Bain’s projections show that the Internet of Things (IoT) market will grow to $520 billion in 2021. Specific to the construction market, 6.8 million connected heavy construction machines will be shipped between 2018 and 2025. Although no one in the industry has a crystal ball, it is predicted that the future of mobile IoT will be driven by machine learning and 5G networks to power further data collection and analysis, enable autonomous equipment operation and overall innovation in the field.
Technology that can remotely analyze millions of points of data in real time, make decisions and report on the data as necessary will enable machine intelligence to begin moving from the cloud to the machine itself. For instance, a recent case study by Parker’s Mobile IoT team illustrates how an OEM was able to improve their time-to-service, hydraulics-related efficiencies and customer loyalty with the use real time diagnostics and over the air programming. This is by contrast to the current method of telematics systems sending limited data to a server based on thresholds and events.
The IoT landscape in construction
The basis of competition is changing for OEMs, and it's important for organizations to monitor the basic assumptions of competition to redefine the space going forward. For the longest time, the industry was based on driving machines through engine power, however, electrification is changing how an OEM manufactures off-road equipment. Electrification, as well as remote monitoring, positively impacts the priorities during the engineering process such as the safety element. Furthermore, off-road machines have been operated by people for decades but with the development of robotics and other autonomous capabilities, those assumptions are changing. Electrification reduces the safety concerns centered around hydraulic and autonomous machines can eliminate the human safety factor during operation.
Semi-remotely operated or semi-autonomously operated equipment opens up a host of possibilities in terms of machine design. But when you understand how connected machines will be sold or distributed, OEMs are not only looking at selling products but at offering services that can be remotely monitored, controlled or operated. This opens us up to a whole host of things in terms of business models. As part of Parker’s Tech Tuesday video series, Parker’s Business Unit Manager for Mobile IoT discusses the trend of IoT for off-road equipment and how the business model is evolving.
The challenges of autonomous machines in off-road industry
Although the push towards autonomous equipment follows in the path of the automotive industry, the challenges for autonomous machines in areas such as construction and agriculture differ from automotive. The environments these machines operate in lack lane lines, signage, sidewalks and other indicators that automotive vision systems rely on to guide cars. The additional “appendages” of booms and buckets must also be taken into account for their operation. In sectors like mining, autonomous equipment is highly attractive. It can take hours to properly ventilate an area after blasting to make it safe for operators to enter. Removing humans from that equation will increase productivity and safety in operation.
It will take time for this technological evolution for the off-road industry to occur, though, due to the uncontrolled environments in which off-road equipment is typically used. More advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be required than what is currently available. The future of mobile IoT lies in building the fully connected environment where all elements of the contractor’s job are seamlessly integrated.
Applying artificial intelligence
With AI, users can learn patterns that lead to failures or how to operate the equipment to maximize its useful life, offering trade-offs between performance and longevity.
According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), AI will empower construction teams to handle critical tasks but there are challenges that must be overcome in order to achieve widespread adoption, including fear among workers of AI taking away their jobs, cultural resistance to new technologies and security. These are challenges that OEMs, suppliers and AI partners are already addressing in order to move their industries forward.
Embedded IoT systems rely on cellular communication technology. As 5G networks are being rolled out, it’s clear that they will change the way that data is transmitted via IoT systems. With the coming of 5G, telematics companies have spearheaded the development of Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communications capabilities. This sophisticated level of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication will be critical to autonomous vehicle operations. It would very difficult to implement to implement autonomous today given so few data points going to the cloud. Data being sent to the cloud today is limited, simply because of the cost to not only send it, but to store it, process it and then drive decisions with it. The promise of 5G is the ability to send a lot more data with less latency, which will enable more real-time operations such as streaming video and the other necessary functions for autonomous mobile equipment.
Transformation of job responsibilities
In the future off-road machine operations will change from being hydraulic driven to more electrical driven, to more software driven. That means that our industry, not only in designing machines but also building, and servicing, and maintaining the machines is going to have to migrate to a having talent that is capable of operating in that software digital space. That's why you see a lot of companies in our space starting to hire more and more software engineers.. The addition of an IoT solution is positively impacting job responsibilities by increasing efficiencies at the same time IT job titles within OEMs are becoming more and more necessary to support IoT, electrification and the development of autonomous operated equipment.
Holistic approach to adopting digital technologies
The introduction of digital technologies in the off-road equipment industry is here. Therefore, organizations need to consider the following technology roadmap:
- Hire experienced professionals with IT skills
- Create strategies for effective deployment
- Allocate appropriate budgets
- Generate analytics to gain insights into the various industry trends
- Educate employees and customers about the positive impact
Stay competitive with smart networking
Digital disruption has already made multiple industries more competitive. Similar situations will be faced by the off-road equipment industry when digital technologies become more broadly leveraged. Traditional operational and service-related tasks need to be executed faster and more efficiently, and mobile IoT solutions can help.
Article contributed by Clint Quanstrom, IoT general manager, Motion Systems Group, Parker Hannifin Corporation.