Data, IoT and connectivity in heavy equipment industry

Data, IoT and connectivity in heavy equipment industry

The heavy equipment industry plays a pivotal role as it supplies the machinery, among other roles, to expedite project completion and increase productivity.  

Different trends affect the heavy equipment industry from regulations and the Internet of Things (IoT) to data.

Potential to improve machine and process management with IoT solutions

According to a TTControl spokesperson, there is huge potential to improve machine and process management with IoT solutions in the coming years.

The collection of data at machine point will increase and enable deeper analysis in the cloud with technologies such as streaming analytics and big data, the spokesperson says.  

This will enable machine builders, owners, and operators to vastly improve the economic efficiency of their processes.

Role of artificial intelligence and augmented/virtual reality in product design and manufacture

The spokesperson comments that emerging technologies will advance machinery development and operator functions in the future.

“On development projects we already benefit from fine-tuning machine processes, as well as quality control on equipment,” the spokesperson says.

“A perception algorithm, for instance, can observe harvested grain quality and automatically optimise the harvesting process.

“Sophisticated assistance functions such as advanced perception systems allow less skilled workers to be more efficient and increase the safety of operators and bystanders.

“Augmented and virtual reality can be of value for operating equipment in remote locations or hazardous environments. A combination of automated propulsion and augmented reality can support the operator in low-visibility scenarios.”

Incipient advancements on horizon for connectivity and machine learning

The spokesperson says that there is an expectation that machine learning will have a positive impact on product costs.

Also, some spill over effects from the automotive industry could lead to reduced chip and sensor costs.

“That will be necessary since multiple central processing unit (CPU) cores, accelerators, and graphics processing units (GPUs) will have to execute the growing number of advanced assistance functions, resulting in an exponential growth in the amount of software. A short time-to-market can still be ensured, despite facing massive complexity, by relying on certified chips, electronic control units (ECUs), and robust software frameworks,” the spokesperson comments.

Remaining challenges for continued data adoption, IoT, and connectivity-related technologies or systems

Emerging technologies are progressing a great deal, the spokesperson comments.

The current innovation cycle for some key components is about two years, where the new generation wholly outperforms the previous generation in every aspect of performance.

“This fuels challenges relating to obsolescence handling – remember, for example, the switch to 5G on one hand and sunsetting 3G on the other hand,” the spokesperson says.

“The automotive industry postponed its plans for level 4 and level 5 autonomy because of advancements in computational powers and deep neural networks that remained necessary.

“We think the heavy equipment industry can learn from that experience by setting realistic targets and by better appraising the investments needed to implement use cases.”

Automation and smart systems

Automation benefits for heavy vehicle and equipment industries

Many heavy vehicles are expensive, high-tech pieces of equipment used in labour-intensive industries, the spokesperson points out.

Skilled operators are scarce, the spokesperson says, but the highest level of machine performance and safety are still expected.

The spokesperson adds that automated quality control and automated fine-tuning of operational parameters enable less experienced operators to achieve high levels of productivity.

Challenges and opportunities

Biggest challenges facing heavy-equipment industry

The industry is transitioning towards software-based vehicles, the spokesperson points out

“While innovation on the mechanical parts, hydraulics and engines remains important, a large part of the innovation is in the software functions.

“Today, big OEMs in the off-highway market employ more software engineers than mechanical engineers. This trend will continue and poses many new challenges: can a buyer of a piece of equipment expect frequent software updates adding new functionality, maybe for free, for the next five to ten years? How can the costs of continuous security fixes be covered? Will software-defined heavy equipment also follow the route to software-as-a-service offerings? Maybe the future customer won’t buy the equipment anymore, but only the service machinery.”

Biggest opportunities in heavy equipment industry

The spokesperson predicts an increasing need for technology to support the upcoming industry transition.

“Vehicle manufacturers are, for example, challenged to reduce the increasing complexity of software, which can happen by adopting platform solutions allowing several, more efficient software layers,” the spokesperson explains.

“We address this need with TTControl’s Application Development Centre, which provides emerging technologies with knowledge and software development support. Our customers benefit from technology transfer within the TTTech Group of which TTControl forms a part.  This also includes the increasingly important topic of functional safety and the security of modern mobile machinery,” the spokesperson says.

Technologies or trends anticipated in coming years

There are several very exciting technologies ahead of us, the spokesperson highlights.

Smart farming will have a profound impact on the daily work of agronomists, the spokesperson says.

“Alternative drive systems and electrification are the response to demands for sustainability by growing populations and mega cities. The IoT, cloud solutions and autonomous operation will unleash completely new potentials that will vastly change how we work in the future.”

eavy-duty vehicle and equipment industry challenges ahead

The increasing trend towards alternative drive systems will take over in the mid and long-term, the spokesperson says.

This development, accompanied by additional trends, will have several positive effects. Emerging IoT technologies will result in higher efficiency, especially for the operation of fleets of vehicles. Smart farming will result in higher efficiency in terms of natural resources. And alternative drive systems will bring about a reduction in CO2 emissions.”

Information was taken from interview originally published in OEM Off-Highway.

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