Being responsible for Product Design at Trackunit, most of my work is about me connecting the dots as I consider the needs of our end-user community: machine operators and construction equipment.
On worksites, we care about operators and their safety. We’re also concerned for machines and equipment, and we’re on a journey to help eliminate downtime in the construction sector. The starting point is the vision of connecting man and machine.
The Launch of ePAL Changes the Game For Equipment Access
The app-based Powered Access Licence (ePAL) by IPAF (International Powered Access Federation) will launch in the coming weeks and marks a step change as plastic licenses are being phased out gradually in favor of a digital record held on the users’ smartphones. IPAF were looking to solve challenges which are prevalent on worksites, such as:
- Unauthorized operation
- Inspection and upkeep
Using the phone is a logical step - almost everybody has one and today they’re indispensable, like a fifth limb. Smartphone use is growing every day, from making payments to collecting loyalty stamps. In my own country, passport-holding Danish citizens can opt to carry a digital driver’s ID in place of the physical license.
Connecting Man and Machine. Replacing Plastic Cards with Smart Phones
Protected by biometrics and unlikely to be lent out, it’s not a big step for us to imagine the mobile phone and a validated app as a means to provide secure access to equipment, to prevent unauthorized machine operations, and confirm that the operator has correct and up to date training. This is a very important step forward for the safety of the driver and site personnel nearby.
With man and machine connected, an app can serve up useful prompts to the operator about pre-use routines – a visual inspection of the equipment, for example, to ensure that fluid levels are correct or no warning lights are showing. Routines that are sometimes overlooked in the haste to get on with the day’s work.
But what if the app - with the consent of the operator - was not just storing a record of qualifications? What if it was also building a record of hours spent in control of pieces of equipment and that safety and start-up requirements were met? The operator could automatically compile a glowing CV and a service record.
In developing ePAL, IPAF enabled operators to manually log hours spent on a range of equipment and machines. The telematics technology we’ve developed at Trackunit could provide this service automatically once people and machines are connected using an app.
Convenience works. As IPAF has already identified, the smartphone is clearly a front-running solution for securely managing operator training and qualifications. In Denmark, the authorities have already tapped into this. Which begs the question, why can’t we use it for managing access too?
It’s logical, and it can only help to make the worksite a safer and more efficient place.
Whether you’re a machine operator, construction contractor, or rental equipment provider: Do you think connecting man and machine could help keep you and your colleagues safer on worksites? Eliminate unnecessary downtime and help protect assets from abuse or theft? Would you be willing to accept trade-offs in exchange for these added benefits?
Reach out to me at BRL@trackunit.com with any ideas, questions or suggestions on this topic. It will help improve our product design for a safer and more productive workplace.