US20080001771A1 - Method and system for reporting machine status - Google Patents

Method and system for reporting machine status Download PDF

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Publication number
US20080001771A1
US20080001771A1 US11/495,896 US49589606A US2008001771A1 US 20080001771 A1 US20080001771 A1 US 20080001771A1 US 49589606 A US49589606 A US 49589606A US 2008001771 A1 US2008001771 A1 US 2008001771A1
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United States
Prior art keywords
machine
component
data
entity
machine component
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Abandoned
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US11/495,896
Inventor
Michael David Faoro
Robert Winston Ramsey
Daniel Jon Krueger
J. Joseph Gualandri
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Caterpillar Inc
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Caterpillar Inc
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Publication date
Priority to US11/477,514 priority Critical patent/US7677452B2/en
Application filed by Caterpillar Inc filed Critical Caterpillar Inc
Priority to US11/495,896 priority patent/US20080001771A1/en
Assigned to CATERPILLAR INC. reassignment CATERPILLAR INC. ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: KRUEGER, DANIEL J., FAORO, MICHAEL DAVID, GUALANDRI, J. JOSEPH, RAMSEY, ROBERT W.
Publication of US20080001771A1 publication Critical patent/US20080001771A1/en
Application status is Abandoned legal-status Critical

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    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07CTIME OR ATTENDANCE REGISTERS; REGISTERING OR INDICATING THE WORKING OF MACHINES; GENERATING RANDOM NUMBERS; VOTING OR LOTTERY APPARATUS; ARRANGEMENTS, SYSTEMS OR APPARATUS FOR CHECKING NOT PROVIDED FOR ELSEWHERE
    • G07C5/00Registering or indicating the working of vehicles
    • G07C5/008Registering or indicating the working of vehicles communicating information to a remotely located station
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60RVEHICLES, VEHICLE FITTINGS, OR VEHICLE PARTS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B60R25/00Fittings or systems for preventing or indicating unauthorised use or theft of vehicles
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60RVEHICLES, VEHICLE FITTINGS, OR VEHICLE PARTS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B60R25/00Fittings or systems for preventing or indicating unauthorised use or theft of vehicles
    • B60R25/10Fittings or systems for preventing or indicating unauthorised use or theft of vehicles actuating a signalling device
    • B60R25/1004Alarm systems characterised by the type of sensor, e.g. current sensing means
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60RVEHICLES, VEHICLE FITTINGS, OR VEHICLE PARTS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B60R25/00Fittings or systems for preventing or indicating unauthorised use or theft of vehicles
    • B60R25/10Fittings or systems for preventing or indicating unauthorised use or theft of vehicles actuating a signalling device
    • B60R25/102Fittings or systems for preventing or indicating unauthorised use or theft of vehicles actuating a signalling device a signal being sent to a remote location, e.g. a radio signal being transmitted to a police station, a security company or the owner
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60RVEHICLES, VEHICLE FITTINGS, OR VEHICLE PARTS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B60R25/00Fittings or systems for preventing or indicating unauthorised use or theft of vehicles
    • B60R25/30Detection related to theft or to other events relevant to anti-theft systems
    • B60R25/33Detection related to theft or to other events relevant to anti-theft systems of global position, e.g. by providing GPS coordinates
    • GPHYSICS
    • G08SIGNALLING
    • G08GTRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEMS
    • G08G1/00Traffic control systems for road vehicles
    • G08G1/20Monitoring the location of vehicles belonging to a group, e.g. fleet of vehicles, countable or determined number of vehicles
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60RVEHICLES, VEHICLE FITTINGS, OR VEHICLE PARTS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B60R2325/00Indexing scheme relating to vehicle anti-theft devices
    • B60R2325/10Communication protocols, communication systems of vehicle anti-theft devices
    • B60R2325/105Radio frequency identification data [RFID]

Abstract

A data communication system for a component of a machine includes a control module configured to monitor at least one type of machine data associated with the machine component configured to be mounted on the machine. The data communication system also includes a processor device configured to receive and process the machine data from the control module, and a transceiver device configured to communicate with the processor device and at least one off-board system. The processor device, the transceiver device, and the control module are formed integral with the machine component such that the data communication system communicates the machine data to the at least one off-board system when the machine component is not mounted on the machine.

Description

    RELATED APPLICATION
  • This is application is a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 11/477,514 filed on Jun. 30, 2006, for “Method And System For Providing Signatures For Machines,” which is incorporated herein by reference.
  • TECHNICAL FIELD
  • The present disclosure relates generally to a method and system for reporting information, and more particularly, to a method and system for reporting machine status.
  • BACKGROUND
  • Machines and machine components have routinely been the target of thieves, especially when there is a need for equipment, such as after a natural disaster. Stolen machines may be stripped and sold for parts, and therefore, create difficulties for authorities and machine owners to identify missing parts. To assist with identifying machines and machine components, markings are used, such as labels, etchings, etc., that uniquely identify a given component or machine. However, these markings may be removed or altered to change the identification information.
  • Furthermore, law enforcement officials may not be trained to identify machines properly. For example, transported machines that are subject to inspection may have identification information printed on a component or sticker attached to the machine. However, alterations to the identification information frustrate the machine identification process. That is, law enforcement attempts to accurately identify machines with altered markings and identifications hinder the ability to locate missing machines and components.
  • One method of locating a missing vehicle is described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,418,537 (the '537 patent) to Bird. In the system disclosed by the '537 patent, a vehicle owner notifies a vehicle location service center that a vehicle is missing. In response, the vehicle location service center broadcasts a paging request. The paging request is received by the vehicle, which sends its present location to the vehicle location service center so that the vehicle can be recovered.
  • Although the system of the '537 patent provides a method for recovering missing vehicles by broadcasting a paging request to the missing vehicle, the method has some drawbacks. For example, once the missing vehicle is located electronically, there is a time delay until the actual retrieval of the vehicle because the person retrieving the missing vehicle must travel to the location of the vehicle. Thus, the missing vehicle may be moved while the person sent to retrieve the missing vehicle is en route to the vehicle's detected location. Furthermore, if the paging responder or a similar device is removed from the vehicle, the vehicle is unable to respond to the paging request and thus unable to be located. In a further aspect, if a component of the missing vehicle is removed from the vehicle, the component is unable to be tracked.
  • The disclosed system is directed to overcoming one or more of the problems set forth above.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • In one aspect, the present disclosure is directed to a data communication system for a component of a machine. The data communication system includes a control module configured to monitor at least one type of machine data associated with a machine component configured to be mounted on a machine, a processor device configured to receive and process the machine data from the control module, and a transceiver device configured to communicate with the processor device and at least one off-board system. The processor device, the transceiver device, and the control module are formed integral with the machine component such that the data communication system communicates the machine data to the at least one off-board system when the machine component is not mounted on the machine.
  • In another aspect, the present disclosure is directed to a method for reporting that at least one machine and/or machine component is missing. The method includes determining a type of notification service for the machine and/or machine component, and collecting machine data from the machine and/or machine component via a communication system formed as an integral part of the machine component. The machine data includes data reflecting at least one operational parameter associated with the respective machine and/or machine component. The method also includes determining that the machine and/or machine component is missing based on the collected machine data, and sending a notification message to a first entity based on the specified type of notification service. The notification message includes data reflecting that the machine and/or machine component is missing.
  • In yet another aspect, the present disclosure is directed to a system for reporting a status of a machine and/or machine component. The system includes a data communication system formed as an integral part of a machine component configured to be mounted on a machine, and the data communication system is configured to communicate machine data from the machine component. The machine data includes data reflecting at least one operational parameter associated with the machine component. The system also includes a service center configured to receive the machine data from the data communication system and store the machine data. The data communication system communicates the machine data to the service center when the machine component is not mounted on the machine. The service center and/or the data communication system is further configured to determine a status of the machine and/or machine component based on the collected machine data, and send a notification message to a first entity. The notification message includes data reflecting the status of the machine and/or machine component.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING
  • FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic illustration of an exemplary machine;
  • FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram illustrating an exemplary communication system; and
  • FIG. 3 is a flow chart illustrating exemplary disclosed steps for collecting and storing information and for locating a machine.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • FIG. 1 illustrates an exemplary machine 10 having one or more components 11. A machine component 11 may be an electronic, electrical, mechanical, electro-mechanical, etc., portion of machine 10 that performs some operation related to the overall operation of machine 10 (e.g., a hydraulic component, an engine, a transmission, etc.). Machine 10 may embody a fixed or mobile machine that performs some type of operation associated with an industry such as mining, construction, farming, transportation, or any other industry known in the art. For example, machine 10 may be a commercial machine, such as a truck, crane, earth moving machine, mining vehicle, material handling equipment, farming equipment, marine vessel, aircraft, an excavator, a dozer, a loader, a backhoe, a motor grader, a dump truck, or any type of machine that operates in a work environment such as a construction site, mine site, power plant, etc.
  • Machine 10 may be equipped with a data communication system 12, which includes at least one electronic control module (ECM) 13, a gateway processor device 14, a transceiver device 15, and a global positioning satellite (GPS) device 16. Although the following description relates to the identification of machine 10, one or more machine components 11 may each also be equipped with data communication system 12. Accordingly, in certain embodiments, machine 10 may include multiple data communication systems 12 mounted on one or more separate machine components 11.
  • Data communication system 12 may be formed integral with corresponding machine 10 and/or component 11. Alternatively, one or more of ECM 13, gateway processor device 14, transceiver device 15, and GPS device 16 may be formed integral with corresponding machine 10 and/or component 11. For example, component 11 may be formed integral with ECM 13, gateway processor device 14, transceiver device 15, and GPS device 16. As a result, when component 11 is removed from its associated machine 10, then data communication system 12 or one or more of ECM 13, gateway processor device 14, transceiver device 15, and GPS device 16 remain attached to component 11 and fully operational.
  • Furthermore, data communication system 12 may be tamper-proof. Removing data communication system 12 from machine 10 and/or component 11 may cause the machine and/or component to be disabled. Machine 10 and/or component 11 may then be reactivated by dealer 42 or other entity 40. At that time, dealer 42 may inspect machine 10 and/or component 11 to determine whether it has been reported missing.
  • Data communication system 12 may be a system configured to collect and transmit machine data, location data, and identification data. In one embodiment, ECM 13 stores machine data including, for example, identification information specific to machine 10. For example, the identification information may include a machine identifier (e.g., a serial number, registration number, or other information assigned to machine 10). Further, ECM 13 may collect and/or store other types of machine data, such as scheduling data (e.g., when machine 10 is scheduled to change location and/or how long machine 10 is scheduled to remain at a location, identification of types of authorized operations during scheduled shifts, etc.), machine operational data (e.g., operational historical parameter data (e.g., oil pressure, motor speed, temperatures, fluid levels, and/or other parameter data related to the operation of machine 10 or a component 11)), timings, fault codes, etc. ECM 13 may collect the machine data from one or more machine components 11. Alternatively, or in addition, ECM 13 may collect machine data from one or more other ECMs 13 associated with one or more other machine components 11.
  • ECM 13 may also be associated with at least one sensor (not shown) for monitoring and recording at least one type of machine data. For example, an engine ECM may receive signals from engine sensors, such as, for example, an atmospheric pressure sensor, a fuel flow sensor, a boost pressure sensor, a water temperature sensor, and an engine speed sensor. Additional sensors may be included to measure other properties of the engine as necessary, as would be apparent to one skilled in the art. Another exemplary ECM is a transmission ECM, which may be associated with sensors that monitor the transmission, such as a gear code sensor, a transmission output speed sensor, and a differential oil temperature sensor. Other sensors may be associated with the transmission ECM as would be apparent to one skilled in the art.
  • As explained, machine 10 may include multiple ECMs 13. Each of these ECMs 13 may be different types of ECMs 13. For example, machine 10 may include a hydraulic system ECM, a chassis ECM, and/or a brake/cooling ECM. These other ECMs may also be associated with one or more sensors for collecting machine data related to one or more machine components 11, such as a hydraulic system, the chassis, the brake/cooling systems, etc. Other sensors and ECMs may be included for collecting machine data related to other components as would be apparent to one skilled in the art. Each ECM may be associated with one or more sensors, and the specific types of sensors and the number of sensors associated with each ECM may be based on the type of application and information to be obtained by the sensors.
  • Gateway processor device 14 includes one or more processor devices that execute program instructions to perform various functions such as requesting and/or receiving information from ECM 13 and GPS device 16. Further, gateway processor device 14 may generate messages to transmit to an off-board system, such as a service center 20, an entity 40, and/or a personal device 50 (FIG. 2). Gateway processor device 14 may be configured with different types of hardware and/or software (e.g., a microprocessor, a gateway, a product link device, a communication adapter, etc.). Gateway processor device 14 may also provide interface functions for transmitting data to, and receiving data from, data communication system 12. Further, gateway processor device 14 may execute software for performing one or more functions consistent with the disclosed embodiment. Also, gateway processor device 14 may include storage device(s) for maintaining data for use by one or more on-board modules (e.g., ECM 13), or one or more off-board systems (e.g., service center 20, entity 40, portable device 50, etc.). For example, gateway processor device 14 may be configured to perform protocol conversions (e.g., tunneling and translations), intelligent routing, and server-based operations, such as data provisioning, application provisioning, Web server operations, electronic mail server operations, data traffic management, and any other type of server-based operations that enable data communication system 12 to retrieve, generate, and/or provide data to off-board systems, e.g., service center 20, entity 40, and/or portable device 50. For clarity of explanation, FIG. 1 shows gateway processor device 14 as a distinct element. However, “gateway” functionality may be implemented via software, hardware, and/or firmware within other one or more on-board modules, such as ECM 13, which communicates with off-board systems. Thus, gateway processor device 14 may, in certain embodiments, represent functionality or logic embedded within another element.
  • Transceiver device 15 includes one or more devices that transmit and receive information, such as information collected and stored by gateway processor device 14 from ECM 13 and GPS device 16. Transceiver device 15 may transmit the information to the off-board system, such as service center 20 and/or portable device 50. Further, transceiver device 15 may receive information, such as requests for machine information from the off-board system. Alternatively, transceiver device 15 may represent separate transmission and receiver devices, or other devices for providing a communication interface between machine 10 and service center 20.
  • GPS device 16 generates location data, e.g., GPS coordinates, for machine 10 based on data from a satellite, local tracking system, or any other position sensing system known in the art. The location data may be collected by gateway processor device 14 and may be transmitted to the off-board system via transceiver device 15.
  • Data communication system 12 may be configured with software to provide and transmit machine data or other data in a passive or non-passive manner. For example, data communication system 12 may be attached to an antenna. An off-board system, such as service center 20 and/or portable device 50, which are described below, may be used to send a signal to one or more devices of data communication system 12, such as the gateway processor device 14. In a passive system, the signal from the off-board system may include a small amount of radio frequency to energize data communication system 12 such that data communication system 12 then emits a radio frequency signal, which may be received by the off-board system. In an active system, data communication system 12 may provide a power source for emitting the radio frequency signal. The radio frequency signal emitted by data communication system 12 transfers machine data or other data to the off-board system.
  • FIG. 2 illustrates an exemplary communication system 60 including machine 10, service center 20 including a machine information database 22, a network 30 including, e.g., one or more additional wireless and/or wire-line communication networks (e.g., satellite networks, RF networks, fiber optic or coaxial cable based networks, twisted pair telephone line networks, or any other type of communication network), and other entities 40, e.g., owners (not shown), leasing entities (not shown), dealers 42, law enforcement 44, and vendors 46. According to certain embodiments, communication system 60 may perform one or more processes for identifying and/or locating machines 10 and/or machine components 11 implemented with a data communication system 12. The interaction within communication system 60 to report information about machine 10 and/or component 11 is described below with reference to FIG. 3.
  • FIG. 3 is a flow chart showing an exemplary machine locating process consistent with certain disclosed embodiments to report information regarding machine 10 and/or component 11 to locate a missing machine 10 and/or component 11. In one embodiment, service center 20 and/or an entity 40, such as an owner, lessor, or lessee of machine 10 and/or component 11, may determine a type of notification service for machine 10 and/or component 11 (step 100). The notification service specifies how designated entities are informed of a status of machine 10 and/or component 11 (e.g., that machine 10 and/or component 11 is missing, a geographic location of machine 10 and/or component 11, machine data of machine 10 and/or component 11, etc.). The status of machine 10 and/or component 11 may be communicated using notification messages that are automatically generated by machine 10, component 11, service center 20, and/or other entities 40.
  • In one aspect, service center 20, machine 10, and/or component 11 may determine the type of notification service automatically based on one or more factors such as type of machine 10 and/or component 11, geographic location of machine 10 and/or component 11, target entity receiving the notification messages, etc. Alternatively, entity 40 may specify the type of notification service. After the type of notification service is selected, information specifying the selected type of notification service may be stored in service center 20, machine 10, and/or component 11 so that the notification messages may be automatically generated. In one aspect, the information specifying the type of notification service may be stored in machine information database 22 and associated with machine data used for identifying machine 10 and/or component 11 as described below.
  • According to one type of notification service, machine 10 and/or component 11 may automatically generate notification messages that include location data and/or machine data related to machine 10 and/or component 11. The location data may be determined using GPS device 16 in data communication system 12. Machine 10 and/or component 11 may send the notification messages periodically to designated entities 40, e.g., owners (not shown), leasing entities (not shown), dealers 42, law enforcement 44, and vendors 46. According to another type of notification service, machine 10 and/or component 11 may send the notification messages to service center 20, which monitors the location of machine 10 and/or component 11. Service center 20 may then send the notification messages to target entities, which are entities 40 that are pre-selected when selecting the type of notification service.
  • The determination of the type of notification service may include selecting the target entities for receiving the notification messages. Such entities may include dealers of the specific type of machine and/or component, dealers in a specified geographical area surrounding the last known location of machine 10 and/or component 11, law enforcement, vendors and/or dealers that deal with machines and/or components associated with machine 10 and/or component 11, competitors of the owner and/or manufacturer of machine 10 and/or component 11, etc. A competitor may be an entity that deals directly or indirectly with the same type of machines and/or machine components as the owner and/or manufacturer of machine 10 and/or component 11. Alternatively, the owner and/or manufacturer of machine 10 and/or component 11 may agree with competitors to share notification messages for machines 10 and/or components 11 from their respective affiliated business entities (e.g., dealers, vendors, other owners and/or manufacturers, etc.). This information-sharing arrangement may be established when the type of notification service is selected. The type of information-sharing arrangement and/or the type of notification service may be modified any time after initially specifying the type of service and/or information-sharing arrangement.
  • The determination of the type of notification service may also include determining the number and frequency of notification messages. For example, the notification messages may be sent once or multiple times, and a maximum and/or minimum number of notification messages may be specified. The notification messages may be sent regularly after predetermined periods of time.
  • The determination of the type of notification service may also include determining the type of data included in the notification messages. For example, the notification message may indicate that machine 10 and/or component 11 is missing and may include contact information associated with the owner and/or leasing entity of the machine 10 and/or component 11. The location data that may be included in the notification message may be the location data relating to the last known location of the machine 10 and/or component 11, i.e., the GPS coordinates last stored by GPS device 16. The notification messages may also include machine data from ECM 13 of data communication system 12 associated with machine 10 and/or component 11. For example, the notification message may include identification information assigned to machine 10 and/or component 11, machine data reflecting operational characteristics of machine 10 and/or component 11, etc.
  • The type of data included in the notification messages may also depend on the designated entity receiving the notification message and/or the type of trigger event that caused the generation of the notification message. For example, for a missing machine, a notification message may be sent to local law enforcement that includes a machine identifier, machine description, last known location, and information indicating the particular trigger event causing the generation of the notification message. On the other hand, a notification message including the machine identifier and lessee identification information may be sent to an insurance company insuring the machine, owner of the machine, etc.
  • After specifying the type of notification service, service center 20 receives machine data from data communication system 12 associated with machine 10 and/or component 11 (step 102). The machine data is used to identify machine 10 and/or component 11. As described above, the machine data may include identification information assigned to machine 10 and/or component 11, machine data reflecting operational characteristics of machine 10 and/or machine component 11, etc. For example, the machine data may include one or more machine parameters, e.g., a machine identifier, a historical operational parameter, work site information or other scheduling operational parameter, and/or a fault code. The machine data is unique to a particular machine 10 and/or component 11 and may include a series of values or a string of digits. Service center 20 may also receive location data related to machine 10 and/or component 11, which is determined using GPS device 16 in data communication system 12.
  • Service center 20 may store the machine data received from machine 10 and/or component 11 in machine information database 22 (step 104). In addition, the information specifying the type of notification service may be associated and stored with the machine data for each respective machine 10 and/or component 11. Steps 102 and 104 may be executed one or more times during the lifetime of machine 10 (e.g., following an assembly of machine 10, before machine 10 has been delivered to a work site, and/or after delivery of machine 10 to the work site). Further, steps 102 and 104 may be executed once, after a predetermined event has occurred, or periodically at regular time intervals.
  • During operation, machine 10 and/or component 11 may periodically, or as demanded by service center 20, provide a notification message to service center 20. For example, at the end of a shift for machine 10 (e.g., at the end of the day), machine 10 and/or component 11 may automatically provide a notification message, including location data, scheduling data, and/or machine data, to service center 20.
  • Aspects related to certain embodiments enable the machine data to be used to locate and verify the identity of a machine or machine component. In circumstances where a machine 10 and/or component 11 is reported to be in an abnormal condition, such as when it is missing (e.g., stolen, not returned at end of lease, moved from authorized locations, performing operations or tasks outside defined thresholds or time constraints, unscheduled operation, etc.), trigger events may be implemented to initiate processes for locating and/or verifying the identity of the inspected machines or components. Thus, machine 10 and/or component 11 may be determined to be missing based on an unscheduled trigger event, e.g., starting, changing operations, changing operators, moving, etc. For example, gateway processor device 14 may store scheduling data for machine 10 indicating when machine 10 is scheduled to operate and when it is scheduled not to operate. Gateway processor device 14 may also receive machine data (e.g., engine data from an engine ECM indicating when the engine has started, transmission data from a transmission ECM indicating when the transmission is operating, etc.). Gateway processor device 14 may compare the scheduling data to the machine data, e.g., in real time or periodically, to determine whether there is a conflict (i.e., machine 10 and/or component 11 is operating when it is not scheduled). As a result, gateway processor device 14 may generate and send a notification message to service center 20 via transceiver device 15 indicating that machine 10 and/or component 11 is missing. The notification message may include machine data, such as identification information used by service center 20 to identify machine 10 and/or component 11 from other machines and/or components listed in machine information database 22. The notification message may also include information indicating the particular trigger event of machine 10 and/or component 11 causing the generation of the notification message. Alternatively, instead of missing machine 10 sending the notification message directly to service center 20, an owner and/or lessee of missing machine 10 and/or component 11, or another entity 40 (e.g., dealers 42, law enforcement 44, and vendors 46) may determine that machine 10 and/or component is missing, and then may generate and send a notification message reporting that machine 10 and/or component 11 is missing to service center 20.
  • In another embodiment, service center 20 may store scheduling data for machine 10 and/or component 11. Further, service center 20 may receive messages periodically from machine 10 and/or component 11 that include location data for machine 10 and/or component 11. The messages received from machine 10 and/or component 11 may also include other identification information, such as the machine data used to identify machine 10 and/or component 11. Service center 20 may compare the location data to the stored scheduling data to determine whether there is a conflict. If so, service center 20 may identify an abnormal condition for machine 10 and/or component 11.
  • Service center 20 receives the notification message reporting that machine 10 and/or component 11 is missing (step 106). Alternatively, service center 20 may determine that machine 10 and/or component 11 is missing based on other information (e.g., machine data). As another alternative, service center 20 may determine that machine 10 and/or component 11 is missing based on a lack of messages (e.g., status reports or any other type of message sent periodically to service center 20 from machine 10 and/or component 11) after a predetermined period of time.
  • In one aspect, one or more entities 40 (e.g., dealers 42, law enforcement 44, and/or vendors 46) may each access a separate database 43, 45, 47 (FIG. 2) that stores machine data for one or more machines 10 and/or components 11. Each separate database 43, 45, 47 may include machine data for different sets of machines 10 and/or components 11 to allow each entity 40 to monitor a specified set of machines 10 and/or components 11. After service center 20 receives the message reporting that machine 10 and/or component 11 is missing, service center 20 may initiate an update of one or more databases 43, 45, 47 (step 107). For example, service center 20 may store information indicating the databases 43, 45, 47 that store machine data associated with each particular machine 10 and/or component 11. As a result, service center 20 may initiate an update of databases 43, 45, 47 that include machine data associated with the particular machine 10 and/or component 11 that is reported missing. Service center 20 may also update databases 43, 45, 47 that are accessed by entities 40 located within a predetermined area from the last known location of missing machine 10 and/or component 11. Alternatively, service center 20 may update all databases 43, 45, 47 connected to network 30.
  • Service center 20 uses machine data included in the notification message reporting that machine 10 and/or component 11 is missing to identify the machine data associated with machine 10 and/or component 11 in machine information database 22. Service center 20 may then flag the information in machine information database 22 and/or databases 43, 45, 47 associated with missing machine 10 and/or component 11 (step 108).
  • When an entity 40 attempts to complete a transaction (e.g., a purchase, trade-in, sale, or other customer or third party transaction) associated with a flagged machine 10 and/or component 11, a warning or alarm message is generated and presented to the entity 40 that attempted to complete the transaction (step 109). The warning or alarm message may be generated by the entity 40 based on the machine data stored in databases 43, 45, 47 and/or may be generated by service center 20 based on the machine data stored in machine information database 22. A notification message may be sent by entity 40 that attempted to complete the transaction and/or service center 20 to the target entities selected for the specified notification service associated with the missing machine 10 and/or component 11.
  • Furthermore, service center 20 and/or entity 40 may flag particular types of components 11 that are associated with the type of missing machine 10. Then, a warning or alarm message may be generated when attempting to complete a transaction involving any components 11 that may be used with missing machine 10. In another aspect, service center 20 and/or entity 40 may flag particular types of machines 10 that are associated with the type of missing component 11. Then, a warning or alarm message may be generated when attempting to complete a transaction involving any machines 10 that may operate using missing component 11.
  • Service center 20 reports the loss to predetermined entities 40 (step 110). Service center 20 reports the loss by sending notification messages according to the type of notification service selected for machine 10 and/or component 11 in step. 100. In one aspect, service center 20 implements, or delegates implementation of, the specified notification service by generating notification messages that include at least a portion of the machine data and/or location data stored in machine information database 22 for missing machine 10 and/or component 11. For example, service center 20 may generate a notification message including a machine identifier, machine description, contact information for reporting known information about missing machine 10 and/or component 11, and last known location.
  • After service center 20 reports to the predetermined entities 40 that machine 10 and/or component 11 is missing using the notification messages, service center 20 may act as a hub for receiving responses to the notification messages from the predetermined entities 40 (step 111). The responses may include information regarding missing machine 10 and/or component 11. For example, entity 40 may locate missing machine 10 and/or component 11 and may provide a message to service center 20 in response to the notification message indicating the geographic location of the missing machine 10 and/or component 11. Service center 20 may then generate and send a report including information included in the response, such as the location of missing machine 10 and/or component 11, to other entities, such as local law enforcement, other dealers, custom officials, etc. The report may be an e-mail, webpage, or other electronic format, and may include a map showing the location of missing machine 10 and/or component 11.
  • After flagging the machine data in machine information database 22, service center 20 may also send command messages through network 30 to command all missing machines 10 and/or components 11 that are flagged in machine information database 22 to reply with a locating message (step 112). In response to the command message from service center 20, missing machine 10 and/or component 11 may transmit the locating message to service center 20 via network 30 (step 114). The locating message may include location data associated with missing machine 10 and/or component 11 determined by GPS device 16 and machine data including identification information associated with missing machine 10 and/or component 11 (e.g., one or more historical operational parameters, scheduling operational parameters, and/or other machine data used to uniquely identify machine 10 and/or component 11).
  • In one embodiment, the specific parameters of machine data provided by missing machine 10 and/or component 11 in the locating message may be specified by service center 20 in the command message. For example, in the command message, service center 20 may request that missing machine 10 include in the locating message the same parameters used to identify the machine 10 in machine information database 22. In another embodiment, the specific parameters of identification information provided by missing machine 10 and/or component 11 in the locating message may be determined automatically by missing machine 10 and/or component 11. Machine 10 and/or component 11 stores information identifying the specific parameters used to identify the machine 10 in machine information database 22 and may send the specified parameters to service center 20 when requested.
  • Service center 20 compares the received machine data to the machine data associated with machines 10 and/or components 11 stored in machine information database 22 (step 116). Because the same parameters are used to identify machine 10 and/or component 11, the machine data for machine 10 and/or component 11 received in the locating message may be identical to stored machine data for the same machine 10 and/or component 11 that is stored in machine information database 22. In one embodiment, the machine data may be substantially identical. That is, sets of data are substantially identical when they are equal to within a predetermined range, threshold, etc., of sets of data, such as a percentage value (e.g., 1%), a decimal value, (e.g., within 0.0001, 0.001, 0.01, 0.1, etc.), or any other type of threshold or range. Thus, when the machine data received in the locating message matches (or substantially matches) one of the sets of machine data listed in database 22, service center 20 may determine the identity of missing machine 10. The comparison of the machine data may require an exact match or a substantial match. For example, to attain an exact match, service center 20 may determine that the machine data from the locating message matches one of the sets of machine data stored in database 22 when each digit in the set of machine data from the locating message is identical to a corresponding digit of one of the sets of machine data stored in database 22 (e.g., 00111 and 00111). On the other hand, to attain a substantial match, service center 20 may identify machine 10 and/or machine component 11 when a predetermined number of digits (or a predetermined percentage of digits, etc.) match (e.g., 00111 and 0011x).
  • For example, the locating message from missing machine 10 and/or component 11 may include location data and an identifier. When service center 20 receives the locating message, service center 20 compares the identifier received from missing machine 10 and/or component 11 in the locating message to the identifiers stored in machine information database 22 for the missing machines. If there is a match, then the identity of missing machine 10 and/or component 11 has been determined.
  • After determining the identity of missing machine 10 and/or component 11, service center 20 may also send a notification message to one or more designated entities 40 (e.g., owners, lessees, dealers 42, law enforcement 44, and/or vendors 46) indicating that the machine and/or component is missing (step 120). The notification message identifies missing machine 10 and/or component 11 and may include, for example, a message indicating that machine 10 and/or component 11 is reported as missing, a machine identifier, and/or the location data received in the locating message from missing machine 10 and/or component 11. This information may be used to identify, locate, retrieve, and/or return machine 10 and/or component 11 to its owner. The notification message may be an e-mail, webpage, or other electronic format, and may include a map showing the location of missing machine 10 and/or component 11.
  • Service center 20 may also store location data for entities 40 and determine one or more entities 40 that are within a selected geographical range from missing machine 10 and/or component 11 based on the location data received in the locating message from missing machine (e.g., within a predetermined radius from missing machine 10 and/or component 11). Service center 20 may send the notification message to one or more geographically closest entities (step 122).
  • A portable device 50 (FIG. 2) may also be used to determine the identity of machine 10 and/or component 11. Portable device 50 may be a handheld or portable device used by one or more entities 40, e.g., dealers 42, law enforcement 44, and/or vendors 46. Portable device 50 may be a handheld computer (e.g., a laptop, personal digital assistant (PDA), etc.), implemented using, for example, PALM® or PocketPC® technology and wireless capabilities. Entity 40 may use portable device 50 to receive information using, for example, a sensor (e.g., an RFID reader or bar code reader) that gathers information from a communication port 18 on machine 10 and/or component 11. The communication port 18 is connected to gateway processor device 14 to allow the information stored on gateway processor device 14 and/or ECM 13 to be transferred to portable device 50. Alternatively, a wireline link may be provided to removably attach portable device 50 to communication port 18, e.g., a Universal Serial Bus (USB) port, RS 232 port, or a port using another communication protocol in data communication system 12. Entity 40 may be able to access information received from gateway processor device 14 by executing software performed by portable device 50. Portable device 50 may also include a transceiver device 52 that allows portable device 50 to transmit information to and receive information from service center 20. Transceiver device 20 may transmit or receive information via wireless or wireline network to service center 20.
  • In one embodiment, portable device 50 may read machine data (e.g., identification information) from communication port 18 on machine 10 and/or component 11 and may transmit the machine data to service center 20 (step 130). The specific parameters of the machine data read by portable device 50 may be identified based on information stored in portable device 50.
  • Service center 20 may compare the received machine data to machine data associated with one or more machines and/or components stored in machine information database 22 (step 132). Service center 20 may identify machine 10 and/or component 11 if, for example, the received machine data matches the machine data for a machine 10 and/or component 11 listed in machine information database 22. After determining the identity of machine 10 and/or component 11, if it is determined that machine 10 and/or component 11 is flagged as a missing machine and/or component, service center 20 may send a notification message to portable device 50. The notification message may include machine data such as a machine identifier and/or location data.
  • For example, portable device 50 may read machine data (e.g., identification information) from machine 10 and/or component 11 and may transmit the machine data to service center 20. Service center 20 compares the machine data received from portable device 50 to the machine data stored in machine information database 22 for flagged missing machines and/or components. If the machine data read by portable device 50 matches (or substantially matches) one of the sets of machine data stored in machine information database 22, service center 20 may generate data reflecting that the identity of machine 10 and/or component 11 is determined. After determining the identity of machine 10 and/or component 11, service center 20 may determine whether machine 10 and/or component 11 is flagged as a missing machine and/or component. If so, service center 20 may send a notification message to portable device 50 indicating that the machine and/or component was reported as being missing. The notification message may include a machine identifier, location data, and any other information related to the machine (e.g., identity of the owner, contact information, etc.).
  • Alternatively, or additionally, portable device 50 may also execute a process that determines the identity of machine 10 and/or component 11 (step 148). To do so, portable device 50 may execute processes similar to those described above in connection with service center 20. For example, portable device 50 may compare the machine data read from machine 10 and/or component 11 against a set of stored machine data downloaded from service center 20. Portable device 50 may store data that is also stored in machine information database 22 and may receive periodic updates from service center 20. If the machine data read from portable device 50 matches (or substantially matches) one of the stored sets of machine data, portable device 50 may generate data reflecting that the identity of machine 10 and/or component 11 has been determined. Portable device 50 may send this message to service center 20 for further processing. Thus, portable device 50 may be used to identify machine 10 without having to transmit the machine data that it reads from machine 10 and/or component 11 to service center 20. After determining the identity of machine 10 and/or component 11, portable device 50 may also determine if machine 10 and/or component 11 is flagged as a missing machine and may notify service center 20. Then, service center 20 may send a notification message to designated entities 40, e.g., dealers 42, law enforcement 44, and/or vendors 46.
  • INDUSTIRAL APPLICABILITY
  • The disclosed embodiments enable machines to be accurately identified and located. For example, machine 10 and/or component 11 may automatically send messages to service center 20 reporting that it is operating under an abnormal condition (e.g., stolen, not returned at end of lease, moved from authorized locations, performing operations or tasks outside defined thresholds or time constraints, unscheduled operation, etc.). Service center 20 may then automatically send notification messages to designated entities, e.g., local law enforcement, vendors, and dealers. Thus, these entities may be updated as to machine status, such as thefts. This reduces the time to recover a stolen machine, which for example may reduce the negative impact on the machine owner's business.
  • In one embodiment, a database listing missing machines 10 and/or components 11 may be maintained or it may be used to contact the missing machines 10 and/or components 11. In situations where a missing machine 10 and/or component 11 may be unable to respond immediately to a message from service center 20 instructing machine 10 and/or component 11 to respond with its location data (e.g., because a battery in machine 10 and/or component 11 is removed or is dead), machine 10 and/or component 11 may delay its response (e.g., when the battery is replaced). Therefore, service center 20 may be able to contact missing machine 10 and/or component 11 by sending out the command message periodically.
  • The command message may be received by transceiver device 15 and processed by gateway processor device 14 of machine 10 and/or component 11. For example, the command message may include a request to send location data reflecting a geographic location of machine 10 and/or component 11. The gateway processor device 14 may process the request for location data and may respond to the request by generating a locating message that indicates the location of machine 10 and/or component 11, e.g., using GPS coordinates. The transceiver device 15 may then send the locating message to service center 20. After receiving the locating message, service center 20 may generate a report indicating the location of machine 10 and/or component 11 using an e-mail, web page, or other electronic format. The report may include a map showing the location of machine 10 and/or component 11, and may be sent to a designated entity, e.g., customer, business unit manager, etc.
  • A type of notification service may be selected based on the frequency and number of notification messages, the target entities for receiving the notification messages, and the type of data included in the notification messages. By being able to customize the type of notification service for each machine 10 and/or component 11, the notification service may be more efficient, thereby allowing a status of each machine to be communicated effectively and decreasing the time required to identify, locate, retrieve, and/or return missing machines and/or components to their owners. As a result, the cost to insure each machine and/or component may decrease.
  • In a further embodiment, machine data, such as engineering documents supplied from a manufacturer, for one or more machines 10 and/or components 11 may be stored in machine information database 22. If machine 10 and/or component 11 is stolen, service center 20 may access the machine data stored in machine information database 22. Service center 20 may then generate a notification message that is sent to all dealers 42 who sell the same type of missing machine 10 and/or component 11, who sell the types of machines that use missing component 11, who sell the types of components used in missing machine 10, etc. Service center 20 may update dealers' databases 43 to indicate that machine 10 and/or component 11 is missing. As a result, dealer 42 receives a warning if dealer 42 attempts to process a transaction that involves missing machine 10 and/or component 11 and/or any associated machines and/or components. Then, dealer 42 may check the machine and/or component involved with the transaction to determine whether it is missing machine 10 and/or component 11. For example, when a machine is determined to be missing, service center 20 flags the machine data associated with the machine in machine information database 22 and may send a notification message to dealers that deal with the same type of machine as the missing machine and the same type of components that are used in the missing machine. Alternatively, or in addition, each dealer uses a database that is updated automatically by service center 20 with information regarding the missing machine and/or component. As a result, each dealer may be notified by their respective databases if a customer attempts to trade-in or sell the missing machine and/or a component of the missing machine. The dealer may then inspect the missing machine and/or component, report the location of the missing machine and/or component to service center 20, etc.
  • In yet another embodiment, portable devices 50 may be provided to inspection agents (e.g., law enforcement, customs agents, dealers, etc.) for use during inspection of machine 10 and/or component 11 (e.g., at a stop and check on the highway, at a border, in a dealer lot, etc.). An inspection agent may be notified in response to machine 10 and/or component 11 determining that it has been stolen and/or when the owner of machine 10 and/or component 11 notifies service center 20. Furthermore, an inspection agent may use portable device 50 to properly identify a machine 10 and/or component 11 that is being inspected and be notified if the machine has been reported missing. Accordingly, if the machine identification information inscribed on the machine is not readable and/or data communication system 12 on machine 10 and/or component 11 is unable to transmit identification information (e.g., transceiver device 15 is removed or damaged), the inspection agent may use portable device 50 to read the identification information from data communication system 12 on machine 10 and/or component 11 to determine its status.
  • In addition, after identifying a missing machine, service center 20 or portable device 50 may transmit a notification message to designated entities so that the designated entities may locate and/or retrieve the machine 10 and/or component 11. This allows the machine 10 and/or component 11 to be located and/or retrieved more quickly, thereby preventing thieves from moving the missing machine and/or component to a different location when recovery personnel are en route to the machine's detected location.
  • Communication between service center 20 and data communication systems 12 on machines 10 and/or components 11 allows more efficient tracking of machines 10 and/or components 11. According to one embodiment, if machine 10 has been leased, service center 20 may track when machine 10 has been returned to the lessor. For example, on the day that the lease expires, service center 20 may send a message to machine 10 to command it to reply with location data. Service center 20 then compares the location data received by machine 10 to scheduling data associated with machine 10 stored in service center 20. The scheduling data reflects that machine 10 must be returned to the lessor and that the machine's location should be within a predetermined area surrounding the lessor's location. Service center 20 may alert the target entities for the specified notification service to notify them whether the lessee has returned machine 10. Therefore, the location of the machines 10 may be tracked more efficiently.
  • In another embodiment, service center 20 may identify extended use of machine 10 beyond the date of expiration of the lease. For example, service center 20 may send a message to machine 10 on the expiration date of the lease of machine 10 to command it to reply with service meter hours of machine 10, i.e., the number of hours machine 10 has been operating. If the lessee returns machine 10 to the lessor after the expiration date of the lease, service center 20 may determine whether machine 10 was used during the time period between the expiration date of the lease and the day machine 10 was returned to the lessor. Thus, service center 20 may track whether there was extended use of machine 10 beyond the expiration date of the lease if machine 10 is returned to the lessor.
  • It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications and variations can be made to the method and system for inspecting machines. Other embodiments will be apparent to those skilled in the art from consideration of the specification and practice of the disclosed method and system for inspecting machines. It is intended that the specification and examples be considered as exemplary only, with a true scope being indicated by the following claims and their equivalents.

Claims (20)

1. A data communication system for a component of a machine, comprising:
a control module configured to monitor at least one type of machine data associated with a machine component configured to be mounted on a machine;
a processor device configured to receive and process the machine data from the control module; and
a transceiver device configured to communicate with the processor device and at least one off-board system;
wherein the processor device, the transceiver device, and the control module are formed integral with the machine component such that the data communication system communicates the machine data to the at least one off-board system when the machine component is not mounted on the machine.
2. The data communication system of claim 1, wherein the processor device, the transceiver device, and the control module remain attached to the machine component when the machine component is removed from the machine.
3. The data communication system of claim 1, wherein the machine component is disabled when at least one of the processor device, the transceiver device, and the control module is removed from the machine component.
4. The data communication system of claim 1, wherein the processor device is further configured to receive and process machine data from a plurality of control modules, each control module being configured to monitor machine data from at least one of the machine component or the machine.
5. The data communication system of claim 1, further including a locating device configured to determine a geographic location of the machine component and send location data reflecting the geographic location to the processor device.
6. The data communication system of claim 5, wherein the locating device remains attached to the machine component when the machine component is removed from the machine.
7. The data communication system of claim 5, wherein the processor device is configured to:
determine that the machine component is in an abnormal condition based on the machine data, and
send a notification message to the at least one off-board system including data reflecting a status of the machine component and the location data.
8. The data communication system of claim 5, wherein:
the machine data includes operational schedule data reflecting a time when at least one of the machine component or the machine has been operated and corresponding location data for the operation time; and
the processor device is further configured to compare the operational schedule data and corresponding location data with stored operational schedule data for the at least one of the machine component or the machine to determine whether the machine component was at least one of operating at an unauthorized time or operating in an unauthorized location.
9. A method for reporting that at least one of a machine or a machine component is missing, the method comprising:
determining a type of notification service for the at least one of the machine or the machine component;
collecting machine data from the at least one of the machine or the machine component via a communication system formed as an integral part of the machine component, the machine data including data reflecting at least one operational parameter associated with the respective at least one of the machine or the machine component;
determining that the at least one of the machine or the machine component is missing based on the collected machine data; and
sending a notification message to a first entity based on the specified type of notification service, the notification message including data reflecting that the at least one of the machine or the machine component is missing.
10. The method of claim 9, wherein the determining of the type of notification service includes:
determining a known location of the at least one of the machine or the machine component; and
selecting the first entity based on a comparison between a location of the first entity and the known location of the at least one of the machine or the machine component.
11. The method of claim 10, further including receiving location data from the first entity in response to the notification message, the location data reflecting a location of the at least one of the machine or the machine component.
12. The method of claim 10, further including automatically generating, by the first entity, an alarm message if the first entity attempts to complete a transaction associated with the at least one of the machine or the machine component.
13. The method of claim 9, wherein the determining of the type of notification service includes identifying the first entity as an entity that deals with a same type of the at least one of the machine or the machine component.
14. The method of claim 9, wherein the at least one of the machine or the machine component is a missing machine, and wherein determining the type of notification service includes identifying the first entity as an entity that deals with a type of machine component associated with a type of the missing machine.
15. The method of claim 9, wherein the at least one of the machine or the machine component is a missing machine component, and wherein determining the type of notification service includes identifying the first entity as an entity that deals with a type of machine associated with a type of the missing machine component.
16. The method of claim 9, wherein determining the type of notification service includes determining at least one competitor of at least one entity that deals with a type of the at least one of the machine or the machine component, wherein the first entity is one of the at least one competitor.
17. A system for reporting a status of at least one of a machine or a machine component, the system comprising:
a data communication system formed as an integral part of a machine component configured to be mounted on a machine, the data communication system being configured to communicate machine data from the machine component, the machine data including data reflecting at least one operational parameter associated with the machine component; and
a service center configured to receive the machine data from the data communication system and store the machine data;
wherein the data communication system communicates the machine data to the service center when the machine component is not mounted on the machine, and
wherein at least one of the service center and the data communication system is further configured to:
determine a status of at least one of the machine or the machine component based on the collected machine data, and
send a notification message to a first entity, the notification message including data reflecting the status of the at least one of the machine or the machine component.
18. The system of claim 17, wherein the service center is configured to:
store a type of notification service for the at least one of the machine or the machine component; and
send the notification message to the first entity based on the specified type of notification service.
19. The system of claim 18, wherein the service center is further configured to:
determine a last known location of the at least one of the machine or the machine component; and
selecting the first entity based on a distance between a location of the first entity and the last known location of the at least one of the machine or the machine component.
20. The system of claim 17, wherein:
the service center is further configured to determine the first entity; and
the first entity is an entity that deals with a same type of the at least one of the machine or the machine component, an entity that deals with a type of a machine or machine component associated with the same type of the at least one of the machine or the machine component, or a competitor of the entity that deals with the same type of the at least one of the machine or the machine component.
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WO2008005126A2 (en) 2008-01-10

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