Alcoa - Transport Unit Monitoring


Transport Unit Monitoring

IDeo Concepts


An electronic card was designed and installed in a fleet of aluminum processing plant trucks with the aim of tracking their usage statistics. These cards, operating on a customized Linux distribution, are responsible for reading data on the vehicles' communication port and retrieving it when the trucks are near a Wifi hotspot. One of the challenges of this project was to get the cards to function in an environment that is particularly cold.

Special Features: Canbus - Wifi - Hostile environment

The Project

Trucks carrying molten aluminum crucibles between the furnace and the processing tanks are constantly connected. Throughout their journey, which spans kilometers, tracking is carried out by the computer department, and the data is recorded in the Pi supervision system.

Wifi access points are scattered throughout the trucks' route, ensuring uninterrupted connectivity. It is of great importance not to lose track of a moving truck, as a large volume of data is transmitted to the Pi system.

Given that there is no hierarchy in the incoming or outgoing transmitted data and that the validity of a piece of data is about 4 seconds, after which it becomes obsolete, tracking is sometimes complex. In addition, different systems such as cameras, an iPad, and other equipment are installed on the truck and must all simultaneously connect to each access point. Each change of connection operated rather chaotically, sometimes resulting in the loss of critical data. The Pi system, lacking some essential information, would then lose its effectiveness. Moreover, it was frequent that when a truck experienced difficulties in communication, the problem spread to the entire system, thus disrupting the company's operations.

Our mandate was then to propose a solution ensuring a reliable and fast transfer of priority data without modifying the other components of the system.

Faced with the challenge of achieving a flawless transition between two access points as quickly as possible, we proposed the use of a highly efficient Session Border Controller (SBC), based on a Linux operating system where we optimized the Wifi management protocol. Several tests led to good results, but not up to our expectations, so we opted for a second solution: reprogramming the wifi connection manager. After evaluating and removing everything that could slow down the system, we managed to always be the first to connect to the company's system and avoid the loss of crucial information.

Successful bet, all Mecfor company trucks have been equipped since 2017 with electronic cards specially designed for them.