Is Wired or Wireless Best for Trailer Sensors?
You just can’t beat the convenience of wireless technology. But is wired or wireless best for connecting sensors in the trucking industry, especially when it comes to stability, safety, and maintenance?
On-board vehicle sensors are the nervous system of the trailer, transmitting vital information to fleet managers and drivers who use that information to keep the trailer healthy and maximize uptime.
“Safety components on the trailer with smart sensors that are critical to a safe mission need to report a conditional state in near real-time. When a component moves from a safe state to one requiring attention, the driver or fleet manager needs to know,” said Dennis Skaradzinski, Great Dane Chief Engineer.
Great Dane equips trailers with sensors throughout the trailer, from the tires, wheels, and brakes to lamps, suspension, doors, and more. Some of these sensors must be connected wirelessly because they’re embedded into a rotating component like a tire, but ideally, engineers choose a wired connection for faster communication speeds, plus a number of issues they’d like to avoid with wireless.
Why Wireless Won’t Always Work
Any sensor that collects data or reports the condition of a component requires a source of energy. For a wireless sensor, that energy source is a battery with a finite lifespan.
“Battery life and energy consumption are a direct function of how frequently the sensor reports information. While battery technology continues to improve, their life is not infinite, so these sensors must be replaced or removed, in order to install a new battery,” Skaradzinski explained.
A wireless connection must also depend on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, which are much less reliable than a hard-wired connection. “Pairing many wireless components from each sensor to the gateway can be disrupted and disconnected, requiring corrective action,” Skaradzinski said. “Newer technology may allow for this to be repaired remotely by the fleet, however, the period the sensor is down could be mission critical and possibly take the asset out of commission.”
The Need for Speed
Another issue with wireless connectivity is the increased presence of latency. Sensors can transmit more data at higher speeds through a physical wire, while a wireless connection can remove the ability for a fleet manager to read data in near-real time.
“This is the same condition one may observe on a computer or smartphone with a buffering video. The communication protocol speed is not capable of processing the content at the same rate it’s being sent,” Skaradzinski said.
Designed for Today–Ready for the Future
Currently, the sensors on Great Dane’s FleetPulse smart trailer telematics device are wired and powered on a data Bus through the trailer’s own battery or from the truck when the trailer and truck are tethered.
Additionally, Great Dane’s FleetPulse smart trailer telematics is equipped for future technology, with a Controlled Area Network (CAN Bus) connection, that will allow it to process data from future CAN-enabled sensors.
“Great Dane continues to be the only North American trailer OEM ready for the very near-term industry requirements with a wired interface of data on a software-enabled smart trailer,” Skaradzinski explained.
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