The availability of newer, smarter technologies to the Off-Highway industry has provided engineers with a multitude of design options for Off-Highway equipment. As new technologies become more readily available, OEMs are seeking products that simplify integration and offer enhanced features to the end user.
Electronic locking solutions for instance, offer endless possibilities for enhanced safety, security and robust, quality operation in Off-Highway environments. The flexibility offered by Electronic Access Solutions allows them to be integrated into many Off-Highway enclosure applications such as engine covers, access panels, tool boxes and storage compartments.
How Does Electronic Access Work?
Electronic Access Solutions (EAS) streamline the incorporation of standard Automotive features, such as remote-controlled, keyless entry door systems into Off-Highway equipment. An EAS is composed of three primary components: an access control or input device, an electromechanical lock or latch, and a system for monitoring the status of the access point. Each of these elements work together to enhance security, improve safety and ensure reliable operation in Off-Highway applications.
1. Enhanced Security
Incidents of construction equipment theft are on the rise in North America, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). Because equipment is generally stored on site during a job, security can be a challenge for the equipment owner, who often relies on traditional lock-and-key mechanisms to secure their fleet against the threat of vandalism and theft.
Similar to the technology used in Automotive applications, Off-Highway equipment that has been outfitted with electronic locks, such as Southco’s R4-EM Electronic Rotary Latch series, allows the equipment owner to remotely unlatch vehicles via a signal through a connected electronic access controller:
- Digital keypad – Digital keypads are mounted to the vehicle and send a signal to lock and unlock power doors
- Radio Frequency controller – Passive RF systems unlock doors as soon as the transmitter is within a specific proximity of the receiver (e.g., key fob)
- Bluetooth device – Bluetooth based access allows the user to provide the unlock signal via wireless communication using any Bluetooth-enabled device, such as a smartphone or tablet
Intelligent electronic locking mechanisms can provide intelligence not available with traditional mechanical key locking solutions. EAS can be used to record a digital record of activity, allowing the equipment owner to view the status of each access point, such as when an engine hood or toolbox was opened and by whom.
This information is available remotely and can be networked with other security systems. For example, if a machine is stolen from the job site, the owner can contact their security service, which can then locate and lock out that piece of equipment.
2. Improved Safety
The remote unlatch feature of keyless electronic actuation can also be used in situations where ensuring operator safety is a challenge, for example, when an operator must climb a ladder to access the cab door on a large piece of construction equipment. To access the cab, the operator must remove a hand from the ladder to open the door, shifting from four points of contact with the ladder to three.
Reduced contact with the ladder increases the operator’s chance of injury caused by accidentally slipping or falling from the vehicle. Integrating electronic access into the cab door design can provide a safe means of opening the door remotely before the operator starts the climb, allowing four points of contact all the way into the cab.
3. Superior Reliability
New advancements in technology have enabled electronic locking where it was previously not possible. From rugged worksite environments to harsh vibrations, and sealing and operation issues caused by dust and dirt, the design engineer must take many factors into consideration when choosing the appropriate electronic locking mechanism.
A powerful, sealed electronic actuator can be used to actuate heavy doors and panels in outdoor environments. Southco’s Sealed Heavy Duty Electronic Actuator for example, is fully-enclosed and constructed of corrosion-resistant materials that protect the mechanism against moisture and dust. The Sealed Heavy Duty Electronic Actuator operates via signals received from access control devices, like Southco’s RF Wireless Controller, which actuates the connected mechanical rotary latch to remotely and safely open a larger door.
Electronic rotary latches can be easily integrated into engine hoods, toolboxes and cab entry applications where enhanced security is necessary. Southco’s R4-EM Outdoor Electronic Rotary Latch has a high working load and a sealed actuator that can withstand dust, humidity, extreme temperatures and other environmental conditions that can be damaging to a system.
Electronic Access Solutions (EAS) enable the transition from mechanical key locking to electronic access with intelligent electronic locking devices and a versatile line of access control systems.
When selecting an Electronic Access Solution, it is vital to choose a reliable mechanism designed to withstand rugged Off-Highway environments. Effective electronic access systems should allow the convenient, simultaneous locking or unlocking multiple access points and should be designed with a mechanical override feature to allow manual release in the event of a power failure.