Coates Hire is piloting a “smart job site” concept with an undisclosed number of customers, building on digital and internet of things (IoT) foundations put in place over the past three years.
Chief information officer Ben Waterhouse told iTnews that the smart job site concept is seen as “the next iteration” in an ongoing transformation that has already produced what Coates Hire calls the rental industrial IoT or RIIoT.
RIIoT enables hirers to view equipment and utilisation data to improve productivity on their construction, mining or other sites.
It uses sensors on heavy earthmoving or other hire equipment to collect data that is sent via cellular networks to a central platform. Customers can then view the data directly via a business-to-business (B2B) portal.
The company is now hoping to help its customers expand data smarts on a site-wide basis, not just for certain pieces of equipment.
Pilot smart job sites will use low-power wide area networking (LPWAN) technology, which Waterhouse said provided for “a raft of interesting opportunities.”
“We can track really small tools and equipment around the site that don't otherwise have power,” he said.
“We can track people around a site. We could track pallets and inanimate objects.
“We're looking at a couple of customers to pilot that and understand where there's value today.”
Waterhouse said that through the pilots, Coates Hire hoped to demonstrate practical benefits for customers.
“Rather than just being a glossy, ‘you've got a smart job site’, that's cool but what do you get from it?” he said of the company’s approach.
“We'll take a bit of time to work that through with a couple of key pilot customers and come up with the right outcome.”
Portfolio delivery and digital transformation group manager Kirsty McKay said the smart job site concept offered customers a way to achieve more “nuanced” change using IoT and other data.
Use cases for sensing and data “can get very nuanced but with that there's a very rich amount of data and therefore value for the customer” on offer, she said.
That focus on the customer has so far permeated much of the existing work by Coates Hire to reach this point.
Though its digital transformation had a decidedly internal focus in the early days, attention soon turned to “customer-facing initiatives”, resulting in apps as well as the B2B portal that draws in telemetry data from the RIIoT platform.
All new equipment that Coates Hire buys each year now comes equipped with sensors that collect data for RIIoT.
The company is also still working on an extensive program retrofitting sensors to existing equipment fleets.
Waterhouse said RIIoT enabled customers to geofence hire equipment to specific sites.
“That becomes important for customers because they might [have] different billing constructs,” he said.
“If I've got a project, I want to know that my costs for that project are within that project, and a piece of equipment hasn't gone off to another project secretly.
“So it allows them to track that and get alarms and alerts and notifications accordingly.”
Waterhouse said Coates Hire had adopted an iterative approach to developing its technology platform and capabilities, informed by customer feedback.
“We've got a fairly decent roadmap of stuff that we want to add into our portals and our platform, and we'll continue [that work],” he said.
On the backend, Waterhouse said that the company had decided to “strategically work across several core” suites.
These include Sitecore for front-facing sites as well as digital asset management and related functions; Azure for cloud and data; and Dynamics for CRM.