The basic concept is one that has been around the construction equipment industry for nearly a decade: By the use of remote monitoring via telematics contractors can better keep track of their equipment and improve productivity and profitability. Through mainly third party providers, these cellular and satellite based tracking systems could be retrofitted to machines in the field. After purchasing the hardware users then generally subscribed to a service plan that enabled them to 'see their equipment through access to a secured website. These systems offered basic information like machine hours and location. Although not generally designed for any brand of equipment or model, these third party systems proved that the concept worked and that construction equipment owners were willing to adopt the technology.
Since this concept first hit the market, it has evolved in sophistication, reduced in size (today's antenna are much smaller than the shoe-box size units of the past) and also reduced in price. This has meant that contractors and equipment dealers around the world have been able to easily and affordably adopt this business management tool and the popularity of these systems has swiftly grown.
Although not the original innovators in this area, construction equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have been catching up fast in recent years. By coupling the basic third party tracking devices' features with the ability to design remote monitoring systems for specific machines, these products are now much more than simply tracking systems. With the ability to be pre-fitted to the construction equipment, original equipment manufacturer systems give a much greater insight into the condition of the machine as well as their whereabouts.
And with the recent introduction of CareTrack, that's just what Volvo Construction Equipment's (Volvo CE) dedicated system offers. CareTrack is a telematic remote machine management solution that taps into the existing on-board electronic diagnostic system on Volvo equipment - MATRIS. By doing this, Volvo CE can offer its customers a wide range of benefits from the tracking system that are either not possible with third party systems or are simply cost prohibitive.
CareTrack offers features such as machine position, operating hours (engine on/engine off) and service reminders. Geo-fence and time-fence features are also available. This allows users, through a website interface, to literally draw a circle or 'fence' around the area where the machine is authorized to work. If the machine is removed from that area, notification is sent via text message or an email to authorized personnel. In addition, approved operation times can be entered into the system and if the machine is used outside of those times, notification can be sent. (Note: geo- and time-fence options are currently not available in North America, the U.K. or Eire.)
There is also an advanced version of CareTrack that allows users to explore a much wider range of operating parameters on the machine. This ability to remotely harness detailed operating data in real time is an undoubted benefit of specifying the Volvo CE developed telematic system.
For instance users can not only monitor fuel consumption of the vehicle in each of its work modes, but they can also 'see' the percentage of time the vehicle was working under load vs. simply idling. The system can also determine fuel efficiency by shift: so comparisons can be made of the fuel efficiency of each operator.
More features include being able to view specific things like the speed that the operator has been changing from forward to reverse - potentially useful if users wanted to diagnose the cause of transmission problems, for instance.
One feature of CareTrack that is currently undergoing testing is an immobilzer feature. If incorporated into the system, it would mean that if a thief or other unauthorizied user removed the machine from its geo-fence, they would not be able to restart the machine once it has been shut down. For safety reasons, machines will not automatically shut down once they have been removed from the authorized work area.
There are various levels of authorization within the CareTrack system. While customers obviously have access to their own machines, dealers can also have access privileges to the machines they've sold. And dealers have a much deeper view into machine data.
For instance, dealers have access to a machine's error codes. So when there is a machine down in the field, the service technician can consult the specific error code and make sure he brings the right parts when he goes on the call. Gone are the days when a engineer had to come out to site to inspect the machine, return to base and order the parts - returning to site days later to fit them. CareTrack now offers the ability for engineers to arrive on site with the right parts, tools and know-how to fix the machine at one visit. This reduction in downtime is of enormous benefit to customers.
Dealers can also better monitor customer service agreements with CareTrack. No longer do dealers have to rely on customers calling in their machine hours. All of this information is now easily accessed on-line. This not only helps the dealer stay on top of regular maintenance needs, but can also help schedule shop time so they can get the machine in and out quickly.