27 February 1998

Phone in for an instant health check

GIVING the tractor a quick health check couldnt be easier with CareTel – simply telephone the tractor to get all the facts. And if there is a fault developing, the CareTel link will automatically make an emergency call for help.

CareTel is the result of a joint development by Valtra tractors and the company which makes Nokia telephones. It is already available in Finland, where both companies are based, and Valmet tractors with the phone link have now arrived in the UK.

Tractors equipped with CareTel have a GSM-type mobile phone installed in the cab. The phone is linked to sensors which check critical operating factors including the temperature of the transmission oil and engine coolant, and pressure readings for oil in the engine, transmission and low pressure circuit.

The in-cab phone also collects work data including engine and pto speeds, hours worked so far that day and – perhaps ominously for drivers who oversleep – the time the tractor started work.

Each tractor fitted with CareTel has its own special telephone number which is used to collect the data. The information can only be accessed by using another GSM-type portable telephone, but the calls can be made from any area where the GSM service is available, including overseas, and data is available at any time – even if the tractor is not working.

Data collected from the tractor is shown on the display screen of the callers telephone, but it can also be downloaded on to an office computer to provide a permanent operating record for the tractor.

Another function of CareTel is for it to make an automatic emergency call when a sensor shows an abnormal reading. The in-cab phone is programmed with the emergency number, which could be the farm office or the service workshop of the nearest Valmet dealer.

John Nicholls, marketing manager for Valtra UK, is currently running a series of CareTel training courses for his companys dealers, and he admits that the initial response is sometimes sceptical.

"People start to take it seriously when they understand the advantages," he said. "Being able to identify a problem before it causes a major breakdown can often avoid a big repair bill and a lot of down time, and this is what CareTel is all about.

"An example is the oil pressure in the powershift transmission. CareTel will give a warning if there is an abnormal reading, which could avoid a serious breakdown, but it is a problem the driver would probably not be aware of. Storing all the data in a computer could also be useful, as it would provide an operating record which would interest buyers when the tractor is sold."

CareTel will interest contractors, tractor hire companies and big farms with a large number of tractors, says Mr Nicholls. It is available on new Valtra Valmet Mezzo and Mega series tractors from 80hp to 160hp, and the cost is £1250. &#42

Valtra UKs marketing manager John Nicholls with the CareTel receiver. "People take it seriously when they understand the advantages," he says.