submitted by Michael Wright, General Manager – Aftermarket, Perkins Engines Company Ltd.
Connectivity as exemplified by the explosive growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), is the next frontier of internet-based technology. And while communicating remotely with household appliances may not be a critical economic priority, the same cannot be said for using the technology to monitor diesel engine performance on equipment that’s essential to one’s business.
That’s why many engines today come from the factory equipped with some sort of remote monitoring and communication capability. It’s also the driver behind a whole industry that has come into existence to provide retrofit solutions for many older machines.
But, with literally millions of un-connected mechanical and electronic diesel engines still working in the field every day, those solutions are literally just the very tip of the iceberg. In most cases, neither factory nor aftermarket retrofits can be applied economically to those engines with today’s technology so they have been destined to stay un-connected until they eventually are scrapped.
Connecting those engines is really a two-part challenge. The solution requires an easily-installed, low-cost monitoring device coupled with a user-friendly monitoring and control App able to run on nearly any mobile device. Meeting that challenge presents a major opportunity to meet a real market need with a unique, innovative product that will connect many of those engines in real-time.
A Smart Oil Cap
When Perkins engineers took up the challenge their first task was to identify an easily replaced component that was common to almost every engine the company had produced. The answer was the oil cap, which had been used in only 3 sizes on every engine from 0.7 to 7.1 liters. That covers outputs from 20 to 300 horsepower, representing the great majority of the more than 5 million Perkins engines produced over the last few decades that are still in service around the world.
Once that was established, the engineers went to work packaging the sensors and communication components inside the oil cap. The resulting product is called the Perkins SmartCap, a Bluetooth-enabled oil filler cap that monitors the engine and communicates with the user’s mobile device.
The Perkins SmartCap is compact, simple to install, and inexpensive at less than $50 per unit. It’s compatible with any Perkins mechanical or electronic diesel engine in the 0.7 to 7.1 liter displacement range. Once installed there are no subscription or other ongoing costs associated with the Perkins SmartCap.
A Free App
Data from the Perkins SmartCap is fed via a Bluetooth connection to the user’s smart phone or other Bluetooth-enabled mobile device running the free Perkins® My Engine App available from the Apple and Google stores. The smart phone was chosen as the primary user interface device because it is ubiquitous, easy to work with and has a mature software distribution and support system in place via the Apple and Google stores.
The Perkins My Engine App provides a suite of standalone features that do not require a Perkins SmartCap connection. Once a customer registers their engine number with the app, they gain immediate access to their Operating Maintenance Manual and parts book plus engine-specific information including a build list, series/type/model details, a consumables list and a service schedule. The App also allows a user to keep an on-line service record and contact a local Perkins Distributor via a Distributor Locator feature.
A Winning Combination
When combined, the Perkins SmartCap and Perkins My Engine App gives users access to a range of useful engine information including:
- Engine running hours
- Engine location
- Service reminders and service log
- Start / stop data
- Parts book and consumables information
This data helps users better plan their service schedules and keep track of maintenance histories. A distributor portal is also available to authorized Perkins service outlets to record services, so that a full log of all service activity is available on the app. In addition, the app also provides parts book and consumables information, making it easier to manage the administration of engines without the need to keep track of a lot of paperwork and manuals.
The app can track many engines at once, allowing machinery owners to access information on all their engines in one convenient place. For the first time, the low cost Perkins SmartCap in conjunction with the Perkins My Engine App enables Perkins customers to easily track use of their engine and servicing requirements, locate their local Perkins distributor, see parts information and receive service updates, all in one place.
The Perkins SmartCap and Perkins My Engine App combination brings all of the benefits of IoT connectivity to global users of more than 5 million Perkins engines. And, like all things software and internet related it will only become more capable and powerful in the future. The benefits of talking to a toaster may be trivial, but the benefits of a connected diesel engine are anything but, and this is only the beginning.