The development of modern IT is so rapid that many of the things that are happening perhaps sound like science fiction. As a result, Per Adamsson is constantly thinking of the future in his work as Strategy and Business Development Director at Volvo Group Telematics.
With phrases like ‘cloud services', ‘Big Data' and ‘the internet of things', he explains how concepts that sounded like pure fantasy not long ago are now becoming reality.
"Following the arrival of smartphones, the advantages of what we call connectivity have become obvious in people's everyday lives," he says.
Nowadays, connectivity is taken for granted. Data is sent to a so-called cloud via wireless networks, where it is stored, analysed and distributed as an internet service, thereby creating added value for different users.
"All technology with an integral sensor, which is connected to the internet, generates user information. If there is anywhere where the development of IT is taking place at striking speed, it is within the automotive industry. Today, vehicles generate an enormous amount of data and the added value is the increasing efficiency of our transport solutions and services," explains Per Adamsson.
In actual fact, vehicles are already the second largest users of data in the world, after home electronics.
"By making them smart, our customers' business operations are more profitable."
Where smart technology differs from ordinary machines and apparatus is the utilisation of user information.
"Our ultimate target is to eventually make our data systems autodidactic. This will enable the data to draw statistical conclusions to create maximum efficiency without needing any commands from the user. A simple example would be having coffee ready without even turning on the coffee machine. Since it has learned when and how we want our coffee, we don't even need to think about turning it on!
As this ecosystem of smart appliances is created, trucks are becoming intelligent too. When it comes to how connectivity will reshape the transport industry, much is yet to be discovered. However, some developments are more predictable than others.
Hayder Wokil, Director of Quality and Uptime at Volvo Trucks, is convinced that advances in the field of connectivity are going to revolutionise truck services: "When the different components of a truck can communicate their status to us, we will be able to prevent unplanned standstills in a totally new way," he says.
Uptime - the availability of a truck for work - is becoming increasingly important to the transport industry, as higher requirements are making unplanned standstills more and more costly. Currently the direct cost of an unplanned standstill is estimated to be around €1,000 for an average European transport company, according to research from Volvo Trucks. And this is only the direct costs, such as recovery, repairs and lost transport revenue. The indirect costs, such as destroyed cargo or revenue loss due to a harmed reputation, are even harder to calculate.
"The ability to maximise uptime plays a decisive part in every truck business' survival. The truck has to function in order to make money for its operator."
This is the rationale behind Volvo Trucks' vision that no Volvo truck should encounter an unplanned standstill. A recent study conducted by Advanced Technology and Research at Volvo Trucks revealed that eight in every ten unplanned standstills could have been avoided if servicing was more dynamic and based on the current status of each truck - something that connectivity makes possible. Knowledge of the condition of a truck in real time will enable maintenance to be performed at once and in the right time, thereby reducing the risk of very expensive consequential damage, since a failed component can easily have a negative impact on others.
"Within the next five years, I expect transport companies to put more pressure on truck manufacturers to ensure that their vehicles provide higher uptime. For this reason Volvo Trucks is currently running a number of research projects to secure higher uptime for its customers. One unplanned standstill is one too many. The impact it has can be devastating on the transport company's economy," adds Hayder Wokil.
In some markets, Volvo Trucks is already using telematics to monitor wear and tear to parts such as air driers, batteries, brakes and clutches. However, even if it was technically possible to equip every component in a truck with its own sensor, this would make the truck indefensibly expensive. So it is necessary to find ways of analysing data so that the whole truck is covered.
To achieve this, Volvo Trucks is conducting a number of research projects on connectivity. One of them is In4Uptime, run by Fredrik Bode at Volvo Group Trucks Technology. The project aims to make use of as much of the available data as possible. Bode explains that there are three different types of data that are combined to diagnose and predict a truck's condition.
"First and foremost, we use the truck's own self-generated data signals. This data comprise information that is sent inside the truck's network of sensors and control units. Secondly, we use stored data from other trucks, such as service histories from our workshops. Finally, we have external data, the kind that doesn't come from the actual truck but from the internet or external suppliers, like traffic information or weather data."
Fewer unplanned standstills mean increased efficiency and profitability for the truck owner.
The information is checked for deviations since this shows if a defect will shortly occur. In the event that the truck is found to be in a better condition than expected, a service interval can be extended.
In4Uptime is working to develop methods for sorting the data and identifying what has a decisive effect when it comes to a component's failure. These methods will eventually be used to develop software with models and algorithms that predict when the level of wear makes it necessary for a truck to be serviced.
"You could say that we put our ear to the truck and listen, and it then tells us if something is about to go wrong. Access to this information will enable us to make our trucks more efficient and the target is that the transport companies operating Volvo trucks will make more money."
New terms and phrases
the basis for enabling data to be exchanged on a larger scale. Current connectivity within smart technology is the result of wireless internet connections.
large volumes of data that are gathered on such a scale that it is difficult to process and analyse them using standard software.
an internet service that stores, distributes and analyses information. The data is analysed using statistical conclusions and algorithms that create added value for various users.
[internet of things]
a network of equipment that is linked using connectivity. Exchanging data in the internet of things helps to increase value, as smart equipment is able to supply services that match user needs.