IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things): a Q&A with Metova CTO, Andrew Cowart

Metova CTO, Andrew Cowart answers questions about Metova’s Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) implementation helping Herc-U-Lift save time and money – while simplifying processes.


What issues did Herc-U-Lift seek to solve through IIoT?
Herc-U-Lift rents out equipment from over 12 manufacturers used for business-critical applications – from oil fields to construction to warehousing. Currently, preventative maintenance is on a calendar-based schedule rather than a runtime schedule, either wasting a technician’s time if the machine is under hours on the maintenance schedule or risking additional wear and tear if the equipment is over hours. Herc-U-Lift sought an economically viable telemetry solution to read actual equipment run hours and the equipment’s precise GPS location. Additionally, Herc-U-Lift sought an industrial “Tile” type application to find hundreds of assets on multiple-acre campuses.

What business needs spurred the decision to implement an IIoT system?
The ability for each piece of equipment to be uniquely identified, reporting runtime information back to an ERP maintenance module, made an IIoT system a natural fit. In addition to the main use-case, of tracking equipment usage for maintenance purposes, the system has a secondary use case of tracking equipment within their warehouses and buildings – all from a mobile device. With this system, they can also lookup equipment history from a mobile device.

What technologies did Metova identify to solve Herc-U-Lift’s issues?
After careful review, Metova selected two unique hardware solutions to support Herc-U-Lift’s use cases. Metova is integrating the hardware with Amazon’s AWS IoT offerings to provide a high scalability and high availability solution. The telemetry and location device is using a custom LTE-M-equipped device to extend the range of connectivity in remote areas such as the Dakota Dunes. The campus equipment locator solution is using industrial BLE beacons mounted to the equipment, and Bluetooth gateways mounted in outdoor locations to cover yard areas as well as inside warehouses and buildings.

Were there any environmental properties that presented challenges?
Herc-U-Lift’s geographical requirements for the industrial equipment led to some unique challenges – namely, the equipment may need to be operated for extended periods of time in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius. Most equipment powered by batteries is unable to be operated at such low temperatures, which led to extra investigation around suitable hardware solutions. In addition, the fact that these sensors are being attached to industrial equipment means they need to withstand hard shock and water in abusive environments.

How did Metova address these technology challenges?
Metova identified IIoT telemetry and tracking devices that can be powered off of the equipment’s 12 or 24-volt power system – or run off of an internal battery. Additionally, we looked for devices that would queue messages up and send to the cloud in the event of power loss and/or no connectivity for an extended amount of time. Additionally, Metova sought industrial shockproof and waterproof BLE beacons with extended battery life to reduce maintenance.

How were the IIoT technologies Metova employed integrated with cloud and IT infrastructure?
Metova designed the new solutions on the AWS Cloud and AWS IoT platforms and architected a secure manner to integrate with existing on-premise legacy infrastructure in a fault-tolerant and high availability manner.

Were there any problems with interoperability or security?
Herc-U-Lift’s ERP maintenance module is secured on their internal network, while our IIoT solution is deployed in Amazon’s AWS service. Herc-U-Lift needed assurance that all data would be secured in transmission and in storage, and proper controls were in place for writing data to the ERP. Metova architected the solution to use site-to-cloud VPN and defined data governance to separate equipment data from operational and financial data.

How did Metova help Herc-U-Lift speed up their implementation?
Metova conducted an extensive Research & Strategy phase with multiple on-site visits to fully define and understand Herc-U-Lift’s specific needs and operational environment and existing data and infrastructure. Metova conducted extensive research on hardware manufacturers to find a solution that met the technical use case needs as well as the unique environmental requirements.

Does this solution leverage mobile apps? If so, will this be for Android and iOS?
Yes, this solution does leverage mobile applications for Android and iOS, integrating directly into Herc-U-Lift’s existing systems and technology. New mobile functionality allows Herc-U-Lift employees to locate equipment spread out across the US on a Google map, or a custom campus map for locating equipment outfitted with close proximity beacons.

Is Metova’s IIoT solution applicable to the materials handling industry as a whole?
Yes – a few materials handling equipment manufacturers install telemetry devices at the factory and offer web dashboards to manage equipment fleets. However, each manufacturer has proprietary systems and data is siloed with little to no ability to interoperate, leaving equipment dealerships logging into multiple portals to manage their business. The solution that Metova designed will work on any equipment manufacturer and any equipment category. Additionally, the telemetry solution operates at a lower monthly per-unit cost than any commercially available solution.

Will Herc-U-lift realize a return on their IIoT investment?
This IIoT project had to produce a return on investment by the second year in order to justify the investment. The implementation of this new IIoT system saves employee time finding physical assets at Herc-U-Lift campuses and customer locations and also automates data collection and data entry – providing tremendous cost savings.


For more information on Metova’s IIoT offerings, please visit: