UPDATE: Remote diagnostics

Last month's cover story, Diagnostics on the Fly, mentioned one commercially available remote diagnostics system and predicted that new systems would soon follow. One such system, which is intended to answer cost-justification questions, will be introduced later this month and a second, which will take a different approach to wireless connectivity, is expected by the end of the year. Formerly known

Last month's cover story, “Diagnostics on the Fly,” mentioned one commercially available remote diagnostics system and predicted that new systems would soon follow. One such system, which is intended to answer cost-justification questions, will be introduced later this month and a second, which will take a different approach to wireless connectivity, is expected by the end of the year.

Formerly known as MPSI, one of the original developers of diagnostics software and systems for diesel engines, NEXIQ Technologies (www.nexiq.com) has deep roots in the vehicle diagnostics field. Later this month at the American Trucking Assn.'s annual meeting, the company will officially unveil its e-Technician Service, a Web-based remote diagnostics system that will attempt to hold down costs by offering separate features to both truck manufacturers and fleet customers.

The heart of the system is an onboard diagnostics device connected to both J1708 and J1939 data buses. Having worked on diagnostics software for a wide variety of heavy- and medium-duty engines and major components, NEXIQ says its single device will be capable of collecting and reading data from most ECUs found on modern trucks.

The system is “wireless agnostic,” says NEXIQ CEO John Allard, meaning it can work with most existing and planned communications networks.

Using an ASP (application service provider) model, NEXIQ will maintain the actual diagnostics applications on its servers, with users paying a monthly subscription fee to access those applications with a standard browser and Internet connection.

SPREADING THE COST

The company expects truck makers to install the vehicle hardware at the cost of “a few hundred dollars per unit” and pay a small annual fee to remotely access warranty information, Allard told FLEET OWNER. In addition, manufacturers with call center operations can pay “per session” fees to remotely monitor alerts and diagnose problems in emergency roadside situations.

With the hardware already on the vehicle for OEM use, fleets can pay similar fees to activate the systems for other functions, such as changing engine or other component operation parameters remotely, says Allard. In the future, NEXIQ sees expanding fleet uses by working with logistics and other fleet-application developers.

Leasing companies are also expected to become subscribers to the system, using the information for billing and vehicle history functions.

“Each player — OEM, fleet and lessor — bears a portion of the (system's) cost, making it easier for each to justify,” says Allard. The ASP model and the ability to consolidate all of a vehicle's operating information in a single device should also help overcome cost issues for remote diagnostics, according to NEXIQ.

NEARLY REMOTE

Although it can't actually be classified as “remote,” a new wireless diagnostics system from daVinci Technology Group takes advantage of new communications technology to create a “near area network” that provides access to a vehicle's various ECUs without actually hooking the truck up to a hardwired diagnostic device.

Initial pilot units of the PUC (Protocol University Center) use Bluetooth technology with a range of 10 meters for the wireless link. With ruggedized versions expected by the beginning of next year, that range will expand to 100 meters with a higher power version of Bluetooth, according to daVinci principal Michael Doseck. Hardware for other true wide-area network (WAN) systems are also anticipated.

Connecting to the J1939 data bus, the PUC can automatically transfer diagnostic information from a vehicle to a fleet's information system when the vehicle pulls into a terminal or other facility equipped with a Bluetooth transceiver. The Internet is used to transfer the downloaded data to various fleet applications.

Since Bluetooth is a two-way communications channel, the system can be used to automatically recalibrate engines and other electronically controlled components, as well as collect trip data and additional fleet management information.

The company also envisions Bluetooth connections housed at fueling facilities to provide a wider network of data transfer points without the cost of true WAN communications, says Doseck.

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