Diagnostics extend beyond the vehicle

  • 29-Jul-2011 11:44 EDT

Trimble's modem allows operators to send diagnostic information to remote sites.

As engines get more sophisticated, they are doing more to figure out what’s gone wrong or when something might be ready to fail. Diagnostics are constantly monitoring engine performance, often sending data to remote sites so technicians can determine when it’s time for maintenance.

As tightened U.S. and European regulations come on line, diagnostic systems have to check more components using sensors that take readings under changing conditions. These new sensors are testing engines and their aftertreatment systems in all sorts of operating conditions.

Diagnostics are no longer performed only in steady state conditions. “With Tier 4, you need to do transient tests,” said Joe Mastanduno, Engine/Drivetrain Product Marketing Manager at John Deere Construction and Forestry Division. “To do that, you need more memory and more CPU capability than with steady state diagnostics.”

When data is constantly being gathered under all types of conditions, users can get more accurate views of when they need to perform maintenance. Increasingly, manufacturers are talking about prognostics, which predict the possibility of failures by observing minute changes in performance.

This trend is among the factors that are making diagnostics and telematics synergistic technologies. When telematic systems gather data that is available on SAE J1939 or other networks, diagnostic information can be sent to remote technicians who can do much more analytical work than operators in the field. By examining data such as fluid analysis and operating conditions, they can determine when it’s time to perform maintenance. That is far more efficient than relying on hours run or other factors that don’t account for actual working conditions.

“It’s critical to have telematics,” Mastanduno said. “Whenever you can reduce the amount of downtime, operators will win.”

The communications industry is moving swiftly to help equipment makers and owners make this link.

Trimble is now shipping its DCM-300 modem, which can be used for Connected Farm wireless field data transfers. Connected Farm includes the Farm Works Dispatch asset tracking productivity software, which helps owners and operators improve productivity. CNH is among the manufacturers who have contracted with Trimble.

In Europe, the Actia Group recently unveiled its Connected Vehicle tools, which are certified to SIL2 or 3 in compliance with the IEC 61508 functional safety standard.

Some firms have banded together to create standards that they hope will help foster greater use of telematics. In March Axeda, LHP Telematics, Hirschman, Method Electronics, Morey Corp., ORBCOMM, and Telenor formed The Rugged Telematics Alliance.

Analysts predict that buyers will flock to these and other new communication links. Berg Insight predicts that management system deployments in North America will hit 3.8 million by 2015, representing a 12.6 compound annual growth rate. In 2010, that figure was 2.1 million. Many of these are for on-road vehicles, but when companies such as Verizon and T-Mobile build up their infrastructure to offer more services, off-highway users will benefit.

Major investments are already changing the telematics landscape in Europe. “In the past 18 months we have seen nine major mergers and acquisitions on the European fleet management market forming a new vendor landscape,” said Johan Fagerberg, Senior Analyst at Berg Insight.

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