Mobile Solutions Off-Highway

Telematics for construction and agricultural machines: What does this include and how can it be made future-proof?

Telematics in construction and agricultural machines offers clear benefits for fleet management and service. What do off-highway players need “under the bonnet” and how future-proof are the various solutions?

As we all know, anyone who equips construction vehicles, agricultural and forestry machinery or mobile municipal vehicles with telematics cannot afford to make mistakes – especially when it comes to safety or functions. Technology and information streams must be consistent but also allow a high degree of design freedom and future viability – from data collection in the vehicle and device management to data management. Ideally, the solution should allow quick commissioning and be easily scalable so that the growing management outlay does not cancel out the benefits of the new business models. Here are a few tips which off-highway players should bear in mind when choosing a telematics solution for off-highway applications. 

Managing data and devices

Managing data and devices

When it comes to telematics, many people will first think of brightly colored dashboards with all kinds of charts and visualizations showing important vehicle and operating data for fleet management and performance-based billing. Service staff, too, need the graphical displays. After all, they allow them to monitor the status of critical components, analyze errors and provide remote support. The associated tasks – from analyses and visualization to data exchange with other IT and cloud systems – come under the heading of data management. But there is another side to the telematics coin. One which works “under the bonnet” and is every bit as critical when it comes to success: connectivity and device management. This forms the basis for everything. And it decides how efficient and future-proof the overall solution will be.

Picture: Bosch Rexroth
Modular telematics solution with systematically separate data and device management. Over 10 million vehicles are already connected via the Bosch IoT Suite large-scale platform.

Openness and efficiency play a crucial role in success

A telematics solution can only be efficient and allow sensible scaling if it takes into account the entire life cycle of the connectivity hardware – from preparation and commissioning to the operating phase and disposal. The device management system must provide optimum support for each individual phase. During operation, the device monitoring system also helps to keep track of large fleets, while mass management functions and tools for software and firmware updates minimize the administrative outlay. Other “must haves” include remote configuration and diagnostics as well as interfaces (APIs) for data exchange.

Find out more about the technology “under the bonnet”

Make or buy?

In light of the range of functions required for reliable, safe and efficient operation, only a few off-highway manufacturers can realistically develop such a telematics solution themselves. Also a conglomerate made up of generic IoT modules is unlikely to succeed. After all, the telematics solution must allow administrators and service technicians to carry out a wide range of remote diagnostics procedures, parametrize domain controllers and other devices, transfer firmware and software updates over the air (FOTA / SOTA) or roll out new applications. Without the necessary domain knowledge in the areas of electronics and hydraulics, this is virtually impossible.

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Telematics without the risk of a lock-in

When selecting connectivity hardware, it is essential to avoid a technological lock-in owing to a proprietary telematics control unit (TCU). If the key hardware unit for collecting and transmitting vehicle data is “welded” to the operating system and applications, improved functional software cannot be migrated to new hardware easily later on. But this is necessary once or twice over the life of a vehicle so that the software would then have to be reprogrammed each time.

Rexroth Control Unit (RCU)

If a technological lock-in is to be avoided, it is important to take into account modularity, standards and sector expertise when choosing a TCU. A processor-based unit with Linux as the open source operating system and a layer for device and application software running on it also has the advantage that it allows not only ready-made standard apps but also developers’ own software modules to be integrated and thus protects their know-how.

Picture: Bosch Rexroth
Future-proof by design: The processor-based Rexroth Control Unit (RCU) with open source Linux has the device and application software running in layers and can be expanded flexibly and ported later on if necessary.

Shaping the future step by step

Whether or not device and data management are in separate systems is another indication as to whether a given telematics solution is well thought out. This pays dividends for many reasons – from usability, safety and data protection to lower cloud costs. It also gives the provider a groundbreaking choice: Either its own product and business strategy can be based on device connectivity and device management or both together plus data management are used as a complete solution from a single source. The second option has a major advantage, namely that the services including analysis and visualization can be made available on the market even more quickly. Bosch Rexroth proves that both options are available in a shared ecosystem with the Device Connectivity and All-in-one Connectivity BODAS Connect solutions.

Video about BODAS Connect – All-In-One Connectivity

Would you like to find out in detail how to connect off-highway machines efficiently and securely via the Internet of Things – without running into a technological dead end?

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Dr. Christian Grabe

Dr. Christian Grabe is the Business Owner Digital Business Mobile Hydraulics at Bosch Rexroth in Stuttgart. Christian has more than 15 years’ experience when it comes to developing systems for off-highway machines and embedded software. In his position, he comes up with new business concepts and digital products in the field of connected off-highway machines.