rated for 227 miles and 77 MPGe. That means the EPA’s numbers are in-line with what Porsche was predicting.

Still to come are the official figures for the rest of the Taycan range. That includes the 2021 Taycan Turbo, which Porsche is expecting to come in at 212 miles, an 11 mile improvement on the previous model year. The 2021 Taycan Turbo S should do 201 miles, a nine mile improvement, if Porsche’s figures hold up.

It’s not been an easy ride for Porsche when it comes to its EV and the EPA. Expectations were high for the Taycan when it first launched, only for the US agency to deliver a much more pessimistic estimate on range than the size of the car’s battery might suggest. Porsche countered with its own, independent testing which delivered much healthier numbers, but it was a cloud over the car’s debut.

Not that it seems to have dampened too much enthusiasm for the EV. Porsche delivered more than 4,000 of the cars in the US in 2020, limited more by production delays during the pandemic than demand, the automaker says. That’s despite launching the most expensive configuration first, and only later following up with more attainable Taycan trims.

Yet to be rated by the EPA is the new 2021 Panamera 4S E-Hybrid or the 2021 Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid. The plug-in hybrid versions of the luxury sedan were priced up today, both packing a larger 17.9 kWh battery compared to the 14.1 kWh of the 2020 model year PHEV. Porsche says they should get between 31 and 35 miles of electric-only driving from a full battery, though that’s on the European WLTP test cycle rather than the typically more demanding EPA version.

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2021 Porsche Panamera pricing revealed – and a track record for 620hp Turbo S

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Porsche has confirmed pricing for the 2021 Panamera range, and if you’ve been wondering just what the new Panamera Turbo S can do with 620 horsepower on tap, a new lap record demonstrates just why the big sedan is still the daddy. Headed to US dealerships in spring 2021, the new model year for the Panamera spans both a plug-in hybrid and more potent versions like the Panamera GTS.

While outwardly the cars are familiar, with mild styling changes across the board, Porsche has made some more meaningful changes. The 2021 Panamera GTS gets a performance increase, for example, squeezing a 20 horsepower bump from its twin-turbo V8. Power is now 473 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque.

The entry-level 2021 Panamera switches to Porsche’s 2.9-liter twin-turbo, with 325 horsepower, and with pricing starting at $87,200 (plus $1,350 destination). The Turbo S sedan and Sport Turismo are faster, cutting 0-60 mph by a half-second, to 2.9 seconds. The Panamera Turbo S Executive – the more plush version of the sedan – takes 3.0 seconds.

If your tastes run to electric, meanwhile, the 2021 Panamera 4S E-Hybrid is new. As we found in our first drive of the PHEV, it pairs a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 gas engine with an electric motor, for a total of 552 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. That puts it unexpectedly close to the old Panamera Turbo, in fact, while a larger, 17.9 kWh battery means more pure-electric range.

The new 2021 Panamera Turbo S gives the sedan line-up a fresh flagship. It has a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, good for 620 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque. The outgoing Panamera Turbo made 550 hp and 567 lb-ft.

To show just what it can do with that, Porsche took the new car to the Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta and put pro-driver Leh Keen behind the wheel. Together, they hit a 1 minute and 31.51 seconds lap of the 2.54 mile course. It makes it the fastest production sedan at the track.

It’s the same location that Porsche used to set a production EV lap time last year, taking the Taycan Turbo S electric sedan out and hitting a 1.33:88 minute record.

For the 2021 Panamera, all trims now get keyless entry, wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless phone charging as standard. EPA fuel economy numbers are still to be confirmed, with Porsche expecting them closer to the car’s arrival in dealerships.

Pricing for the 2021 Panamera 4 starts at $91,800 (plus destination), while the 2021 Panamera 4 E-Hybrid starts at $103,800. The 2021 Panamera 4S starts at $105,000, with the E-Hybrid version starting at $113,300. The 2021 Panamera GTS starts at $129,300, while the new 2021 Panamera Turbo S starts at $177,700. Finally, the 2021 Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid starts at $187,700.

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