TMC20: Phillips Connect Technologies debuts remote precheck capabilities for fleets

Phillips Connect Technologies trailer

Kicking off a year that will be
filled with telematics-related product introductions, Phillips Connect
(PCT) made several announcements Sunday
at the American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Exhibition
in Atlanta, none more important than the debut of Remote Pre-Check.

The company, founded five years ago
as a separate business unit from Phillips Industries, focuses on deriving
intelligence from equipment using internet of things sensors, generally under a
single data plan, to help fleets hold down costs.

Founder and CEO Rob Phillips was
most excited about the Remote Pre-Check tool. Leveraging the onboard power of
the also introduced Smart7 nosebox, Remote Pre-Check allows fleets to check
items like trailer lights and to test automatic brake and tire inflation
systems remotely. The expectation is that conducting a precheck remotely saves drivers
time and will reduce downtime and roadside inspection violations, thereby
reducing costs.

“The idea here is that if you take
a fleet that has 10,000, 20,000 trailers across the country, dispatch can push
one button and it will remotely power up the lights on all the trailers and
they would get a report back,” Phillips said. “If used properly by a fleet, it
can save a tremendous amount of money and prevent downtime.”

Phillips said this level of insight
gained through Remote Pre-Check can help fleets reroute assets for maintenance
and dispatch healthy assets to replace failing units.

Since PCT’s founding, the unit’s
technological innovation has been about pushing forward with data-centric
solutions for fleets. The products announced on Sunday are a continuation of

“The customers we are talking to,
the telematics customers, they really aren’t interested in the hardware, they
are interested in the data that comes off that hardware,” Phillips said.

The Smart7 is the centerpiece for
many of the technologies introduced on Sunday. It collects trailer health data
and is powered by solar and a large-capacity battery. Connected to PCT’s
telematics gateway, the Smart7 transmits GPS data and reports on multiple
health sensors, including light-out detection, door open/closed, tire status
(PCT works with Pressure Systems International), cargo status, air tank and
trailer tail status, SmartLock Gladhand status, tractor pairing, and weight

One benefit of PCT’s Smart7, and
all its data products including its trailing tracking systems, is the ability
to work across cellular networks to prevent dropped coverage.

“[With] every other company in the
world, you have to choose an AT&T, a T-Mobile or a Verizon [for cellular
service],” Phillips said. “We’ve got [products] that switch between providers,
and you never see it.”

PCT worked with J.B. Hunt (NYSE: JBHT) on
technology designed to reduce incidents of trailer theft or drivers hooking up
to and pulling the incorrect trailer.

“The importance of pairing truck to
trailer seems obvious, but fleets want to know what trailer they are pulling,”
Phillips said.

The SmartLock Gladhand is designed
to prevent unauthorized trailer use. It does this by securing the connection to
the tractor air line supply to release the brakes. The sensor hands the carrier
the power to determine who can use the asset. The gladhand has a red “stopper”
that won’t let the driver make the connection until the trailer has been
verified as the proper trailer.

“It’s a big issue fleets have, and
the larger the fleet the more this happens,” Phillips said. “It’s a big expense
for fleets and they don’t like to admit it, but it happens all the time.”

The SmartLock Gladhand is paired
with SmartPair. When the trailer is attached to tractor power, SmartPair looks
for nearby sensors. Any tractor with SmartPair will be picked up by PCT’s
tracking products, but the system is smart enough to pair the trailer with the
proper tractor. It utilizes Phillips Industries’ QCS2 socket, which is standard
on most major truck manufacturers’ products. Combined with the SmartLock
Gladhand, it should prevent theft and drivers hooking up with the wrong

Additionally, Phillips introduced
the IntelliSense harness system. The product is an integrated seven-way smart
harness that allows multiple sensors to connect to PCT gateways. A data
communication harness is woven into the trailer’s main harness to speed
installation time and improve reliability.

All the smart products operate in
an open platform and can interface with non-PCT telematics gateways and with
any supplier sensor, including PCT’s sensors.

Fleet managers can utilize all this
data through PCT’s user interface dashboard.

“Our product development criteria
provide solutions that offer a massive ROI and competitive advantage to our
customers,” Phillips said. “Trailer tracking and sensors are what everyone is
talking about right now, but that’s just a tiny piece of what’s really going
on. The most important piece of this pie is not, ‘Where are my assets?’ or
‘What is their status?’ It’s what the collective data reveals that’s gold. This
is our specialty; we have figured out the ultimate formulas to build customized
strategies for each fleet customer.”

Phillips said all the products PCT
develops are designed to be scalable, so as more innovation is brought forth,
the products can be updated. Taken in their totality, he believes the company
is empowering significant change for the industry.

“Each of these products are massive
in scope and scale,” Phillips said. “One company would be happy to have any of
these innovations, but we’ve been able to do four of them in the past year.”