IoT for Fleet Management: The Rise of LPWAN
From manufacturing, mining, oil and gas to construction and agriculture, fleets of heavy machinery and mobile equipment are among the most critical assets across industries. IoT for fleet management presents enormous opportunities to augment Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). In the data-driven economy, Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) emerge as a new viable means of IoT connectivity that Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) and industrial companies can’t miss out on.
The Role of LPWAN for Fleet Management
To stay connected, industrial mobile equipment relies on wireless technologies. Traditional fleet telematics solutions employ cellular networks for tracking and measuring fleet utilization. However, this approach is expensive as it requires every machine or vehicle to have its own cell plan.
Cellular-based telematics can pay off in transportation and logistics applications where connectivity that transcends territorial boundaries, is a must. However, industrial fleet management in enclosed areas such as factories, open-pit mines, construction sites, and farms, calls for a more cost-effective solution. Furthermore, cellular coverage is far from omnipresent, leaving significant gaps in remote and underground locations.
Purpose-built for low-bandwidth, long-distance sensor data transmission, LPWAN is a new versatile solution to connect cross-industry mobile assets. Providing a range of more than 10 km line-of-sight, private LPWA networks can be flexibly deployed to enable reliable coverage in remote, large-scale industrial campuses. Thanks to very low power consumption, LPWAN additionally allows for many years of battery life – a major benefit as mobile assets are often nowhere near a power source.
With legacy equipment in place, operators are now looking for a “plug-and-play” IoT solution to avoid an expensive fleet overhaul. LPWAN is easy to deploy and retrofit in existing equipment and can be operated at a fraction of the cost of cellular alternatives providing operators with the best possible Return-on-Investment from IoT solutions.
IoT for Fleet Management: 3 Impactful Applications
LPWAN-enabled sensor networks collect information about equipment usage, speed, emission, location and more. These data are then forwarded to the cloud for long-term diagnostics and predictive analysis. Actionable insights can be distilled to help companies optimize productivity, compliance and safety, and ultimately improve their bottom line.
1. Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance
Predictive analytics enables fleet operators to stay on top of maintenance by anticipating and correcting failures before they even occur. Built-in sensors transmit key health and operational parameters of tires, hydraulics, engine and other components of mobile equipment. Using automated alerts, operators are informed of any intolerable deviations that hint at impending or abnormal conditions. This allows for advanced planning of oil and part replacements, along with reparation scheduling to avoid costly downtime.
2. Asset Optimization
Under-utilized machinery with excessive idling time results in wasted fuel while incurring additional fixed equipment costs. Data about idle times captured by telematics sensors allow operators to make informed decisions about the optimal size and composition of their fleets, and whether to buy or lease. Unauthorized usage outside operational hours can be additionally detected to avoid any tampering or theft attempts. Overall, asset utilization data contribute to improving OEE and ultimately, net profit margins.
3. Emission Control and Fuel Consumption Management
As climate change continues to become a top global concern, fleet operators are facing increasing regulations and pressure to curb their carbon footprints. In underground mines, emission control is also critical in sustaining a secure work environment for miners.
With connected equipment powered by LPWAN, operators can monitor exhaust emissions to ensure compliance with environmental and safety regulations. Likewise, information about vehicle status and operating patterns, reveals bottlenecks and enables optimization of fuel usage. For example, low tire pressure can increase fuel consumption and reduce gas mileage.
Final Thoughts: Which LPWAN Technology to Go For?
Not all LPWAN technologies can equally cater to industrial fleet management applications. For example, although supporting end nodes moving at high speed is an absolute prerequisite, many existing technologies are missing this feature. Moreover, harsh industrial environments like underground mines pose great challenges in securing reliable connection due to extreme depths and hostile topography.
In the world of industrial fleet management, the right LPWAN technology must balance core criteria in terms of industry-grade robustness and security, deep penetration, mobility, and scalability.
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