Delcan Technologies recently submitted their recommendations for the draft of the Clear Roads Universal In-Cab Communications Protocol. The public comment period is open until February 28, 2014. The final standard is targeted for completion in 2015.
Clear Roads is a pooled fund research project that provides ongoing research about winter maintenance materials, equipment, and methods for use by highway maintenance crews. One of the current Clear Roads projects is the Plug-n-Play Initiative, which will provide standard communication protocols between winter maintenance electronic devices. Different vendors manufacture sensors and other electronic devices with their own proprietary communication protocols and data formats. That means that a spreader controller by one vendor may not communicate with an AVL by another vendor.
Currently, AVL vendors have been adapting their technology to communicate with the spreader controllers. However, that requires custom firmware updates for each product provided by a different vendor. The burden on AVL vendors, along with constant increase of data complexity, makes the current model unsustainable.
Clear Roads developed a universal, bi-directional protocol to work with spreaders, AVL devices, and other winter maintenance electronic equipment. The Clear Roads Universal In-Cab Communications Protocol provides a Data Parameter Library (DPL) to standardize the protocol, data format, Baud rate, and sensor negotiation. The standard is designed as a living document, and new data parameters can be added as technology changes.
Delcan Technologies recently launched a number of geo service enhancements to Intelligent NETworks®. The Automated Vehicle Locator (AVL) and Winter Maintenance modules can feature a wide range of geo-fencing capabilities.
Geo Services provides a virtual perimeter around user-selected geographical areas. Authorized users can select custom boundaries around specified areas on their map. Whenever a vehicle with a mobile data collector enters or exits the geo-fenced perimeter, the system receives a notification. The system can then use that data to generate customized reports or to send alerts.
There are a number of search features available for defining the geo-fenced area. You can search by a specific address, a landmark, or pre-defined locations such as garages or cities. Users can create an ad hoc geo-fence to find the closest vehicle in the fleet to the specified area. Or, users can pre-set areas, such as garages, so they have constant data on who enters and exits the garages, the duration spent in the garage, and the exact time of entry and departure.
This technology has many practical uses. For example, it can input data for time management systems. A fleet administrator can set it up to provide alerts when a driver breaks from the route. Dynamic reports can be created to determine if certain routes are over- or under-salted by a winter road maintenance fleet. Similarly, alerts can be set whenever a salt truck enters an EPA-protected zone. It can also be used for billing activities. If the city winter road maintenance crew contracts with private companies to plow their facilities, they can automatically trigger billing whenever a plow truck enters the company location.
Geo Services can streamline workflow, reduce administrative work, prevent unauthorized usage, and provide useful statistics. This tool is a significant addition to the AVL and Winter Maintenance modules, offering greater control and additional notifications.
Delcan Technologies was selected to implement an Intelligent Snow Plow system for the State of Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). Deployment of the 270+ MDC (Mobile Data Collector) units began in October 2013 with Phase I being completed in February 2014.
The first phase of the MDOT intelligent snow plow project included the installation of MDC units that transmit data provided by the plow blade sensors, spreader controller, GPS receiver, and air and road temperature sensors. This data is sent to the central Intelligent NETworks system where system administrators can monitor, analyze, and report on winter maintenance activity.
Intelligent Snow Plow Module Features
The Intelligent NETworks Winter Maintenance module selected by MDOT collects real-time information on weather and roadway conditions to monitor and control winter maintenance vehicles in the field. In addition to analyzing MDC data, the module includes the following features:
MDSS: The MDC system has been linked with a Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) to provide winter maintenance treatment recommendations. An MDSS works by combining historical weather data, weather forecasts, and current weather conditions with the real-time data collected from MDCs installed in vehicles. The data collected from the MDCs is sent to the MDSS, which then analyzes the data using multiple computer models and sends specific maintenance recommendations back to the MDCs and to the central system monitored by MDOT management.
Geo Services: This new feature added to the Winter Maintenance module provides geo-fencing capabilities. This allows MDOT winter maintenance management to receive alerts when snow plows enter or exit specified geographic locations. For example, system managers may choose to be alerted any time a snow plow enters a garage. They can then track how much time the vehicle spends in the garage before exiting.
Multiple Views: The MDOT system has been configured with two viewing settings: garage view and state-wide view. A garage view is created for each MDOT garage. Users are allowed to see the vehicles and associated data within their own garage. The state-wide view shows all MDOT connected vehicles and their associated data. Users with special permissions, such as MDOT managers, can access the state-wide view.
Reporting: Intelligent NETworks Winter Maintenance module includes advanced ad hoc reporting. This provides MDOT with rich, customized reporting capabilities. MDOT administrators can quickly and easily select any two data points collected by the MDC system and create a custom report.
MDOT elected to install all the MDC units. Delcan Technologies shipped the first set of equipment and sensors. Then, Declan Technologies went on-site to provide hands-on installation training for selected MDOT personnel. By training the MDOT crew, their team now has the capability to install new systems and transfer them between vehicles. In addition, MDOT-trained staff can instruct more staff as needed. This allows for greater control and independence.