Against the backdrop of a growing problem of construction equipment theft, off-highway OEMs continue to incorporate cutting-edge technologies into newer equipment models. As a result, owners are faced with new challenges in securing this high-value, highly desirable equipment against the threat of vandalism or theft on site. Consequently, more and more OEMs are seeking to negate these risks by incorporating new security methods, such as electronic locking and access control, in their designs.
Traditionally, OEMs have relied on conventional mechanical locks, numerous sets of keys, and a wide range of different padlocks, to keep their equipment secure. Over time, all this has added considerably to the cost of security for the buyers. Today, forward-thinking off-highway OEMs are benchmarking their security products against those already used successfully in the automotive industry, and are seeking to use specialist suppliers with a proven track record in delivering advanced security systems to this sector.
Automotive trends often set expectations that ripple through other industries, such as the ability to lock/unlock a door remotely. The technology most commonly used is radio frequency (RF), whereby the user presses a switch on an RF transmitter (usually a key fob). This sends a wireless signal to a receiver mounted on the vehicle actuating relays which operate the electronic power door locks installed throughout the vehicle. Some automobiles have also adopted vehicle-mounted digital keypads which send a signal to lock/unlock doors. Others have adopted passive RF systems that unlock the doors as soon as the transmitter is within a specific proximity to the receiver. More recent trends use Bluetooth based access via wireless communication.
Like the many consumers who expect their personal vehicles to have these technologically advanced features, heavy equipment operators are now coming to work with the same expectations of the vehicles, plant and equipment they use on the job. An electronically operated locking mechanism for example, provides intelligence not available with a mechanical key locking product. The electronic access option can incorporate logic to control auxiliary functions such as lighting, alarms and audit trail data for tracking access attempts over time. Furthermore, electronic locking provides the added intelligence to easily add, delete and remotely control valid digital "keys" or credentials.
Recognising the potential for this technology in the off-highway market, OEMs are beginning to incorporate remote locking devices into their equipment. Whilst traditional automotive-grade electronic locking systems may not be directly adaptable to off-highway equipment, more robust variations of these systems are available from the right specialist suppliers.
Off-highway equipment fitted with robust electronic locks and latches allows the equipment owner to remotely lock and unlock vehicles via a signal through a connected key fob, keypad or Bluetooth enabled device. These electronic access systems record a digital record of activity, allowing the equipment owner to view the status of each access point, such as when an engine hood or toolbox was opened, and by whom.
This information is available remotely and can be networked with other security systems. For example, if a machine is stolen from the job site, the owner can contact their security service, which can then locate and lock out that piece of equipment.
This remote lock/unlock feature can also be used in operator safety situations, such as when an operator must climb a ladder to access the cab door on a large piece of construction equipment. To access the cab, the operator must remove a hand from the ladder to open the door, shifting from four points of contact with the ladder to three. Integrating electronic access such as a RF proximity system into the cab door design can provide a safe means of opening the door remotely before the operator starts the climb, allowing four points of contact all the way into the cab.
When incorporating electronic access systems into off-highway equipment designs, rather than piecing mechanisms together from different suppliers - a practice that brings a host of expensive troubleshooting and quality problems - the most cost-effective approach is to work with experienced suppliers to design complete electronic access systems into equipment.
Leading the way in the provision of such access systems is Southco, a company which has provided engineering expertise to the off-highway industry for over 25 years. The global access hardware specialist offers proven mechanical options as well as intelligent electronic locking mechanisms, such as the R4-EM Electronic Rotary Latch - a latch which provides secure, concealed latching which can be networked with access control devices including remote control key fobs, pin pads and electronic keys.
Southco's latest evolution is the R4-EM Outdoor Electronic Rotary Latch, a device which can withstand dust, humidity, extreme temperatures and other environmental conditions that can be damaging to a system. The R4-EM Outdoor latching mechanism is sealed against moisture and dust, has a high working load and can be easily integrated into engine hoods, toolboxes and cab entry applications where enhanced security and rugged electronic access is required.
Ensuring the security and safety of off-highway vehicles and machinery continues to be a challenge for owners and operators. While new technologies used in the automotive industry are a source of inspiration for off-highway OEMs, integrating these cutting-edge technologies into their equipment often depends on industry demand.
Southco's engineered access hardware product offering enables the OEM to incorporate proven, robust electronic access systems into equipment designs early in the engineering process, and provides for a significant improvement over traditional security and safety measures that cannot always afford enough protection in every application.
To learn more about electronic locking and access control, please go to www.southco.com.