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COBO: Optimizing snowplow fleet operations

May 16, 2022 by Arduino Pro

A robust and reliable IoT tracker based on the MKR hardware

THE CHALLENGE

An IoT solution to improve efficiency and reduce traffic delays caused by snowy weather

COBO, a worldwide group leader in the production of electrical, electronic and mechanical equipment, was contracted to develop a system to track the activity of snowplow tractor fleets.

Monitoring a fleet of snowplows is a complex process, and it’s not uncommon to miss a street or an entire neighbourhood resulting in severe delays for affected areas. Tracking the GPS position and monitoring the speed of every single tractor in the fleet ensures that the snow plows are reaching every corner of the city and facilitates route planning in a more efficient way. The subsequent improvement in process, resulted in less time taken to clear the streets of snow, reducing both the level of traffic delays and the amount of fuel consumed, with the added benefit of reducing emissions.

With winter coming, the project had a strict deadline and a clear set of parameters:

  • Quick and easy installation
  • No data contract
  • Solution to be independent of tractor brand

OUR SOLUTION

Fast time-to-market and a transferable solution to other devices

Snowplow tractor fleets are generally made up of independent contractors using a range of tractor models from different brands. Hence any solution had to be brand agnostic, whilst also being easy and quick to instal with fully interchangeability. Developing a device that is brand agnostic, sets another level of challenges meaning that you have to think about many different contexts before picking a final solution. COBO’s experience in off-highway vehicles allowed them to identify the necessary features.

"We wanted CAN-bus to use our standard COBO products and to add new devices to the network or even the tractor if required in the future."

-GIUSEPPE TALARICO, PROJECT MANAGER IN COBO

Given the intermittent use it was also important to avoid any costs from ongoing data plans. This meant it was necessary to choose a data communication option that was untied from cellular connectivity, whilst also having full and reliable coverage across the area concerned - LoRa® was therefore the ideal choice.

"Arduino recommended the appropriate products, and gave us access to an early release of their CAN-bus shield including support in writing the application. This allowed us to rapidly prototype a reliable product and produce a first pre-series in less than 1 month.

-GIUSEPPE TALARICO, PROJECT MANAGER AT COBO

The final product, the COBO IoT Tracker is a robust and reliable device that was realized by utilizing the modular capability of the Arduino MKR family. The snowplow tractor’s position and speed is collected by an MKR CAN Shield interfacing with a COBO GPS-CAN and to the control unit of the tractor. Whilst an MKR WAN 1300 connects to the council LoRaWAN™ and transmits the data to the Arduino IoT Cloud for visualization on a dashboard for the data collected from the whole fleet.

An additional post implementation benefit has come from using the data analytics to implement preventive maintenance, reducing the overall maintenance costs and downtime of vehicles in the fleet.The solution is transferable and can be used in similar scenarios like the optimization of public transport fleets.

"We found the MKR WAN 1300 and the CAN Shield very strong and reliable products"

GIUSEPPE TALARICO, PROJECT MANAGER AT COBO