We hear the phrase “connected cars” a lot these days, and we are absolutely guilty of amplifying it here. The obsession with the cult of cars is understandable, but the truth is that there are industrial segments of “IoT on Wheels” that are moving faster towards full-on connectedness.
Industrial vehicles like farm equipment, freight trains, big rigs, and construction equipment may well have wheels, but you would be painting with an awfully broad brush to call them cars. Hence the introduction of the term “connected vehicles”.
Industrial IoT vs. consumer IoT
Like many subsets of the IoT (e.g. wearables, connected home) consumer applications for connected personal vehicles get all the hype, while the business applications are really demonstrating the most traction. It makes sense to see stickiness and heavy adoption here, given the immediate impact to bottom line that is fairly easily attained by add-on services centered in vehicles that are already in use. These services are relatively inexpensive to deploy, and pay for themselves very quickly.
Industrial connected vehicles are here
In just the last couple of years, many heavy construction vehicles have received upgrades that are having a dramatic impact. By leveraging now-mature telematics and the same set of ubiquitous technologies that make all IoT things a reality (internal sensors, GPS, satellite/cellular/WiFi connectivity, etc.), companies like Trimble, John Deere, Arsenault, and others are providing services that fix many problems that have plagued heavy construction for years.
For example, by monitoring the sensor streams coming from a dozer, a fault can be detected early, the equipment replaced before it fails, and a lost day’s work can be avoided. The same geo-fencing technology that can prevent a 16-year-old driver from straying too far from home can prevent a million dollar tower crane from “straying” from the job site in the dead of night. And GPS-based fleet management applications can improve efficiencies in large-scale scale earth moving operations by an impressive degree, up to 22% according to one study performed by the Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering. In a $500K operation that’s a savings in excess of $100K realized in a single job, and the IoT systems that enable these efficiencies cost a whole lot less than that.
Needless to say, the examples above have obvious analogs (and available gains) across any vehicle-centric industry. Industrial applications for connected vehicle services will likely continue to pave the way for the rest of the sector—literally and figuratively—in the coming years.