Businesses of all types rely on the trucking industry to maintain fast delivery times and deliver products safely all over the world. Without trucks, many goods and raw materials would never find their way from rail yards, ports, and airports to their final destinations. As the adage goes, “if you bought it, a truck brought it.”
To help the industry achieve new levels of operational efficiency and service, new IoT technologies are finding their way next to the driver seat. Connecting truck fleets to the Internet of Things (IoT) offers many benefits:
- Increased truck uptime and improved performance – vehicle health monitoring and preventative maintenance solutions can identify mechanical issues before they result in breakdowns
- Shorter delivery times – real-time route selection, including directions for alternative routes, can help drivers avoid road construction, traffic jams, and other delays
- Improved fuel efficiency and safety – prompts can help drivers optimize shifting patterns, acceleration, and braking
- Improved safety – video-assisted collision avoidance systems can alert drivers of dangers en route and during loading dock maneuvers
- Better documentation of road and delivery incidences – video recordings can help companies defend themselves against lawsuits and reduce insurance costs
A good example of the effectiveness of an IoT fleet management solution comes from Saia LTL Freight. Using Intel-based IoT products and a fleet telematics solution from Vnomics, the 3,000 truck fleet achieved a six percent increase in fuel efficiency and $15 million in savings. Sources for these savings came from preventive maintenance, operational performance gains, and other data-driven initiatives.
In this post, I look at two new compact in-vehicle computer boxes for fleet management and mobile video analysis from NEXCOM, an Associate member of the Alliance. The newest members of their VTC series, the VTC 7230 and VTC 7240, use latest 5th generation Intel® Core™ processors to deliver in-vehicle computing for a wide range of use cases (Figure 1).
Figure 1. The VTC 7230 and 7240 are part of NEXCOM’s complete line of in-vehicle computing solutions for fleet and transit vehicle management, mobile video surveillance, in-vehicle infotainment, digital signage, and emergency services.
A Road Warrior
Both the VTC 7230 and 7240 feature a u-blox NEO-M8N module providing built-in GPS support for vehicle tracking and navigation. An optional receiver module can provide dead reckoning functions to enable continuous navigation in poor signal environments. A CAN bus 2.0B interface with optional On-Board Diagnostics system (OBD II) function supports vehicle diagnostics. Dual externally accessible SSDs/HDDs are available for ample storage for video and media files.
Four mini-PCIe expansion slots enable remote monitoring of vehicle diagnostics, vehicle safety and driver feedback systems, and exchange of video data. The expansion slots support dual high bandwidth cellular radios for excellent coverage, as well as high-speed Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities.
Equipped with intelligent power management, the units can wake on ignition, RTC timer, or SMS/Ring remotely. Both computers feature selectable boot-up and shut-down voltage for low power protection by software. Status of ignition and low voltage is software-detectable.
For physical security and active monitoring at all times, the pre-alarm function on the in-vehicle computers features two DI and DO channels and an event button signal. Both can operate in power-off state, ensuring alarms and emergency notifications are available at times of intrusion or urgent conditions. A built-in G-sensor when triggered can, depending on the software, record excessive braking or sharp turning, and even activate alerts and video cameras to warn against a potential accident and record any that do occur.
To handle the rigors of the road, the VTC 7230 and 7240 offer a rugged design. Both feature MIL-STD-810G compliance for vibration and shock. Operating temperatures with air flow range from -30°C to 55°C (when using the recommended industrial SSDs).
To support a wide range of features and usage models, front and back I/O is comprehensive, offering connections for nearly everything needed to collect information from vehicle sensors and the driver, display it, and communicate it (see Figure 2 and Figure 3). In addition to data, the VTC 7230 and 7240 support two-way voice communication.
Figure 2. Front view of the rich I/O options of the NEXCOM VTC 7230 and 7240 in-vehicle computer.
Figure 3. Back view of the rich I/O options of the NEXCOM VTC 7230 and 7240 in-vehicle computer.
Faster, More Precise Signal and Imaging Processing
In-vehicle computers like NEXCOM VTCs benefit from Intel® Core™ processors through their higher precision and speed in signal and image processing. The 5th generation Intel® Core™ U-series processors utilize Intel’s new 14nm process technology to provide a 64-bit, multicore processor and a platform controller hub (PCH) onto a common package substrate. This multi-chip package (MCP) delivers PC-class performance, HD graphics, and high quality sound for space- and power-constrained embedded applications.
Combined with architectural enhancements, the new process technology enables the 5th generation Intel Core processors to deliver up to 24 percent better graphics performance and up to 50 percent faster video conversion compared to the previous generation – all while contributing to better battery life. Thermal design power (TDP) is just 15W (CPU+PCH) and configurable down to 10W on this low power. The processors can power up to three displays.
Using these processors, the VTC 7230 and 7240 give trucks the ability to sense and think. The processors enable the signal processing, machine vision, and video transcoding capabilities required for lane tracking, collision avoidance, drowsy driver warning, and rear view backup systems. For example, by consolidating and processing information from multiple sources such as dashboard cameras, proximity radars, and tank level gauges, these processors enable the VTC 7230 and 7240 to evaluate traffic situations ahead, calculate minimum stopping distance, and suggest drivers slow down to a safe speed to obviate the need to slam on the brakes. Taking such preventive precautions can avoid a potential rollover crash and spill, increasing road safety, and even protecting the environment when goods in transit are flammable materials or hazardous chemicals.
Advanced Processors for the Road
The primary difference between the VTC 7230 and 7240 is the processor. The VTC 7230 comes with the Intel® Core™ i3-5010U processor and the VTC 7240 comes with the Intel® Core™ i7-5650U processor. Both offer hardware-based security features such as Intel® OS Guard, Intel® Secure Key, and Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions. These help protect systems against malware intrusions and accelerate data encryption/decryption.
The Intel Core i7-5650U processor gives the VTC 7240 an edge in performance, remote management, and security. This processor includes:
- Intel® Turbo Boost Technology – uses available headroom to deliver additional bursts of performance when you need it and increased energy efficiency when you don’t
- Intel® vPro™ technology – supports remote and local monitoring, remediation, and repair of the computer unit, as well as advanced protection against rootkits, viruses, and malware
- Intel® Trusted Execution Technology – adds security capabilities such as measured launch and protected execution for applications.
When you think of all that is riding on truck tires – everything from perishables to hazardous cargo – solutions like these in-vehicle computers from NEXCOM go a long way in connecting fleet managers with the IoT to improve driver performance and vehicle uptime. To view more products for fleet management, visit our Solutions Directory.
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NEXCOM is an Associate member of the Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance.
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance
Editor-in-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine