• Insights

The End of Landlines

February 15, 2021

Is your farm alarm system connected through a buried phone line? If so, your days are numbered. Since 2017, AT&T and other phone companies have been eliminating this dying infrastructure because it's expensive for them to maintain and is no longer in high demand. As of 2019, only 40% of households still have a landline.

Land Phones Are a Dying Breed

For rural America, this change creates extra challenges. The first is simply cellular and broadband availability. The second is the fact that many farms have telephone wires running to buildings, not just to the house. Lots of farmers put phones in the shop or office in the 1980s for convenience. They also buried a cable to the hog barns and chicken houses for their phone-based alarm systems.

Hog and Poultry Alarm Systems + Hotspots

Elimination of landlines means alarm systems such as AgriAlert or FarmAlarm need attention. In fact, many of you have probably already been forced by the phone company to switch to some type of hotspot or multiple hotspots. A hotspot device picks up a signal from the cell phone towers in your area. Dedicated hotspot devices use SIM cards, just like your cell phone. You have to buy a plan through the cell phone carrier and then insert a SIM card into your device.

The device then runs the raw data through a modem and creates a Wi-Fi network. You can connect to the network from your laptop, tablet, cell phone, or other device. Voila! You have the internet. Works great if you want to set up a laptop in your hog barn for your hog-barn alarm system.

Installing a hotspot may sound easy, but when you are trying to connect an old alarm system, that is not the case. The thing is, farm alarm systems more than a couple years old do not have wireless capability, so you will need another piece of electronic hardware to connect the alarm to the hotspot, usually via a bluetooth network. That device and the hotspot should also have a backup power source so the alarm system can still call you when the power goes out. Sounds cumbersome, confusing and expensive!

For this solution, you’ll no doubt have to hire a technician or get your grandkids to help set it up. And, it won’t work consistently. Connectivity will be an ongoing issue and it’s not cost-effective. The hardware alone is going to set you back $150–$200. Then your cell phone company will be charging you $35/month for the hotspot service. But, as the landline goes the way of the flip phone, you might not have much choice. Are you ready to spend $200 + $420 every year to keep the same functionality you have today? Disconnecting the alarm is not an option. So what do you do?

A Better Alternative for Barn Alarm Systems

Thankfully, there’s a better approach, a new option for you to evaluate and consider. BarnTalk is a new smart alarm system that can monitor your building conditions and notify you when there is an issue. BarnTalk is the technology that solves your landline problem and gives you an upgrade in features as well. And, it’s both practical and affordable.

BarnTalk mounts in your building, automatically connects with its wireless sensors, seamlessly connects to the internet and sends information and alarms to an easy-to-use mobile app on your phone. All you need to do is plug it in, turn it on, and place the wireless sensors in the rooms. From the app, you can always see the current sensor readings, view recent values, set alarm thresholds and receive notifications.

The BarnTalk communications gateway contains its own SIM card. It's a special SIM card that, when a tower or carrier connection becomes weak, automatically switches over to the strongest signal/carrier in your area. The gateway also contains a 24-hr backup battery, so if the power goes out you’re automatically notified and the farm alarm system keeps running.

The BarnTalk sensors are wireless and can connect up to a half of mile away and through building walls and metal roofs, so you can hang the sensors anywhere without needing to run wires and probes throughout the building. The batteries in these sensors last 2–3 years and will notify you when they are getting low.

Much like your phone-based farm alarm system, BarnTalk can be shared with your hired hand, neighbor, or family members so multiple people can be notified and help you keep tabs on your animals. These users can be added for free and selected from your phone’s contact list.

Why Wait?

BarnTalk not only replaces the functionality you have today, but offers new features as well. The BarnTalk app is easy to use, and gives you visibility into each sensor at any time. You can see averages, as well as highs and lows for each sensor for the previous two weeks. The mobile app functionality allows one person to respond to an alarm and automatically notify everyone else that the alarm is being responded to. Then, when an issue is resolved, BarnTalk captures the reason and informs the team of resolution.

BarnTalk monitoring and alarm system can easily be installed in less than two hours. The cost is about half what you paid for your existing system, plus you get the mobile app, with free lifetime upgrades.

BarnTalk is in final testing and we will also be offering additional sensors including a water consumption, dry contact, generator, and many more.

So don’t wait until your landline is abandoned by the phone company. Stop paying for your mobile hotspot today. Get a BarnTalk system and say goodbye to the 1980s and hello to 2020s. Connect your barn(s) to your smartphone and take advantage of today’s technology!

-Jim Ryken

Check it out on our website www.barntools.com/barntalk

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