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The Perkins SmartCap can be fitted to any Perkins mechanical or electronic engine to instantly provide engine telematics. (image: Perkins)

‘Smart’ oil cap brings low-cost connectivity to Perkins engines

Perkins launched what it calls the world’s first low-cost engine level telematics device—the Perkins SmartCap—at its Seguin, TX, facility in June. The “smart” oil cap can be fitted to any new and existing Perkins mechanical or electronic engine in minutes and instantly provide engine telematics, according to Michael Wright, General Manager – Aftermarket.

Designed to replace the oil filler cap, the SmartCap connectivity solution monitors the Perkins engine and sends data directly to the Perkins My Engine App, which can be downloaded for free from the Apple and Google stores. The cap, which will cost $49.99 at introduction, has its own power supply that lasts 2 to 3 years.

The solution is suited to owners and operators of Perkins-powered machines, providing access to engine specific information such as running hours, location, start/stop data, and parts book and consumables information. The app can receive signals from multiple devices and display that information on a single screen.

“The low-cost Perkins SmartCap in conjunction with the Perkins My Engine App will, for the first time, enable Perkins customers to easily track use of their engine and servicing requirements, locate their local Perkins distributor, see parts information and receive service updates, all in one place,” said Wright.

Customers can register their Perkins engine, access their OMM (Operating Maintenance Manual) and parts book, and keep a service record. The Distributor Locator feature allows users to contact their local Perkins distributor.

The three SmartCap sizes available are compatible across the Perkins small to medium range, up to 7.1-L six-cylinder engines generating 275 hp (205 kW) and fitted in a hydraulic excavator, for example.

“The larger engines are more likely to already have a full telematics system because of the level of investment,” said Ian Bradford, Parts Product Manager at Perkins.

Perkins’ “aftermarket digital strategy,” including development of the SmartCap and My Engine App, began just 23 months prior to the technology’s demonstration to media in Seguin.

Collecting and using the data

The SmartCap is “revolutionary in the way that it works but it's also very similar to other products...using low-energy Bluetooth,” said Bradford. The cap detects engine vibrations and processes that information, filtering out running data from non-running data, and transmits it to the phone every 15 seconds. Data is then uploaded to the cloud “where further analysis is performed” and sent back to the user’s phone, he explained.

The information can be seen by the end user, the local distributor, and Perkins. A distributor portal allows the distributor to access all the information pertaining to customers in its area. Customers have to opt in to share data.

In addition to offering faster support and more tailored services, thus growing the revenue from the aftermarket business, opportunities exist to use the data to help design better engines, Wright acknowledged.

“We do a heck of a lot already to understand the operating parameters of different machines in different applications,” Wright said. “This [new technology] actually gives us hundreds, thousands, millions of real stories, and as the technology evolves, we [expect] the cap will be able to capture more performance aspects than just speed, start/stops and hours. But even at this stage, it will help with our statistical analysis of usage.”

There are 5 million Perkins engines in operation. In the next couple of years, “10s and potentially 50s of thousands” of these engines will have the SmartCap installed, Bradford predicted.

Initial plans call for supply through the aftermarket, “but we are talking with our OEMs and where they have an interest we can install it onto their equipment as well,” he said. “Going forward, it’s going to be standard for many OEM customers—that is our vision. Because once we get this installed on the equipment, not only does it give the customer a lot of information but it helps us make sure they're getting the very best experience with that engine that they can.”

SmartCap will be available initially in North America, Europe and Australia starting in September from Perkins distributors and the company’s newly launched online U.S parts shop, The company plans to roll the product out globally in the future.

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