The Internet of Things (IoT) is not an especially new concept for Volvo CE, a subsidiary of the Swedish automotive manufacturer which focuses on construction equipment. The company has had connected machines since 2004 – in other words, machines with telematics units sending data to the back office – which its largest machines have been connected out of the box since 2008.
Yet the past few years has seen big investment by the construction industry in emerging technologies – and it’s not about to stop any time soon.
Christine Billaud is Director of Business Technology at Volvo CE, focusing in particular on ‘connected solutions’, one of the five areas in which the company specialises, alongside ‘harder’ products. “IoT represents a fantastic enabler allowing the delivery of value both for customers and also internal stakeholders,” she explains.
Part of the challenge for Volvo CE is that the different equipment in which the company specialises vary widely, from excavators, to wheel loaders, to articulated haulers. They come in all shapes and sizes and with different features, from wheels to rollers, and as a result, one recent product, of which Billaud says the company is ‘very proud’, is Co-Pilot.
Co-Pilot was launched last year during the Bauma exhibition in Munich, and enables users to take the same Android tablet across any equipment, with plug and play functionality, and utilise several apps such as digging guidance, load measurement, and density measurement. “Volvo Co-Pilot is the first step towards an integrated, holistic solution for worksite optimisation and for helping the operator be more efficient,” explains Billaud. “The system offers the equivalent of Tesla in the car industry – state of the art technology that combines a touchscreen interface and perfected UX design content that can be updated using mobile telecommunications technology.”
Alongside this, Volvo partnered with Trimble and Topcon, both leading companies in connectivity and global positioning technology, to enable more seamless 3D constructible models. “Our customers today are already running Trimble and Topcon 3D machine control systems,” says Billaud. “They are used to that – they trust this application. What we are telling our customers is that they can continue to use Trimble or Topcon, but directly on the Volvo Co-Pilot to benefit from a seamless integrated platform that can be installed when the customer orders Volvo machines.”
The company also has interests in predictive maintenance and proactive machine monitoring, safety, and fuel efficiency – and these partnerships and innovations certainly go some way to advancing Volvo CE’s mission to, as Billaud puts it, be ‘a global OEM supported by a very efficient distribution network [which] wants to grasp the opportunity to position itself as the preferred solution provider that contributes to the success of its customers’.
Yet, as with any such process, there are always roadblocks to navigate, whether right now or a few miles up the road. One which Billaud notes in particular is the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), set to be implemented on May 25 2018 – just 396 days away – and can result in a fine of up to 4% of turnover if businesses are caught out. “It’s impacting all types of industry,” Billaud says. “We are at the moment assessing the impact on our business, so that’s something we are of course working on extremely closely with our legal and compliance team.”
Billaud is speaking at the IoT Tech Expo Europe event in Berlin on June 1-2, and wants to focus on the
changing face of the construction industry through emerging technologies, focusing on digitalisation – connectivity, analytics, and the IoT – autonomous operations, and electrification. “Construction equipment and machines are becoming commodities, and we have to bring value through the combination of machines and services,” says Billaud.
“Volvo CE has a clear vision: zero downtime, zero emission, zero accidents, and 10 times more efficiency.”
(c) istockphoto.com / John Kelly | GPS World
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