Automated, remote data analysis for any machine

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MEDATech takes telematics to the next level

As you may know, telematics is the technology of sending, receiving and storing information using telecommunication devices to interface with remote objects. It’s a high-value part of the Internet of Things (IoT), the rapidly growing network of physical objects—from smart appliances to industrial inventory systems—that can transmit and receive data over the Internet.

There are two common applications for telematics. One is the transmission of external information, like temperature and humidity, or more equipment-specific information like geotechnical or geological formation data from an operating drill rig. The other application is transmitting internal machine operating data, whether it’s for a Formula 1 race car or a battery-electric mining haul truck. Either way, telematics helps provide the information needed for analysis and ultimately to help make decisions that can improve customer service, reduce cost and lead to smart preventative maintenance that cuts downtime. As more data is gathered over months and years, trends and patterns become easier to spot.

Real-time data and analysis: how it works

A machine’s controllers, actuators, pressure sensors and other inputs are connected to its CAN network. Take our BORTERRA WS6000, for example. It’s a hybrid down-the-hole (DTH) high-pressure water/sonic rig specifically engineered for dam rehabilitation. Its hundreds of inputs come from various onboard drill rig systems and can also come from a telemetry device attached to the end of the drill string. A cellular or satellite link transmits partially-processed sensor data to the Cloud, typically Amazon Web Services (AWS), a U.S. Department of Defense-approved Cloud provider. A cloud-based back-end MEDATech system organizes, analyzes and records that data, which is securely presented on a dashboard—anywhere in the world—in real-time.

In this way we can push over-the-air software updates to modify operating characteristics while simultaneously collecting diagnostic information. If you can read from a network you can write to the network, so remote control of operating parameters is not only possible; it’s happening today. That means that systems can be optimized for better performance and efficiency in real-time. In theory, with enough data, you can also start using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to predict when things need replacing before they break. The obvious benefit is increased uptime and resource reallocation.

MEDATech’s WS6000 drill rig is a good example of over-the-air software optimization. The rig, built to order for Southern Company, switches between drilling technologies as it drills grouting holes into embankment dams. The rig was initially reading only drill data associated with pipe, not casing, as the drill moved down the hole. In order to read data associated with both pipe and casing, we were able to make changes to the software and push an update, without the need for a site visit. As with Tesla’s cars, over-the-air software updates improve machine results.

CAN system? Can do.

MEDATech initially developed a telematics system for BORTERRA WS6000. We have since installed telematics on a Western Star 4900XD-e battery-electric haul truck and Muckahi monorail mining locomotives. Telematics is not new; many mining OEMs use it to gather information on their machines. What is new is the kind of system-agnostic telemetry that MEDATech builds. We enable telematics for any piece of equipment that has a control area network (CAN) system. In fact, even if a machine’s sensors aren’t connected to a CAN network, MEDATech can add a dedicated controller that reads inputs/outputs and communicates their values across a logging-specific CAN network.

Whether we develop the machine or you want to retrofit a new or existing machine, we will install the right telematics system and present the data that you want to see. We often handle IoT development as well, as we are expert in the collection and analysis of data, whether it’s for diagnostic or development purposes.

User-defined information display

We expect different users to evaluate the performance of different machines in different ways, which is why the MEDATech telematics system can be rapidly configured to show the information important to a specific operator or end user role required on a dashboard and/or intranet. This delivers a safe and efficient experience that can be further tailored over time.

Telematics can also benefit multiple parties. With the 4900XD-e battery-electric haul truck, for example, we use filtered information to fine-tune vehicle performance, from charging cycles to battery and ancillary systems. At the same time, ABB is leveraging that data for their Ability™ Operations Management System (OMS) platform for mining.

DBC, like 1-2-3

Many third-party telematics systems are rudimentary, consisting of a user interface and cloud storage. They put the onus on customers to find a way for their equipment to work with such systems. The MEDATech system works by default with any machine that runs a CAN bus. Database Container (DBC) files can be used directly to update the logging configuration. This allows technicians to quickly find the stream of data that they want to deal with, rather than searching for a needle in a haystack. The system was designed to be easy to configure, and easy to modify.

Edge processing

Because the bulk of data analysis takes place in the Cloud, machines don’t require massive computing power on board. They only require a master controller, which collects data from all of the distributed controllers and actuators on the network.

However, CAN networks carry gigabytes of data per hour. Streaming all of this over a cellular connection is a challenge—it’s also unnecessary, as most of the data consists of mechanical machine signals. The MEDATech telematics system uses edge processing to filter out unnecessary data and to partially process the desired data prior to transmission. This reduces data transmission loads by upwards of 95%, which both saves on cost and makes telematics practical even when wireless or satellite coverage is poor. It also dramatically reduces the amount of processing required in the cloud and improves real-time data visibility.

Epec inside

One key part of our telematics system is Finnish Epec Control Systems’ controller modules, for which MEDATech is the North American distributor. Since 1978, Epec has been known for its robust and durable micro-controller products, used in harsh environments such as underground mining and forestry, as well as many other applications. We believe in Epec controllers since they are robust, very well-engineered and easy to work with. They also enable collection of inputs in three ways: manually, from the machine, and from a processor. The end result is optimization of machine output and performance.

What’s next?

Telematics is all about data. The more you accumulate, the more you know and the better you can model performance. Harnessing, analyzing and acting on this data is a service that MEDATech sets up for customers on a regular basis. An area of great potential for telematics—one that we are very excited about for our own OEM proof-of-concept builds—lies in updating machine component models with logged data. By replacing theoretical data with real data, and with the proper application of analytics, we can better optimize all sorts of machines and the way they work, even before we begin building.

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Collingwood ON., Canada

Ocala FL., USA