02/12/2016 by Kvaser

Kvaser’s Ethercan provides secure link for container port crane CAN monitoring


With 90% of what we wear, eat and consume transported by ship today, container ports have become a mainstay of our industrial infrastructure. A world away from the manual-labour dominated models of 50 years ago, container ports have become intermodal transport hubs that work in an increasingly competitive business environment in which efficiency and speed are key.

For some years, terminal operating systems (TOS) have been used to help ensure the smooth running of container ports. TOS address issues such as documentation, operations and administration, starting with the acquisition of data related to containers. However, there’s more to managing a port terminal than knowing what containers are coming and going.

“The Kvaser Ethercan provides greater stability of connection than USB because Ethernet permits a small disconnection from time to time.”

A port’s success primarily depends upon efficient use of equipment and personnel. A focal point are the cranes, which are becoming increasingly state-of-the-art and consequently, valued in the millions of euros or dollars each. Just like any other expensive assets such as drill rigs, agricultural or construction equipment, machine monitoring via CAN has the potential to enhance container terminal operating efficiency by minimizing downtime due to maintenance issues.

Datamatics Group’s Neptuno TOS solution integrates data generated by the port’s many machine sensors with container-related data, providing an overview of the entire terminal’s activities. Kvaser’s Ethercan Light HS CAN to Ethernet interface is used to connect the crane’s CAN system to a rugged PC in the cabin. Datamatics combines CAN data with inputs from proprietary sensors, cameras and positioning information, to create a comprehensive crane telemetry system that feeds information to the TOS.


Explains Carmelo Occhipinti, Sales Manager for Datamatics Group: “CAN allows us to collect data in real-time on the crane’s operating parameters, such as fuel consumption, crane lift angle and extension, load weight, move duration, grasp engagement etc. We use this information to produce a variety of dashboards and KPIs to analyse operating conditions and provide feedback to help the customer optimise the use of their cranes. For example, an alarm is transmitted to the maintenance director if the crane’s tyre pressure goes below a certain threshold, as tyres at optimal pressure save at least 10% of the fuel used. This type of real-time monitoring applies to all the crane’s main components, avoiding unplanned stops and reducing the risk of equipment damage.”


A challenge when connecting any computing equipment to heavy machinery such as a crane is dealing with the physical conditions; vibration, dust and dirt ingress being the most commonplace. In this application where there is a high level of vibration, maintaining a constant connection is imperative –  there is simply no way that a crane operator or maintenance engineer has time to keep checking the connection – so Datajob, Kvaser’s Italian qualified sales representative, recommended a CAN to Ethercan interface over CAN to USB. Explains Gustavo Gasparini, sales director at Datajob: “The Kvaser Ethercan provides greater stability of connection than USB because Ethernet permits a small disconnection from time to time.”

A crane system typically has five or more ECUs, connected by a CAN gateway, to which the Kvaser Ethercan connects. Also connected to the rugged PC is the Ethernet cabling for the camera on the crane arm, which in most cases, takes high resolution images to document the state of the container before and after a manoeuvre, though some customers require real-time video for each operation. Real-time information is an important feature, not least because the container corridors are very small and constant position monitoring helps ensure that minimum safety distances are met.

Datamatics telemetry system is fully integrated with the Neptuno TOS system, providing an ‘Internet of Things-style system’ for the port. All crane movements are transmitted in real time to the TOS, including critical data such as the exact route taken by the crane to place the container in the stack (so that the cost of every movement can be calculated). The system also enables containers to be located with high precision, reducing the time and effort to find containers.


According to Occhipinti: “Datamatics’ goal is to provide to our customers with the best solution for their needs, so we ‘build’ personalized systems that are adapted to their specific needs. We offer consultancy and performance analysis on logistics, terminal operation, electronics and informatics to bring customers optimized solutions that reduce costs, enhances performance and ultimately ensures their long-term success.”

Confirms Occhipinti: “All the Kvaser interfaces that we tested and have used are optimal products and we are very happy to integrate them in our solutions. Moreover, Datajob has given very effective support, helping in all project phases and providing a very professional service.”


Data Job is a distributor of hardware and software tools for fieldbus with CAN and LIN technologies. Data Job offers engineering services for system design and also education and training.

See Datamatics TOS solutions in action at the TOC Europe global container supply chain conference between 27 – 29 June 2017 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.