Posted on 4th March 2021

The Rise of Telemetry

Telemetry is becoming more and more commonplace on agricultural machines so our Technology Brand Manager, Stephen Mills, explains how these systems work and some of the benefits for machinery owners.

It is unusual for agriculture to lag behind other industries when it comes to technological innovation but telemetry is one example.

This lack of uptake can be put down to the operating patterns of farming versus haulage and plant hire where it is the norm to have machines spread over a large geographical area for extended periods of time. In these instances the ability to monitor machine (and operator) performance and location remotely has huge benefits. If a machine comes home every night or never goes more than a few miles from the yard it is easier to keep track of it without any technology.

 

What is telemetry?

Telemetry is simply a system which collects various streams of data from a machine and allows that data to be analysed remotely.

Systems can vary in complexity from a simple battery-powered device that just gives a GPS location to a highly integrated ‘black box’ that connects to the electronic systems of the machine and transmits many streams of data.
The owner can then use this data to help them make best use of the machines in the fleet.
Take just one example that telemetry makes easy to examine – working time vs idling time. Idling time may seem like a trivial matter, and we all just jump off machines and leave them running, but if you find your machine spends 20% of its life on idle over a typical 5,000hr working life that amounts to 1,000hrs of non-productive time.

When looking at the overall cost of ownership of any machine 1,000hrs worth of service costs, warranty hours and residual value has a massive impact. There are also benefits from a dealership point of view. The machine can generate its own service reminders which helps the owners schedule the downtime and P&B Service Departments plan the technicians’ workload.

When faults occur, good information can be the difference between a quick fix and a protracted diagnostic process.

In addition to accurate fault code information, they allow the technician to look in detail at the operating conditions when the fault code was generated which can be shared with the manufacturer. The benefit to the machine owner is that downtime is minimised whilst we ‘as a dealership’ can reduce wasted travelling time.

P&B have been a long-term user of the JCB LiveLink system.

Launched in 2011, there are currently over 300,000 machines being monitored by 1,000 dealerships spread across 186 countries worldwide. LiveLink uses GPS locations to allow owners to track their machines and provides in-depth utilisation reports. Machine health alerts can be sent via email or SMS messages to notify both owner and dealer of any issues. LiveLink also allows a ‘geo-fence’ to be set up which triggers an alarm if the machine is moved outside of its usual working area. A machine ‘curfew’ can also be enabled which alerts the owner if the machine is started outside the normal operating hours.

Both of these features bring valuable security benefits.

LiveLink can be used in conjunction with the JCB Operator app which is a digital pre-start checklist.

Owners are alerted via the app if an operator fails to undertake the daily checks before starting the machine. It also allows the operator to upload pictures and text to alert the owner to any issues that may need attention.

Agco’s telemetry system is called Connect and is now available on most new machines and there are retro-fit kits available for many models. Connect is becoming standard equipment on many machine ranges across all of the Agco brands.

Agco Connect uses a device called the ACM (Agco Connectivity Module) to collect the data from the various electronic systems in the machine and combining this with its own GPS position information. This data is then sent over a mobile phone connection to the Connect server. The machine owner can then access their data via an app on their smartphone or via the Connect web portal from the office PC.

On multi-purpose machines such as tractors, the data tends to be specific to the vehicle. Items such as fuel consumption information, idle time, travelling speed, engine temperature, oil temperatures and pressures and many more are recorded and the data is stored for an 18 month period to allow comparisons to be made across seasons.
On single purpose machines such as the Ideal range of combines, the system can record key harvesting information such as crop yield, threshing system settings, grain losses, ambient temperature and grain moisture.

During a busy harvest it allows the farm manager to quickly locate all the vehicles in the fleet and check on progress. There is also the possibility of monitoring driver behaviour.

Those of us who were ever harvest students (even in the distant past...) can remember the ‘drive it like you stole it...’ days.

There are safety benefits too. Many operations require long hours of lone working often many miles away from base. The ability to check on machines remotely can allow any that have been unexpectedly stopped for a while to be checked and accurately located if contact cannot be established with the operator.

In conclusion, there are benefits all round. The machine owners can now have current usage data at their finger tips to help plan and manage their machinery fleets.

Dealerships can better plan for scheduled machine servicing and can access detailed information to better deal with problems.

Manufacturers can use the data to better understand their customers’ work patterns, plan for parts supply and quickly spot and act upon developing issues.

If you would like more information on the telemetry systems P&B can offer or you would like to look at a whole fleet solution please give Steve a call: 07771 942 305