M2M and Telematics: Your Eyes on Equipment Near and Far

With machine-to-machine communication, machines share info that could help you boost productivity and lower equipment repair costs.

In machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, networked devices exchange information with each other, no human necessary. It’s the basis of the Internet of Things (IoT) — and the construction industry has begun to embrace it.

Heavy equipment M2M can potentially help companies increase productivity, save a bundle on repairs and reduce the chances of theft.

Here's how it works: An internet-ready piece of equipment is outfitted with sensors that send signals wirelessly to application software. That software tracks information relating to performance, fuel consumption and operating hours — and possibly much more depending of the sophistication of the sensors and software.

For machines in remote areas that aren’t near Wi-Fi, telematics steps in, giving you real-time access, via cellular, to the machine and the ability to remotely monitor far-away equipment and even track it via GPS.

This makes life easier in several ways.

Being able to monitor equipment function can help maintenance crews perform detailed diagnostics and better plan predictive maintenance, which beats paying for repairs after the equipment has failed.

Managers can keep an eye on operators to make sure they're maximizing their time on the job. It can also let them look at how equipment is being operated, so they can know if an employee lets the machinery to idle too long, takes sharp turns or speeds around the job site. Identifying workers who are misusing equipment is an opportunity for operator retraining and can help reduce wear and tear on field machinery.

For theft protection, the equipment can be programmed to operate only during certain hours and to shut down if there’s an indication someone who is not an authorized user is trying to move it. This could also pay off in reduced insurance premiums from providers who give credit for anti-theft measures.

Using M2M data, estimators can calculate realistic costs for equipment maintenance and operation. Supervisors can better allocate equipment across jobs and quickly identify replacement machines for those that need to be taken out of service.

While M2M communication has been in somewhat limited use thus far in construction, manufacturers increasingly are making their heavy equipment internet-ready, so more and more customers will be poised to take advantage of the IoT and all that comes with it.