How IoT Technology is Keeping Cannabis Connected

by | Dec 4, 2021

Written by Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a cannabis writer and B2B content marketer living in British Columbia, Canada. Her focus on cannabis tech, scientific breakthroughs, and extraction has led to bylines with Cannabis & Tech Today, Terpenes and Testing, Analytical Cannabis, and Grow Mag among others. She is the owner and lead-writer of Sea to Sky Content, which provides content and strategy to the industry’s biggest brands.

The cannabis industry — all $21 billion of it according to BDSA — is increasingly a connected one. A technology known as the Internet of Things (IoT) is already connecting growers with their plants, retailers with regulators, and patients with their physicians.

By embedding cannabis technologies with sensors and software, this plant produces data points at an astronomical rate throughout the entire supply chain. From seed to sale to consumption, it's hard to deny the cannabis industry that runs on information gathered by IoT-driven platforms.

IoT for the Cultivator

Growers are more connected to their plants than ever before. The modern grow room is managed with a network of sensors, feeding data into a remotely controlled dashboard. Cultivation managers and master growers compile this information, often assisted with artificial intelligence (AI), to adjust the climate parameters down to minute levels.

Everything from light schedule and spectrum to nutrient formulas, temperature, atmospheric conditions, and more is planned and controlled through the IoT. While the industry isn't quite ready for a completely hands-off grow room, thanks to IoT, cultivation is heading in that direction. 

Agrify is one of the big players working in the AI-driven, vertical controlled environment agriculture (CEA) space. Beyond the total control delivered via each Vertical Farm Unit (VFU), Agrify Insights helps companies remotely monitor every aspect of their operation.

Every year, each VFU delivers up to 1.5 million data points. By crunching these numbers, the Agrify Insights platform allows for decision making and  optimized on-demand production planning.

American Growor is another all-in-one cultivation solution. The Master Grower solution is cloud-based, AI-managed software, which is programmed to the needs of each crop and even dialed down to the specifics of different cultivars.

The Master Growor synchronizes and integrates a wide scope of CEA technologies into a single dashboard to create 100 percent consistency and substantial yield improvements.

IoT for the Retailer

But IoT isn't just for the cultivators. It's also an increasingly necessary component for compliance and consumer insights at the retailer level.

IoT technologies are already a massive part of the broader retail market, a segment likely to grow up to $94 billion by 2025. Cannabis retailers are starting to tap into the personalization offered to their customers through IoT-driven intel.

Opportunities for the cannabis sector abound, including the incorporation of real-time tracking technology for cannabis delivery companies, personalized marketing and shopping experience, as well as better supply chain management.

IoT-connected products may prove incredibly useful for retailers to maintain the chain of compliance and transparency. Sensors like near-field communication (NFC) tags or radio frequency identification (RFID) are two such options popping up among cannabis manufacturers, distributors, and retailers.

As per TSC Printronix Auto ID, RFIDs in particular offer security and real-time reporting for high-value products like cannabis plants, by-products, and final products. Importantly for the retailer or manufacturer, it also saves compliance-associated labor costs because “it also has the capability for bulk reading thousands of tags (items) in minutes without the physical line-of-sight needed with traditional barcodes.”

IoT for the Consumer

One could argue that the entire industry may one day receive direction from information gathered at the consumer level. However, the most significant developments are happening in the handheld vaporizer market across the recreational and medical markets.

IoT-powered devices are creating a wealth of consumer-level information, including demographics, product preferences, consumption habits, and applications. These software-supported vaporizers, like PAX and DAVINCI, log session information into a mobile application accessible by the consumer. The connected app then offers incredibly valuable insight for controlling temperature, choosing products, and creating consistency and predictability between sessions.

On the medical side, RYAH Group is developing a suite of IoT devices for precision session control of plant-based medicines, including a Smart Inhaler, Smart Patch, and Smart Pen (future launch). Each device uses AI to aggregate and correlate HIPAA-compliant data, offering patients and physicians valuable insights, including the ability to create highly personalized therapy regimens.

RYAH is also working in the research space, with the RYAH Smart Inhaler already adopted by an international clinic conducting one of the largest and most comprehensive studies on the safety and efficacy of cannabis for chronic pain patients.

These connected consumer-level devices give researchers, clinics, and doctors a clearer picture on how different strains and temperatures affect different demographics and their efficacy goals. This critical data could trickle down through the supply chain, informing which products doctors may recommend and ultimately what strains growers may produce.

IoT for Cannabis: From Seed to Sale and Beyond

By 2026, the IoT marketplace is predicted to hit $344.7 billion. Cannabis, a high-value cash crop, is undoubtedly one of the sectors driving this growth.

Growers are already applying it for improved crop consistency. In addition, dispensaries are using product-specific sensors to facilitate more efficient compliance reporting. And, at the consumer level, intelligent devices capture insights for better control and session predictability.