responses courtesy of Domenico Traverso, President of the Work Function Division, Danfoss Power Solutions
The Internet of Things & Connectivity
How do you see the Internet of Things shaping the direction of the heavy-duty vehicle markets?
If people aren’t aware already, they will soon discover that all agriculture and construction equipment will include connected components — which will happen sooner rather than later. Operating off-highway vehicles that are connected to the cloud will quickly become the standard, just as other technology trends have seamlessly integrated into our everyday lives (GPS systems in our phones or cars, for example).
What this means for the off-highway industry is the rise of available data about these vehicles. Manufacturers and end-users will be able to track how well their vehicles are performing, where they’re located or how many working hours they’ve logged, among many other data points.
Connected vehicles also bring about the rise of intelligent functions, which can range from basic tasks to sophisticated processes. For example, sprayers can distribute the precise amount of product exactly where it’s needed, or can evaluate how to treat the land depending on various factors. These solutions are already available — it’s only a matter of time before it becomes the standard.
How is your company integrating IoT solutions into your workspace, or what is your perceived plan for implementation and the benefits you foresee with its implementation?
Working with electronic solutions is not a new concept for Danfoss. However, with the recent increase in demand and opportunity, we are focused on accelerating the connectivity sector of our electronic solutions department. There’s a shift from offering electronic solutions that optimize a vehicle’s efficiency — such as implementing our PLUS+1 system to assist with vehicle control — to utilizing those solutions to communicate insights about performance.
One of the application areas we are focused on involves electro-hydraulic drive steering, which can be GPS-guided. While this capability is something Danfoss has offered for years, we are now considering how to create more sophisticated solutions in regards to autonomous steering. Our recent focus on connectivity is part of a natural evolution for Danfoss.
How has this concept influenced how you approach technology development and new ideas?
Our focus on connectivity has certainly changed where we invest our time and research. Compared to 10 years ago, the digital sphere is absorbing everything we do — it’s almost night and day. Where we would have focused mostly on product fulfillment, we now spend more time considering how connectivity will impact the product’s usability and lifetime, and how it will fit into the changing digital landscape.
What we were anticipating to develop a decade ago is completely different from where we invest our resources now. To again use our steering business as an example, we have now created a separate business unit for the eSteering products. The autonomous driving solutions we’re creating now — a concept for which we will display at Agritechnica — were unheard of only 5-7 years ago.
Automation Advancements & Smart Systems
What technology is the most significant contributor to the progress of vehicle automation?
The biggest player in the vehicle automation process is software technology. Delivering innovative solutions is no longer only about creating physical products, but instead developing the algorithms and software capabilities that enable the physical products to work in new ways.
How does your company contribute to autonomous systems development and success?
Certainly, electric drive steering and steer-by-wire solutions from Danfoss play a significant role in vehicle automation. Our steering solutions are among the safest in the world, which will be critical for autonomous machines operating at high speeds. Furthermore, Danfoss already offers telematics solutions, including our PLUS+1 platform. We have products available at several levels of autonomous systems.
Managing the Data Trend
How is your company utilizing data in new and valuable ways?
At Danfoss, we make sure to gain value from data in two ways: to help us increase our knowledge and to help us better serve our customers. The main way we make valuable data available to our customers is through offering telematics systems. We can then work together with our customers to collect, analyze and interpret the data to understand how their fleet of machines is performing.
What value is this providing to your company and customers?
The ability to collect data is a huge value for our customers. Gathering statistics from an entire fleet of machines and reviewing them at a high level presents opportunities to predict machine failures, find new areas for optimization, and streamline many different areas of business operations. Essentially, it’s the ability to prevent problems and boost performance.
Where do you see data leading the industry? What is its potential?
As we further analyze trends in machine performance and preventative maintenance from the large amounts of data that’s now being generated, manufacturers will have the opportunity to improve machine design to be more cost effective while still delivering the same output levels. Improving machine design in this way will also lead to enhanced component design, system optimization and so on, overhauling the way we develop entire vehicles.
Challenges & Opportunities
What is your company’s opportunity to impact the marketplace with a unique product, capability or offering?
Because of Danfoss’ extensive portfolio of industry-leading products, our engineers are considered the application experts. We work within very defined areas in the off-highway industry, and can therefore excel in deepening our knowledge and helping our customers. One way we do this is through extensive, real-world testing at our state-of-the-art Application Development Centers. With three strategically-located facilities in North America, Europe and China, our engineers can assess system solutions on a wide variety of terrain and ground conditions which can replicate virtually any real-world jobsite — from a steep-grade gravel slope, to the muddiest field, to the most extreme winter-like road conditions.
Because we can glean intricate and vital information from how our customers' machines perform in various operating conditions — and because we can develop the exact solution our customers need — we can be a fundamental partner. Our customers can trust our process and rely on us as we work together to develop new, custom solutions.
The Global Landscape
What key policies are you watching closely that could impact your business, either positively or negatively?
We are certainly keeping an eye on emissions regulations around the world. As standards keep evolving and changing, we will need to be able to service our customers with the varied solutions they need to reduce emissions without sacrificing power. We are also looking closely at how regulations will develop around autonomous vehicles. How the industry will grow and shift around creating these policies will greatly impact how we can then help our customers navigate this new territory.