With a new computer system, a group of cranes at a jobsite could work faster and eliminate any danger of crashing into each other by exchanging real-time information about their position and orientation. The recently released communication and anti-collision system, called IP Crane, is the result of a partnership between VenturCom Inc., Cambridge, Mass., and SK Group S.A., Nice, France.
"One of the main benefits of this system is that its based on Windows technology, so as long you were running a Windows application, you would be able to run this software as well," said Rob Nislick, a spokesman for VenturCom. "One of the primary reasons they [SK Group] partnered with VenturCom is that VenturCom provides the technology that enabled them to produce a version of this software that was reliable enough to actually control the crane with the precision required to prevent collisions."
IP Crane consists of a personal computer, a radio frequency transmitter and a Windows-based, Internet-ready software interface in each crane cab. The system also includes a Global Positioning Satellite component. The system collects data on the location of other onsite cranes and obstacles and then transmits that data to the PCs in the other cranes. If the system detects an imminent collision, it can immediately take over control of the crane from the operator and take steps to avoid the collision.
IP Crane can run side by side with other web applications that a contractor might be running at the jobsite, such as project management software, through a standard web browser. The software also offers other web capabilities, such as e-mail and live video conferencing, so supervisors can perform some diagnostic, maintenance, troubleshooting or training tasks remotely.
It takes about half a day to install the PC, radio controller and software, according to VenturCom. The PC graphically displays the configuration of the crane and the location of the load being lifted.
SK Group and VenturCom designed IP Crane for use in tower cranes, but it can be used in mobile cranes as well. SK Group is currently taking orders for the system. Most of SK Groups customers are located in Europe, and the new product is not yet in use in the United States.