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Wireless World GPS monitoring systems may offer loggers opportunities

By Diane Mettler

GPS technology is already popular with the construction industry. But as Tom Remy, of Qualcomm, pointed out at the recent Eugene, Oregon Loggers Conference, the technology holds potential benefits for loggers as well.

How it works
Qualcomm uses telemetric technology, which simply means wireless technology, where data is transferred over a telephone, computer network, or optical link.

Different companies use different GPS products. In Qualcom’s case, they attach a small, unobtrusive box to a piece of remote equipment. It then logs information and sends it via cell phone technology to your computer, so you can view it from your home or office.

Idling or Working
It’s the type of information the system provides that helps companies increase productivity. For example, the system can sense if the machine is working or idling. By being able to remotely track idle time and reduce it, owners can:
• save fuel and lower emissions.
• keep machines running longer.
• keep operators honest.
• decrease service center intervals. “Generally, service intervals are based on a 250-hour interval,” says Remy. “If you’re idling two hours a day, which is very common, you’re wasting oil change intervals on wasted idle time.”

Efficient Service Checks
These types of systems can track when maintenance is due and/or coming up.

“As an owner of forestry equipment, it’s hard to keep track of when service is due. No one tells you what the hours are on the machine. And it’s usually labor-intensive — the operator has to write down on his time card what the hours are on the machine. Usually those people aren’t that good at those kind of administrative tasks,” says Remy.

Avoid Theft
For those who worry about certain machines being stolen, these devices make it easy to report to the police and let them track the stolen machine. “You can call the police and tell them where it is,” says Remy. “But the important part is that many times insurance companies will give you a discount on your monthly premium for having a GPS tracking device on the machine. Or they will waive the deductible if the machine is stolen.

Price and Portability
The devices aren’t cheap. Qualcom’s Globaltracs system costs around $1,000 per box and around $1.00 a day to operator. But they are portable. When you sell the machine, you can remove the box and install it on the next machine.

Qualcom’s units are built for all machine models and to military specifications, and they have a10-year design life. But no matter what GPS device you purchase, it’s important to ensure that it’s rugged, can handle the outdoor conditions and can stand up to moisture, dirt, and vibration.

Savings
Because the units aren’t presently being used in the woods, there are no statistics as to how much a company can save using them. But in the construction industry, they have seen some dramatic savings.

“We’ve had large fleets of machines — like 1,000 machines — tell us that in 3 years they had a 290 percent return on investment,” says Remy. And though not all customers can boast these particular results, it’s definitely helping the bottom line.

Disadvantage for Loggers
Unfortunately, loggers face an issue that construction operators do not — loggers are often working outside the range of cell phones. In these cases the devices still work; it’s just that you may not get the information on your computer in real time.

“The devices capture the data, but it can’t send until it finds a cell signal,” says Remy. “The boxes will store up to 100 days of data on the machine. When it finds a cell signal, it will automatically make the call and offload its memory bank.”

Coming Soon
You may be saying, “I’m not ready for this kind of technology.” Well, you may not have a choice. Ready or not, it may be in your future sooner than you think. Globaltracs is now available through John Deere, and it’s branded as JD Link.

For more about the technology, visit www.globaltracslite.com (smaller machines) and www.globaltracs.org (larger machines)