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25 march 2019

Why Software Segment Is Crucial Even for Hardware Companies. A Case from Telematics

Image: Unsplash

The market of the complex hardware is usually seen as a "mini-arms race" between very few manufacturers that polish their products to perfection. Our partners from Technoton insist that in this vivid picture, one crucial detail cannot be missed — the embedded software segment. 

The importance of perspective

We see how the machinery around us helps to solve more and more problems while growing in its complexity. Therefore, over time, users will require a corresponding body of data about how efficiently their machines operate, which means processing many parameters and arrays of data by servers. That is especially topical for fleet management and vehicle monitoring application. All this leads to higher prices for deploying and supporting advanced technologies.

Technoton prioritizes advanced vehicle telematics as a focus area that is the most promising in using edge and fog computingTo secure a foothold in an emerging market, a company should recognize what thе needs of their consumers are and how exactly these needs can be met. We know that our consumers want; for instance, to find out if their vehicles are operated efficiently, or extend the lifespan of their machinery. For these purposes, there is high precision telematics hardware. We can make it, but so can our competitors. This is a dilemma that needs to be solved.

Those who understand vehicle telematics know that there are three types of companies in this area. Some manufacturers produce unsophisticated sensors with equivalent functionality, and their products are not applicable in the field of complex machines telematics. Ventures of the second type do not create anything but buy white-label devices, and then slap a sticker with their logo. Finally, there are companies of the third type that regularly apply new approaches in the design of their new hardware, while improving the functionality of existing products. We assume that Technoton is from the third breed. Why? Because of our approach to our products and our embedded software expertise.

The power of scalability

Consider such a simple example as a fuel level sensor. In its non-sophisticated form, it just measures the physical quantity of a liquid in a tank and turns this data into output analog signal (or even a digital message). Most manufacturers settle upon this design. Yes, it works, but it sends just 1-2 basic parameters to telematics units like fuel level in millimeters/liters and ambient temperature and leaves a lot of important events without analysis. That what our embedded software is for.

The workflow is reflected in DUT-E GSM, our fuel level sensor designed for fuel usage or misuse monitoring. A standard solution in the market is just a fuel sensor and a GPS tracking device. Our sensor does not need to be connected to the GPS tracking device since it is already built in: GPS/GLONASS receiver, GSM transmitter and embedded software to handle all measured parameters. The transmitter can send a user notification in virtually any way, via SMS, e-mail or even to a Facebook community if you have one.

A fuel tank calibration table from service software used for DUT-E GSM setup. Click to enlarge

However, the most important thing happens inside DUT-E GSM’s embedded software, which processes collected data without the help of servers. The software tracks and analyzes false signals — for example, a change in fuel level may happen because the vehicle has swung. If an abrupt change in the fuel level does occur, for example, due to misuse, a user can receive a notification to their device within 30 seconds.

What's even more exciting, such an approach can be used not only for fuel monitoring in vehicles but for any case, where a detailed analysis of the reasons for the use of any resource is needed. Imagine that water meters in your apartment every day send you reports to your smartphone, and you can determine the flow within a couple of minutes until costly damage has occurred. This is an excellent example of game-changing scalability of embedded software.

Possible functions for embedded software

The future outlook

The described design pursues the philosophy of fog computing, which implies that one can implement distributed sensor network using mini-chips like the one that lies in the heart of DUT-E GSM and many other devices, which may have a different form factor but the same software onboard. S6 Technology, based on CAN bus (SAE J1939 standard), is implemented in DUT-E GSM and allows it to communicate with S6-compatible fuel level and other smart sensors without any external telematics unit, vehicle computer or another central node.

The concept of fog computing

In 2017, Henrik Christensen, the Director of the Contextual Robotics Institute, made a statement: “My prediction is that kids born today will never get to drive a car.” Now we see crewless vehicles on the roads slowly making this claim a reality. The automotive industry is going through significant changes, and we may soon observe the world of smart houses, AI-driven production sites, connected cars and shared driving.

We are confident that the key to success at the emerging market of advanced machinery telematics is always being ahead of our time and introducing innovative solutions (like the one described above) to complex tasks. In the future reality, such sophisticated solutions will play a significant role. Technoton is in.

Nikita Kaplunskiy

Chief Marketing Officer for Technoton, an advanced vehicle telematics developer and manufacturer. Technoton offers solutions for remote monitoring of road and off-road trucks, locomotives, sea and river vessels, diesel generators (gensets), fuel storages and tanks, technological machines.

Featured image: Unsplash

This piece was published in cooperation with Technoton.