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Hire company deepens equipment visibility with IoT

11 Mar 2019

Kennards Hire has developed an innovative Internet of Things (IoT) solution, leveraging cloud computing, edge computing and satellite communications, to keep track of assets. 

Through GPS tracking, it’s using a range of sensors to monitor usage, fuel levels, and a raft of other data so that it can gauge how equipment is used and schedule preventive maintenance when it makes the most sense - reducing the risk of downtime and promoting safety.

Beyond the initial pilot, the business is looking to really exploit the intelligent edge capabilities of the solution so that its customers can also take feeds from the platform to know that the equipment they have hired is being used properly, efficiently and safely.

Dubbed EasyTRAK, the system is designed to accept inputs from vehicles, sensors on plant and equipment, wearables and environmental sensors. 

It analyses the data, transmits it to the cloud, ingests it, performs further analysis and then provides insights to managers, its call centre, eventually through an app to customers, and integrates to the corporate ERP.

As Kennards Hire buys new equipment, often already featuring in-built sensors, the IoT solution can integrate that data, using application programming interfaces (APIs) to access and then ingest the data, before creating a single comprehensive view of the location, health and history of all Kennards Hire equipment where and when it’s needed.

“We have an extensive range and depth of equipment and we’re talking about getting insights into generators, lighting towers, vehicles, delivery trucks, right down to small and powered hand tools across our network,” says IT infrastructure manager Mitch Hirsch.

“Obviously, the data on the vehicle is going to be a significantly longer list of attributes than what you can get from say just a power drill or something like that. It’s really getting more visibility across our fleets and having a single pane of glass to interact with that information.

“Things like how much fuel is in that generator, how long until it runs out of fuel, what’s the battery charge of that electric scissor lift, what are the diagnostic codes that piece of equipment is sending? For example, if there’s a boom lift on site and it stops working, we could see in real time the diagnostic codes coming across.”

Underpinning the Kennards Hire solution is Microsoft IoT Edge, the Azure IoT hub and an array of intelligent edge services. 

This allows readings from a drill out on a remote site to be collected, analysis performed at the edge, relevant data uploaded to the internet via either cellular networks or satellite, ingested into the Azure IoT Hub, analysed and then made available to optimise equipment and provide importation operational insights to employees and management.

The intelligent edge approach essentially stretches the cloud to create a mesh of interconnected devices and services, creating an interface between the real and the digital worlds.

“It’s really about being agnostic, not just across devices but also that backhaul connectivity stack,” Hirsch explains.

“So, we will be using the Iridium satellite network, we’re using some partners with a low orbit satellite network. Obviously the traditional 3G, 4G, 5G cellular networks along with LoRa, Bluetooth, NFC, all those technologies as well, will be part of the equation in terms of transporting data from device to IoT platforms.”

Hirsch’s ambitions for the solution are impressive - he is already envisioning services allowing customers to use a smartphone app to see how near their equipment is when it’s being delivered to them, and a proactive maintenance scheduler that will save time, money and enhance safety and security. 

He is also confident that when deployed fully the solution will let Kennards Hire offer more efficient and cost-effective services to customers without compromising on customer service.

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