Guest Columns


Technologies to look at in 2016 and how they can change the industry

Lawson Thalmann

Lawson Thalmann is the director of business development for Vault Technologies. He contributes this column exclusively for Cheese Market News®.

It’s 2016 and dairy prices are still low, but tech innovation is as high as ever. Everyday, there are new innovations changing the way we live, work and play. But what’s the secret behind these apps and tools? Is the dairy industry finally starting to catch on to the capabilities they provide? Here are three new technologies to pay attention to in 2016.

• Cloud computing

Have you ever absentmindedly nodded along as your friends or even your phone mentions the cloud, without actually knowing what that means? You’re not alone. The cloud is an intangible place where your data is stored, ready to be accessed on any device that has Internet connection. If you’ve saved something on a cloud, then you can access it on your computer, smartphone or tablet. This contrasts to the past where you would need to physically copy data onto a hard drive or email it in order to see it on other devices or share it with anyone else.

The simplest example of this is your iPhone. When you turn on the iCloud, your phone will automatically upload all your photos and contacts to Apple’s Cloud, which ultimately is a big data storage warehouse in California, Nevada or Oregon. Then, you can go online on any computer or iPad and view the photos and contacts saved there.

Most email accounts, social media sites and file sharing services like Google Drive and DropBox also run on cloud technology.

Even the dairy industry has started to adopt this technology. RFID tags collect information on cows that is then sent to the cloud to later be viewed on a computer or an app. Most herd management, feed and financial software use cloud computing as well. Any data that is entered on your computer can be viewed on your phone or tablet while you’re on the go. This means your data is literally a swipe and tap away, available on demand for any given situation. Cloud computing brings a whole new level of accessibility to information.

• APIs

API stands for application programming interface. You may not realize it but many of the apps that you take for granted run on this technology. An API is a way for a software or application to tap into a database to power its functionality. It allows applications to talk to each other without any human interaction. In other words, it is automated communication.

If you have ever taken an Uber, you may have wondered how the app knows where you and the drivers are and can then plot all this on a map. This is because Uber has an API into Google Maps. Social media sites allow third party apps to API into a user’s data. Whenever you use your Facebook account to log into another site, that’s an API in action.

YouTube allows other websites to pull videos using an API. Travel sites such as Priceline and Orbitz have an API into many airlines’ flight databases, allowing you to browse through any flight available with just one search.

The dairy industry is using APIs with the herd management, feed and financial software mentioned before. If one software can utilize the data of another, it can also API into its database with permission. One example is the ability of herd management or financial software to tap into the data collected by robotic milking systems.

The two can then work together to produce business insights. Connections like this facilitate a healthy exchange of information that provides value to the end user, be it a dairy farmer, processor or anyone across the supply chain. Information is power, which make APIs a powerful tool.

• Predictive analysis

Unfortunately, crystal balls still belong to the realm of fantasy novels. However, some of the predictive analysis being done today is still impressive and can provide some real business opportunities. Not to creep you out, but social media and eCommerce sites such as Facebook and Amazon have been tracking your web-surfing and shopping habits for a long time now. With that data, they can then attempt to predict your future purchases using algorithms, or a set of instructions for a computer or robot. Let’s say you bought some mittens online. The algorithms might then suggest you purchase a scarf or a hat or maybe even a book on winter weather. If you use Amazon, you’ll recognize the “customers who bought this, also bought that” section. Those recommendations are powered by algorithms using predictive analysis.

Armed with enough data, you can make your own projections for your dairy business. Software companies will utilize dairy data to make projections for a wide variety of metrics, from milk production, milk checks and dairy prices to pregnancy rates, cull rates and feed prices. If the data predicts you will be losing money next year, you can discover that now and plan accordingly.

If you are adept enough, you can build these tools in Excel. However, to bring all the pieces together, you also can use software, such as Vault Technologies, to create data-driven predictive analysis. These types of software usually pull your data from the cloud and then use APIs to pull other sources of data to create the analysis. The key is to find the software and tools that will work best for your operation and help you achieve your business goals.


While the above technologies are relatively new, they have been around long enough that everyone can take advantage of them for their business. Whether you are a dairy farmer, cooperative, processor or other dairy professional, you can utilize these technologies to improve your business operations and make better decisions faster and more conveniently. There is plenty of data out there; it just comes down to how you use it. Use cloud computing to make the data more accessible, use APIs to bring more data to your fingertips and use predictive analysis to transform that data into actionable insights for your business. If the thought of doing it yourself scares you, leave it to a professional.


The views expressed by CMN’s guest columnists are their own opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of Cheese Market News®.

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