Picture a remote set of boots on the ground that constantly sends out status reports on construction activity across the globe. Now, imagine that existing work tools—trucks, dozers, cranes and drills—are the virtual boots, beaming quintillions of bytes into the ether every day.

Many new machines come with telematics free for three or more years. (Image courtesy of Deere)

This is how John Meese describes wireless telematics, which the senior director of heavy equipment for Waste Management, Houston, uses to keep tabs on a fleet of more than 5,000 pieces of machinery scattered across 700 locations in North America. Meese and his team use this data to schedule maintenance, train operators and gain other efficiencies.

"I don't have sufficient feet on the ground to see what is happening at every location," explains Meese, who estimates that, by the end of this year, Waste Management will have wired up about 20% of its fleet with telematics.

Monitoring so many machines represents an annual investment costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, but Meese has found that the data pays back in reduced breakdowns and costly downtime. Upfitting the machines and subscribing to the data feed is the easy part; the hard part, he and others note, is managing the data, which, in itself, has become another maintenance item.

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