Connecting vehicles for the long haul with IoT

Somewhere on a remote stretch of highway a truck carrying valuable and perishable cargo runs into engine trouble. Rather than seeking out a local mechanic to diagnose the problem, the driver contacts fleet headquarters. There, a technician has already received detailed information from Internet-enabled vehicle sensors. This information tells the technician about the severity of the fault and enables them to know when, where, and how to best fix the underlying issue. That truck will be back on the road a great deal faster thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT capabilities are now standard at Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), but the company has a long history of innovation. Since the 1940s, DTNA has been at the vanguard, from developing lightweight aluminum truck components to introducing innovative green technologies. Today, DTNA continues to innovate by using IoT and data visualization to help customers better manage their fleets. Case in point: Recently they have partnered with Microsoft to enhance Detroit Connect, a pioneering integrated connected vehicle solution that can capture and analyze data, creating actionable insights that enable innovations in fleet management and maintenance.

Virtual Technician, Detroit Connect’s remote diagnostic service, uses Azure IoT Hub to collect performance information from vehicles on the road and stores it in Azure. Fleet managers can view complete fault-event details through the Detroit Connect portal and quickly know when a fault-event has occurred. Virtual Technician is proven to work at large scale, and more than 200,000 trucks on the road today are using it to maximize uptime and extend vehicle life.

DTNA is also using Azure IoT Hub to enable Detroit Connect Analytics, a new service — currently being piloted on 250 DTNA trucks — designed to help customers use data to optimize performance at the fleet level. Data is gathered from more than 20 vehicle sensors and then streamed to Azure IoT Hub. Once the data is in Azure, Detroit Connect Analytics dashboards help customers analyze and visualize that data to generate key insights, which enable fleet managers to optimize loads, improve fuel economy, and lower maintenance costs and vehicle downtime.

Even from the earliest planning stage, DTNA knew that any solution that used IoT to gather data from moving vehicles would need to be scalable and highly secure. DTNA partnered with Microsoft because of their experience with large IoT networks and the security of the Azure environment. The environment is redundant, replicated in two geographically dispersed Azure data centers, and it uses Azure Traffic Manager to trigger failover.

With Microsoft, DTNA has found a partner that is also committed to the long haul. DTNA’s director of connectivity, Matt Pfaffenbach, explains: “Microsoft has been both an advisor and an advocate for us. Unlike some software suppliers that just want to protect their licensing rights, Microsoft wants to help us achieve our goals.”

IoT has become central to DTNA’s business, as the ability to capture data better is “beneficial for us as we develop the next generation of technologies,” says Pfaffenbach. “The data we are now able to gather helps our engineers find flaws in their designs, our quality people find flaws in our processes and our warranty folks find better solutions to control our costs, which ultimately controls the costs of our customers. That is extremely powerful for us.”

Check out the full customer story to learn more about DTNA’s IoT solution.