There are many examples of complex electronic control systems integrated into mobile machinery but, in some cases, simplicity can offer the greatest benefit. Given the vast array of mobile applications, there are numerous examples where the operator must control vehicle functions from outside the cab. Providing remote control access to these functions can save time, increase efficiency, and make the job much easier for the operator.
There is a wide range of remote control systems on the market today that consist of a handheld remote control and a vehicle mounted receiver that communicate with each other over a wireless connection. The embedded receiver is typically capable of reading sensor inputs and driving outputs. In a typical application, the operator uses the remote device to control a function or series of functions on a machine.
As an example, the user would press a button on the remote, which sends a wireless signal to the receiver, which turns on an output to open a valve, which moves a cylinder. When the cylinder reaches the desired position, the operator releases the button and the movement stops. The operator has the flexibility to perform this function from any position within the wireless range of the vehicle. The handheld remote is typically a device with a number of buttons and possibly joysticks and an LCD, depending on the needs of the application. In most cases, the remote must be customized through tooling or the creation of graphical overlays to offer the specific functions needed by the application.
With the popularity and widespread use of smartphones and tablets, the next generation of remote control systems is upon us, offering more features, greater flexibility and simplicity. Making use of the smartphones that most people carry with them already, it is possible to replace the handheld remote with a smartphone and an app. The smartphone still communicates with the embedded receiver in a similar way as the current systems, utilizing the built WiFi or Bluetooth technology already available.
Apps on Smartphones for Remote Control
There are a number of advantages that this type of system offers. Designing this system around the smartphone means that any (and only) authorized users can download an app and connect to any machine using their own device. There is no need to keep track of the remote for each specific machine or worry that the remote’s batteries are charged. Any parameter data for that machine would be stored on the embedded receiver and uploaded to any smart device that connects. A username and password would be entered to activate the app ensuring that only authorized users can connect to the machine. The app itself is made available through the app store for all supported devices such as Apple, Android, or Microsoft. This means that new features and functions of the app can be released to the entire network, just by publishing the app to the app store.
Apps can be easily customized by the OEM to give it the desired look and feel without the need for overlays or custom tooling. They can also make use of built in features such as weather and maps to enhance the functionality of the app. Additionally, data can be sent to the cloud using the smartphone’s internet connection to record performance or job data and compiled into a greater database for offline analysis.
We live in a connected world where people are accustomed to having their equipment, their phone and the internet connected in some way. The simplicity of remote control systems brings significant advantages to the way operators interface with the machines, and this evolutionary step towards smartphone technology only makes it easier.
The JCA Robin remote system addresses this change by offering a smartphone-based Bluetooth system that can be customized for remote control applications. Contact JCA today to learn how this system can work for you and a free estimate.