Moving forklift assets forward

Warehouse environments are fast paced and busy. Forklifts are the pulse, moving heavy loads to the right places. To ensure operator safety, forklift controls need to be carefully designed. Our forklift manufacturer client wanted to release a new suite of embedded and mobile forklift asset management products. We gave them a strategic development boost in order to meet an important deadline.

Embedded
Mobile

What We Did

Mobile Development, Embedded Development, Front-end Development, Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery, Automated Testing

Tech Stack

C++, Xamarin, Android, Embedded, Linux, Sharpen Go, Bluetooth

Opportunity

Powering industrial settings across the globe, our client is one of the world’s largest industrial lift truck manufacturers. They were setting out to leverage the next generation of IoT technology to enable customers with more effective lift truck operation and monitoring. IoT innovation brought its share of new challenges. There’s a delicate balance between efficiency gains and operator safety in busy warehouse settings. New IoT technologies also introduce novel security risks. Our client engaged SEP to accelerate internal development teams and deliver new products by a key deadline. Over the course of several engagements, we worked on both mobile in-cab displays and embedded software that help their customers operate and manage lift trucks.

Solution

Our first task was building a dash-mounted, Android tablet that operates lift trucks and monitors usage. In designing the new UI, we tweaked modern UX paradigms to achieve business goals and keep the operator experience intuitive. For example, we intentionally made activities like “equipment inspection” more difficult so operators would stay safely engaged with the operational task at hand. The lift truck control display needed to connect to other electronic components and communicate with a backend monitoring system over WiFi. We implemented a solution for both USB hard-wired connection and Bluetooth wireless connection to the electronics on the lift truck. For the control display, we used Xamarin.Android so the code could easily be expanded to other platforms in the future.

Our second engagement focused on writing the embedded lift truck configuration software and connecting the UI. This software controlled how the truck operated, for example, what happened when various levers were pulled or the gas pedal was pushed. We extended the experience from the Android tablet display and added new, proprietary tracking capabilities. This work was done on embedded Linux using C++.

Building connected systems required careful design to ensure safe operation and avoid cybersecurity vulnerabilities. We facilitated a security threat modeling workshop to help their engineering team assess and address security risks across their suite of products.

Results

Ultimately, our team provided the strategic boost needed to meet their key deadline. In addition to shipping new products, we made recommendations and improvements wherever it made sense (e.g. security practices, architecture design, agile practices, development process, development tools, etc.).

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