Mobile Asset Framework in Heavy Duty Vehicles @ Authentic

 On the plains of Eastern Colorado about 50 miles southeast of our office in Denver is Authentic Drilling Inc.  Authentic Drilling was started a couple years ago by Sherri Meicklejohn, an entrepreneurial and visionary businesswoman who has developed one of the more innovative drilling companies in the US.  Authentic Drilling offers a wide variety of geotechnical, environmental and exploration drilling services and provides best of class equipment and expertise. They are known for challenging projects such as winching rigs off the side of a dam to measure the underlying soil and rock composition, and for drilling into abandoned coal fields to assess and extinguish underground methane fires.  Their fleet of rigs includes a mix of compressors, remote control and drivable rigs, semi tractors and support trucks.  In an effort to maximize their time in the field, Sherri and her team are constantly optimizing their equipment, training and methods.

 Authentic also believes that automation and sensors will play a big part in their continued success for reducing equipment downtime and reducing human errors during the drilling process.  At HarperDB, we have been honing our mobile asset management framework over the past few months and needed a live test lab to help accelerate our tools.  Sherri and her team at Authentic offered their facility, technicians and equipment as a local research and development lab, and we took advantage of this tremendous opportunity for the first time last week.  

Although our team has completed several iterations of mobile asset management using microcomputers connected to standard OBD2 interfaces, connecting to heavy equipment and diesel engines presented more of a challenge as these interfaces are less standardized and more difficult to actually perform testing. Our baseline application includes a device version of HarperDB which is installed on a microprocessor with a variety of sensors.  These sensors include a GPS, INS, accelerometer and a CAN interface.  The CAN or Controller Area Network bus was developed in the early 1980’s and allowed vehicle sensors to communicate with microprocessors without the need for a host computer.  The CAN controller interprets serial communications from the various vehicle sensors based on recognized standards such as OBD2.  The CAN interpreter resides on the microprocessor and provides real time access to the vehicles engine information.  Some manufacturers have developed their own proprietary formats for these data streams, and therefore libraries exist to interpret the codes. 

On the HarperDB mobile asset framework, the device database will read and store the codes from the CAN bus into a raw sensor table.  Once the data has been stored, users can then develop thresholds which when met can initiate maintenance or operator events.  These events are then synchronized to a server where fleet managers can review the events, schedule maintenance or optimize their operations.  Although each equipment manufacturer offers a similar telematics capability, there are no solutions on the market which can manage a heterogenous fleet of vehicles from one interface. The challenge for HarperDB is to integrate various vehicles and test in real world scenarios, and with the assistance of Authentic Drilling, we are able to validate the CAN interfaces for several industrial machines. 

We made the trek to Kiowa, Colorado last Thursday and were able to run the HarperDB mobile asset framework on a wide variety of equipment. These included compressors with Caterpillar engines, drill rigs with Cummins engines and semi tractors with engines from Mercedes.  

The Team Interfacing with a remote control drill rig – Cummins Diesel Engine
The team interfacing with a Caterpillar compressor

One of the more interesting pieces of equipment out at the Authentic site was a 1941 Ford truck outfitted with a drill rig.  The previous owner abandoned the rig while drilling a well in the 1960’s and it sat in place for 50 years. The Authentic team had to cut the auger and then loaded it onto a flatbed for transport to the site.  They intend to use this classic vehicle as a sign.  It was impressive and provided a time capsule to the state of this technology in the 1940’s and a comparison to the state of the art in drilling currently employed by Authentic. 

1940s Ford Drilling Rig

Being able to research and test the HDB mobile framework with real world vehicles and leverage the expertise of the Authentic team was invaluable and we want to express our appreciation to the team.  We are steadily growing a team of great partners that will help us expand our capabilities and help companies such as Authentic Drilling continue to innovate and grow their business.