Caterpillar Inc.’s recent announcement that it is investing in Chicago-based technology startup Uptake shows how much the US construction industry has evolved when it comes to data analytics. Cat, a company that once operated as a pure supplier to a loose network of construction companies and the subcontractors they work with, viewed sales of equipment – and not what happens to that equipment once it exits its warranty period – as their key business just five years ago.
Cat’s statement to the media sounded like something out of Silicon Valley, hitting major buzzwords such as predictive and dynamic analytics. It read, “to help customers around the world better understand the health of their equipment and optimize machine availability, Caterpillar Inc. today announced it has entered into a technology and predictive analytics agreement with Uptake, provider of a dynamic analytics and insight platform for a wide array of industries, based in Chicago, Ill.”
Cat CEO and Chairman Doug Oberhelman took it a step further.
“Customers use our current technology for fleet monitoring and to track fuel efficiency, idle times, location and more,” he said. “Our existing solutions are effective, but it’s time we take it to the next level. This relationship will combine Caterpillar’s world-class product engineering and design expertise with Uptake’s software, application and data analytics expertise.
Internet of Things: Taking it to the Next Level
That’s one “internet of things” away from marking Caterpillar and Uptake as players in the world of big data. Contractors, rental companies and other Cat customers have for years had the ability to collect data from their fleets, but most of it was just used for current or past projects. ‘My bulldozer broke down after 15,000 hours of use,’ for instance. What this partnership will do is create predictive maintenance, scheduling and reporting for equipment out in the field based on what’s happened to similar machines (the predictive analytics in the statement above).
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service by exchanging data with the manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices. It’s a big buzzword right now for manufacturers seeking to learn more about their customers and how they’re using their products.
Telematics systems available on most heavy machines, trucks and tools today can upload stored usage data every day – and most already do. Construction sites today, in particular, are very tech-savvy. Most big projects are networked and actually rely on on-premise servers for tasks such as scheduling and sharing plans via phones, tablets and global positioning devices. Uploading data stored on Cat’s machines to Uptake’s servers in Chicago should be relatively easy.
Since last year, Uptake has been developing locomotive-related predictive diagnostics and fleet optimization solutions for Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD), a subsidiary of Cat. The early successes of the locomotive project led Cat to expand its relationship with Uptake into the other industries Cat serves.
It’s hoped that Uptake will make it so Cat can leverage its data and operational insights with Uptake’s technology and data science platform to provide solutions for customers in each of the industries and brands it serves.
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