HOLMER, Telematics
HOLMER, Telematics
Mobile Solutions Off-Highway

Make or buy? Guest article from HOLMER regarding the telematics strategy for agricultural machines

Should companies buy telematic systems or develop them themselves? The world market leader for sugar beet harvesters HOLMER has made a firm decision here. Product Manager Sebastian Schleicher talks about key considerations and the results of the discussions.

Make or buy? HOLMER was faced with this question when it started looking at telematics. On the one hand, we wanted to be a leader in this area too. On the other hand, we quickly realized that we would be unable to cope with such a technologically complex task without neglecting other important development activities. So what should we do? After careful consideration, we decided to be on the safe side from an economic and functional point of view while giving ourselves as much room for maneuver as possible.

Managing data and devices

BODAS Connect All-in-one-Connectivity, a pre-configured, modular end-to-end solution from Bosch Rexroth, offered the perfect mix of a ready-made solution and design freedom. With little effort, we can now cater for all processes along the information chain – from reliable data collection and transmission or secure remote management of the telematics hardware in the vehicle (the so-called Telematic Control Units (TCU)) to data management. The parts which run unbeknown to customers “under the hood”, i.e. the Device Connectivity and Device Management modules, were particularly important to us. After all, these decide how efficient and future-proof the overall solution will be. And telematics is not an end in itself – it is a clear market requirement. During the short harvesting period from September to November, the carefully planned shipments must arrive at the sugar mill on time. At the same time, our customers need to organize ever bigger fleets in a highly efficient manner and each individual machine must be available 24x7. As a result, telematics systems must perform two tasks in the agricultural sector: They must relieve the burden on managers and allow the manufacturer to provide effective remote support.

BODAS Connect Device Connectivity and All-in-one Connectivity

Flexible telematics with a short time to market: Watch video now

Picture: Bosch Rexroth
Modular concept: The sequential BODAS Connect Device Connectivity and All-in-one Connectivity packages allow scalable off-highway telematics solutions to be set up quickly and according to requirements.

Non-stop beet harvesting

100% availability in the field

Bosch provides the technical basis for this with the processor-based Rexroth Connectivity Unit RCU which is included in the package. The robust TCU hardware was developed specially for off-highway applications and allows standard-based data collection in the vehicle via CAN bus or Ethernet. Thanks to an architecture which is arranged in layers, we can also integrate customer-specific software and switch to different hardware if necessary. The device software from Bosch Rexroth allows a variable sampling rate in order to sample over 300 items of sensor and status information on the CAN bus at a suitable frequency before they are pre-filtered and transmitted with an optimized bandwidth. If a vehicle no longer has access to the LTE network, a fallback mechanism maintains the necessary functions, even if only 2G is available. If a harvester is in an area where there is no mobile reception at all, the RCU records the data until reception is available again. A manageable eSIM and roaming contracts for all countries ensure cost transparency.

Picture: Bosch Rexroth
Non-stop beet harvesting: The world record holding Terra Dos T4 machine loads a Terra Variant 585 with multi holding tank MB 35. By the end of 2022, all HOLMER vehicles will be connected.


Scalable and secure from the ground up

Scalable and secure
from the ground up

When it comes to device management, we benefit from the tried-and-tested Bosch IoT Suite large-scale platform which can easily be scaled as the fleet of vehicles grows. Via the associated device portal, we can monitor and manage all installed RCUs including their status and software in a role-based manner. At the factory, we only need to install the hardware. The firmware and software are updated with all customer-specific settings over the air (FOTA / SOTA) later on.

Bosch Rexroth impresses when it comes to the crucial issue of cybersecurity too. For example, the CAN and wireless RCU interfaces are protected by embedded firewalls. An intrusion detection system provides information regarding key figures such as CPU use, RAM use or network operations. Administrative access requires a whitelisting. Because the eSIMs run via an APN provided by the mobile operator which includes a firewall, the RCU is protected against DDoS attacks (Distributed Denial of Service) and other cyber attacks.

Rexroth Connectivity Unit and over-the-air updates: Find out more in this blog article


Data management out of the box

Data management out of the box

With the pre-configured data management module which forms part of the overall package, we could simply “click together” our internal EasyHelp 4.0 service portal from the portfolio of templates and functional modules and adapt it quickly to our corporate design. Since commissioning, our service has operated much more smoothly. After all, customer services can now gain an overview of things from any location before clarifying the situation and recommending measures. This transparency significantly reduces the administrative burden on us and our customers.

For the managers and workshop staff at agricultural contractors, we had the myHOLMER web-based information system developed. The system accesses the recorded operating and machine data via a standardized data interface. Via the customer portal, operators can localize vehicles in real time, view job statuses, plan refueling cycles or help drivers with questions regarding settings. myHOLMER also provides a direct link to our spare parts shop, thus speeding up the procurement process.

Picture: Bosch Rexroth
The myHOLMER web-based customer portal accesses the BODAS connect All-in-one-Connectivity data management module via a standard interface.

Information advantage successfully outsourced

To summarize, I can say that the BODAS Connect All-in-One-Connectivity end-to-end solution was the right choice for HOLMER. It has enabled us to concentrate on our core area of expertise, namely optimizing the harvesting process, while the tailored range of telematics solutions allowed a quick market launch. At the same time, we have the flexibility we need to make our agricultural machines even smarter and to increase the benefits for customers with their own apps.

For two years, all sugar beet harvesters in the Terra Dos range have been fitted as standard with the RCU from Bosch Rexroth. The system can be retrofitted to previous models on request. By the end of 2022, we hope to connect all vehicle types to the Internet of Things. Our aim of being a technological leader therefore applies in the area of telematics and the IoT too.

Are you too deciding whether to “make or buy”? Our white paper will help you. Download it free of charge now!

Sebastian Schleicher

Sebastian Schleicher

is a product manager at HOLMER Maschinenbau GmbH. HOLMER is world leader in the self-driving sugar beet harvester segment. The Terra Dos T4-30 with an HR 12 12-row lifting unit holds the world record for harvesting sugar beet and was named the “Machine of the Year 2016” by the Deutscher Landwirtschaftsverlag. The company always aims to be one step ahead when it comes to technology. In light of this fact, it devotes ten percent of personnel resources to developing new vehicles and further developing existing ones in its portfolio which also includes sugar beet cleaner loaders, self-driving slurry tracs and field logistics vehicles.
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