Looking at Smart Fridges

This week Diesel Workshop is looking at smart fridges and the possibilities they offer. The simple refrigeration unit fitted to the front of a trailer is no longer quite so simple. They are now available with telematics offerings handling GPS location of the vehicle, temperature and other important data from the refrigeration unit’s internal microprocessor.There are two main types of monitoring on offer, through the fridge maker’s own system or third party offerings.

The telematics system will monitor:

  • set point;
  • supply air temperature;
  • return air temperature;
  • ambient temperature;
  • remote product probes;
  • unit mode (start/stop or continuous);
  • engine mode (high speed or low speed);
  • compressor data;
  • alarm notifications;
  • intellisets (pre-programmed configurations);
  • hour meters;
  • whether doors are open or closed (when equipped with a door switch);
  • fuel level (when equipped with a fuel level sensor);
  • battery voltage; and,
  • functional parameter settings.

On top of this, many operators (especially in rail, where the units are unattended for long periods of time) can choose to utilise two-way communication and control. This means from anywhere in the world, via internet portal the operator can remotely:

  • change setpoint;
  • clear alarms;
  • initiate defrost;
  • change stop/start or continuous;
  • initiate pretrip (unit self check/diagnosis);
  • change high/low speed;
  • change IntelliSet;
  • set date/time;
  • change sleep mode;
  • change FreshProtect;
  • change return air/supply air control; and
  • override door shutdown.

Things like location data and geo-fencing can also be used to control the unit. For example, when the unit enters a specific geo-fenced area, it might automatically change the setpoint temperature to suit a particular cargo. For security, it may activate to send alarm notifications to the fleet manager (via SMS or email) when the doors are open outside of specific geo-fenced locations.

The future belongs to big-data analytics. Trained technicians can now view much more fridge data such as temperature, pressure, current data from the diesel engine, compressor and refrigeration circuit as well as the position or readings from every sensor on the unit. From this data, a trained technician can make accurate diagnostic decisions as if they were standing in front of the unit itself. Taking this to the next logical stage, the operator can accumulate enough operating data about units to begin to accurately predict what will happen in the future based on understanding the conditions leading up to an event – moving from diagnostics to prognostics.

All of this is done now across the cloud with specific web portals. With more and more information systems becoming connected (truck, trailer, fridge, brake systems, etc.), many operators will be looking to aggregate all of these spare data connections from various providers into one feed via XML connections or API into their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.

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Author: Tim Giles

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