Telematics is a new buzzword in the construction industry that refers the long-distance transmission of computerised information via the internet. For the construction industry, this usually means transferring information and data files wirelessly between machines, survey rovers and the office.
The technology has been around for many years and was first introduced by machine manufacturers, with patented solutions that enable machine diagnostics and usage reporting to be sent from plant to office.
For machine control systems, telematics can provide a wide range of additional functionality and productivity benefits by linking the overall site design with real time information from individual machines.
Machine control systems provide an enormous amount of information to the operator, telling him exactly where he is on site, cut/fill volumes, distance to grade and so on. Without telematics, however, the surveyor, site foreman and project manager do not have this real time information at their fingertips.
Likewise, surveyors and project managers regularly need to review and make updates to the overall project design and without telematics they have no way of updating the machine design file unless they physically visit each machine and update the machine control system via a USB drive.
Machine control technology is complex, and even the most experienced operators and surveyors can get stuck every once in a while. Another benefit of telematics solutions such as Tokara by Position Partners, is the ability to provide real time connection between the machine and support technicians. By enabling technicians to view and change settings remotely, contractors can reduce downtime on their machines and on-site service visits.
Sub-Contractor or Principal Contractor?
As with most technologies, there is a sliding scale of options depending on the functionality you require and the type of work you specialise in.
For sub-contractors, the priority is to keep machines working as efficiently and productively as possible and overall site management is less of a concern. Position Partners recommends that all machine control systems also include Tokara Link and a Support Agreement as a minimum level of telematics.
Tokara Link is a new service solution from Position Partners that replaces Tokara Service. It opens up a host of additional possibilities for contractors, including the ability to link to a GPS network such as the AllDayRTK CORS network. Tokara Link also connects the machine to the office, enabling surveyors or project managers to push new design files to the machine without the need to physically visit the machine in person.
With the addition of a Tokara Link Support Agreement, Tokara Link also provides a tiered level of remote telematics support and on-site field visits, amongst other benefits, depending on the customer’s chosen level of support.
A new online customer portal enables Tokara Link customers to connect to their machines, input operator contact details, see their connectivity and position information and view basic tracking data at the click of a mouse.
With GPS network connectivity, instant file transfer and fast, remote support, it is not hard to see why the addition of a Tokara Link modem and support agreement is a ‘no-brainer’ for Topcon machine control users. Importantly, the Tokara Link modem also provides an upgrade path to more sophisticated site management and fleet tracking solutions if and when they are required.
For principal contractors and project managers, the above features and benefits are all important but the greater challenge to be overcome is complete visibility across the site with site management solutions.
Rather than a one-to-one link between multiple machines and the office, a one-to-many, or machine-to-machine two-way communication platform is required. Topcon’s SiteLink3D Enterprise is one example of a site management solution that is built specifically for project managers and engineers to manage large civil projects.
With SiteLink3D, project managers can monitor all machines and rovers simultaneously, with real time cut/fill volumes, as well as access to machine data and customisable reports on the site’s earthworks progress.
Having sophisticated reporting technology at a customer’s fingertips, SiteLink3D removes a lot of the guesswork on site. A site manager has extensive data available to him so that he can act quickly and potentially resolve or spot potential problems before they become critical.
New developments to integrate different site solution platforms further increase the productivity and time saving benefits for engineers and project managers. Having acquired Helsinki-based DynaRoad OY in 2013, Topcon Positioning Systems is working with DynaRoad developers to combine DynaRoad’s sophisticated mass-haulage and scheduling functionality with Topcon SiteLink3D Enterprise site management software.
Topcon’s new automated haul count system is another example of the company’s focus on integrating technologies across different areas of the construction cycle. By linking together scheduling, live haul information and the real-time cut/fill volumes on the earthworks progress across all machines on site, principal contractors have true whole of site visibility to enable informed decision making, greater asset management and on-time project deliverability.
For all jobs, large and small
Whether you are an owner/operator that specialises in subdivisions work, a sub-contractor to major projects or a principal contractor, telematics can greatly improve efficiency, save time and increase your bottom line.
As a bare minimum, a solution such as Tokara Link offers important connectivity and productivity gains and is really a ‘must have’ for every machine fitted with machine control. It represents outstanding value for money and a fast return on investment.
For larger projects and site-wide solutions the options are rapidly expanding to include cross-platform integration and sophisticated reporting functionality. Just as many of us now wonder how we managed to find anything before the invention of Google, soon it will be hard to imagine a project or a machine that isn’t linked to the office, support technicians, surveyors, foremen and other plant on site. Linked technology will become a site requirement on major projects.