Industrial and construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc. and its long-time partner Trimble, the sector’s navigation and fleet management leader, have announced plans to launch a “brand agnostic” telematics solution, providing analytics and tracking across contractors’ entire equipment fleets.
Currently, the Cat Connect portfolio–consisting of five solution sets, including Equipment Management, Productivity, Safety, Sustainability, and Command, provides telematics connectively to more than a quarter of a million Caterpillar vehicles and machines around the world. The system is accessed through a common web-based user interface, VisionLink, which provides real-time information about equipment location, availability, status, machine health, fuel consumption, and productivity. Now, contractors will be able to use the Vision Link system to track machines from other brands, allowing them to obtain a holistic view of their fleet and site.
“The agreements demonstrate both companies’ commitment to providing a brand agnostic information solution to contractors with mixed equipment fleets,” Bryn Fosburgh, vice president responsible for Trimble’s construction technology divisions, said.
The divided, brand-specific operations of telematics systems have been one of contractors’ main sources of frustration with new connected technologies. A survey by the Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP) of its members last year found that adoption rates of telematics technology for off-road heavy equipment remains low. While many managers used the technology on their sites, most used it only for one to 10 percent of their machines. Most cited the complexity and cost of using different brand-specific systems for their large fleets.
“OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] are the taproot of telematics capabilities for most fleets,” said Stan Orr, president of AEMP. “However they are also the primary source of frustration, for their inconsistent and often challenging approaches to telematics success. All the data these guys need comes from the manufacturers; they’re the main root of the tree,” he continued. ““What makes this difficult for the end user is that each manufacturer does it in a different way.”
For example, OEMs often diverge in what they term ‘idle time’ for vehicles, an important analytic in tracking productivity and fuel consumption. One OEM may categorise a vehicle in neutral with the engine idling as ‘idle time,’ while another may also require the parking brake to be on and the driver out of the seat. With so many divergent definitions–data flowing from machines to a variety of a number of individual software and internet platform–contractors struggle to integrate and understand or even to access all the data gleaned from their OEM telematics systems.
The new Caterpillar/Trimble platform hopes to provide a standardised, integrated system that will contractors and managers to track data from all their equipment, regardless of brand, using the same scales, analytics, and web-interface. Contractors are largely aware of the benefits of gathering telematics data but are stymied in the application of the system. A brand agonistic VisionLink system hopes to streamline the mining of telematics data for contractors operating dozens of machines from multiple manufacturers, from Caterpillar backhoes to trucks to tractors to Bobcat excavators.