Piling Canada

Eliminating the Blind Spots

Operators can now put "eyes" wherever they need them
Written by Barb Feldman
June 2015

Operators can now put “eyes” wherever they need them

In 2012, a potential customer presented Chris Machut’s company with a problem: “How can tugs or towboats see what’s in front of them if they have a giant barge in front? They’re literally piloting that vessel blind,” and radar might not be able to pick up kayakers or small vessels, for example. Netarus met the customer’s challenge with the “TugCam,” a portable camera system designed to improve safety, increase situational awareness and eliminate blind spots on towboats and tugboats, even in complete darkness.

It was soon recognized that crane operators were having similar problems.

“They were relying on someone else’s eyes or other operating procedures to perform crane lifts,” said Machut. “They’d move the hook block behind a building and couldn’t see what was going on with that load.”

In mid-2013, the company introduced the HoistCam, a rugged wireless portable camera system that can be installed anywhere on a crane or at the location of a blind or distant lift, to place “eyes” anywhere the crane operator wants them to be and transmit the image back to the cab. And because the cameras are attached to the metal equipment with magnets and a safety lanyard, different operators can easily move them to get different views, depending on the job and what works best for them, from the winch to directly on the hook block, says Machut, which keeps them from “having to guess the load’s position and orientation or if the rigger properly attached the load.”

Easily-adjustable cameras
Up to eight cameras can be installed on a single crawler crane to eliminate hazardous blind spots and provide “around the corner” operator views, or even a 360-degree view around the crane. The camera system can also be placed anywhere on an excavator, from the bucket to the arm, and on the side of the wall or inside a hole, letting the operator see where the excavator is digging.

HoistCam’s mobile digital video recorder can tie together all video feeds and optional sensors and send the information back to the central HoistCam director server over a 3G, 4G or wireless access point, letting offsite supervisors or managers situated anywhere in the world monitor operations from a desktop or mobile device in real time. Live feeds can be embedded with time and location data, saved on the equipment or to a centralized server or be stored to a hard drive or an SB card. 


“It’s good that management knows what’s going on,” said Machut, “especially [with] the tower crane, which can dictate the momentum on the job site. If a particular accident happened, for example, a ‘black box’ capability would show what that crane was doing and enduring for that period of time, along with capturing and time-stamping it, geo-locating it and providing GPS coordinates of what was [happening] at that specific time.”

The Internet of Things
Netarus specializes in “the Internet of Things,” said Machut, a computer engineer who is the company’s founder. The Norfolk, Va.-based company, which started in 2002, first primarily designed command-and-control software systems and situational awareness platforms for government. Since then, the company has evolved and grown, using innovations in technology to increase safety and productivity in the construction, industrial, marine and transportation industries.

“Imagine driving down the road and being able to see virtually all the vehicles around you on your tablet, cell phone or computer,” and not just see information about them – including speed, fuel, and other sensor data which is tracked via GPS coordinates over satellite or cellular communication – but also have the ability to interact with other devices.

“It’s like Google Maps on steroids,” said Machut.

Today, Netarus designs and manufactures hardware as well as systems, and now employs five core engineers plus production, office and customer service support teams.

“Sony makes the chip set and we manufacture everything in the systems, fabricate the enclosures, source components and put them together in our facility,” said Machut.

HoistCam is already being used throughout the U.S. and Malaysia, Australia and the UK, and Canadian companies can order directly from Netarus in the U.S. Systems start around USD$9,000 and can be as high as USD$20,000, depending on a range of options and capabilities. Customers can choose from fully adjustable zoom and focus models, armored dome models, ignition protection models and dual camera models, wired versions or multiple wide/split screen capabilities with or without internal batteries, and an optional suitcase-size transport case for portable cranes.

“We custom-build to order and take about a week or two to manufacture, [and everything is provided] down to the zip tie,” said Machut, including a quick-start guide.

Machut says that the system doesn’t require any specialized training.

“There are probably 50 different types and variants of cranes, from telescopic boom cranes to overhead cranes and luffer boom cranes to lattice boom cranes,” he said. “By changing out the antenna kit, the system can operate on virtually any piece of equipment. Put it anywhere you want it, turn on the monitor connected to the video receiver box, point the antenna at the HoistCam and go.”

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Category: Business

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.

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