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Add On When Needed: Panasonic 2-in-1 Toughbook G2 Built for the Future

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Panasonic continues its year of Toughbook introductions, this time with an eye toward users who not only want the option of a keyboard but also future-proof technology.

A keyboard is only the first of the options on the G2 fully rugged 2-in-1 detachable tablet. There are several add-ons — expansion packs or what Panasonic calls xPaks that give the unit functions such as a serial port, thermal camera, barcode reader and a quick-release SSD hard drive. Owners can add this functionality in three modular expansion areas whenever needed since the xPaks are user installed and removed.

The Panasonic Toughbook G2 can be operated solely in tablet form or be paired with a keyboard.The Panasonic Toughbook G2 can be operated solely in tablet form or be paired with a keyboard.Panasonic“No other table has this modular expansion pack approach,” Anthony Mungiello, Toughbook senior product manager, tells Equipment World. “You can get a total of 36 combinations between the three expansion areas. This gives people flexibility, helps future proof the G2, and they can add any of these xPaks at any time.” Contractors can also share xPaks among several users.

The G2’s 10.1-inch display is available with Windows 10 Pro; the unit has an 18.5-hour battery life. It also has three programmable buttons to quickly access commonly used applications or shortcuts. Working in landscape mode, one of the programmable buttons is located on the right-hand side of the tablet, making it easy to use as a camera or scanner.

“If you have a barcode scanner, for example, you can program one of your buttons to immediately go to the scanner,” Mungiello says.

And all of this comes with the baked-in ruggedness Panasonic has spent the past 25 years developing in its Toughbooks. In part because of this legacy, the company is making the G2 backward compatible with docking stations on the Toughbook 20, which came out in 2015, and the Toughbook G1, which came out in 2013.

“We know there are thousands of devices out there that are mounted in work vehicles, and being able to reuse those docking stations is a huge cost savings,” says Alex Nollmann, Panasonic’s director of public sector.

The G2’s heat management should be of particular interest to contractors, Nollmann says. “It can easily be in direct sunlight on a hot day. The device handles extreme heat.” Panasonic’s use of thermal piping keeps the processor from overheating and does not impact the integrity of the unit, he says.

Contractors might also be attracted to the G2’s screen brightness – or lack thereof. “We’ve been known for years for having extremely bright screens, but it’s also becoming more important to have dim screens as crews work at night,” Nollmann says. “You don’t want a 1,000-nit screen affecting their night vision on the side of the road.”

The G2 can go down to 2 nits, which almost appears as a black screen except in a complete blackout environment. More important, it has a night vision mode that turns the screen a red hue, taking out the whites and blues, enabling users to look at the screen and then at the surrounding environment without losing night vision. Users can activate this feature manually or have it come on automatically as it senses ambient light.

Nollmann also says the G2’s speakers are four times louder than previous models, making it easier to hear on noisy construction sites.

With the 2-in-1 design, the G2 can be used as a tablet or laptop. It uses Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 and has 16 GB to 32 GB of memory. The 2.9-pound basic tablet starts at $2,999, with xPaks and keyboard sold separately. The keyboard adds another 2 pounds.

“Dual SIM (physical and eSIM) is actually innovative in the rugged space,” Mungiello says. Using eSIM, users can easily install SIMs on multiple units, and they don’t have to worry about the SIM card coming loose in a vibration-intense environment.

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Keep Track of Dirt Moved, Job Progress with Komatsu Smart Construction Dashboard

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You probably got a glimpse of it at ConExpo 2020. Now it’s a reality. Komatsu just announced the availability of its Smart Construction Dashboard to enable the digital transformation of customer’s jobsites.

The dashboard combines data from multiple sources to create a complete picture of the work being done on an earthmoving site. It is in essence a mapping tool that uses drone and GPS-enabled machine data feeds to measure cut/fills, quantities and productivity and show you these results in 3D, in near real time.

With the dashboard, you can confirm that your pre-bid topographical map is correct, track jobsite progress, document site conditions and evidence for change orders, and measure stockpile quantities. A playback feature in the timeline function lets you examine the work done in previous days or weeks. Whole-site visuals, cross-sections and individual measurements are also available through the dashboard’s tools.

“In a typical scenario, they fly the drone in the morning and come back to the office to upload the data into Dashboard,” says Yoetzin Diaz, Smart Construction solutions manager at Komatsu. “Once they have their drone flight data, they can start creating measurements, whether that is the stockpile from yesterday, or a cut-fill map of the entire jobsite.”

Diaz, who worked for a general contractor before coming to Komatsu, says contractors often don’t have the software to gauge daily and weekly production progress. With the Komatsu Smart Construction Dashboard, they can determine productivity and make decisions for the further deployment of operators, trucks and machines in a matter of minutes.

“I see a lot of contractors taking pictures and tiling them to get the big picture, and that takes a long time. It’s a lot of work; it’s not very efficient even after you get all the pictures. With a drone and the Smart Construction Dashboard, you could have that in an hour or less. It’s accessible, convenient and collaborative,” she says.

The dashboard can be used in all phases of construction: pre-planning, tracking progress or even after construction. “When your project is done, you can go back and look at all the work that happened and use that as your as-builts to submit for payment. So you have a one-stop shop for all of this.”

Because the information is digital and web based, it can be shared with subcontractors, general contractors or project owners who also need to see how the job is progressing, she says.

The Smart Construction Dashboard is powered by Cesium, a platform used to visualize, analyze and share 3D data. Cesium’s 3D visualization engine combines video game computer-graphics technology with GPS accuracy that ties data to its precise location on the globe. Komatsu’s system for the dashboard uses DJI drones, but drones from other manufacturers will work as long as they are equipped for photogrammetry and have the appropriate software and file format, says Diaz.

When it was introduced at ConExpo, Dashboard and Drone were just two of 11 Smart Construction tools that Komatsu showcased. And while the Smart Construction Dashboard today is used as a mapping and productivity tracking tool, eventually other Komatsu Smart Construction features may be added to or integrated with it, says Diaz.

For more on the full suite of Komatsu Smart Construction tools, see our video from Komatsu at ConExpo 2020 here.

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Don’t Pay for Rental Equipment When Weather Stops Work

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Of all the risks heavy equipment contractors take, bad weather is one they have no control over. And when you have rental equipment in the field and a big storm brewing there’s not much you can do except watch the water and your costs rise without any corresponding increase in productivity.

One solution is a new service, called Weather Warranty, that can take the sting out of having to pay for rental equipment that you can’t use because of weather conditions. The concept is simple. For a flat fee added onto your rental contract you can get coverage that will pay your rental costs on equipment that you can’t use because of weather conditions. If you’re rained out for a certain number of days, Weather Warranty pays your rental costs on the covered equipment those three days.

The fee you pay to the dealer for Weather Warranty coverage is a percentage of your total rental cost and varies depending on the season and the part of the country. Along the Gulf Coast, for example, rates go up during hurricane season. But in general rates are in the single digits. “There are not a lot of markets or a lot of months where we’re over 10 percent on average, and that price range plays pretty well with customers,” says Richard Wilmot, head of product at Weather Warranty.

“Rain and wind are our bread and butter,” says Wilmot. “But this season for the first time we are looking at snow- and cold-related protection. We can protect people who invest in equipment in anticipation of needing to plow snow, and then compensate them for their rental fees if it doesn’t snow.” In addition to covering losses, Weather Warranty can be used to hedge your bets by reducing the financial risks of getting started on a project earlier in the spring when unexpected storms and weather disruptions are more common.

Wilmot says Weather Warranty is not insurance with deductibles and contracts and claims. Rather it is a value-added service that contractors can take advantage of at the rental store at the time of the transaction. “Our promise to our dealer partners is that we’re going to add about 30 seconds to the transaction,” he says. “No more than one piece of paper for those who are on paper and no paper for those who want an electronic document exchange. We want to be ready to serve those people in a transaction that’s already happening.”

The idea for Weather Warranty came to Wilmot and his colleagues while doing research on contractor issues for Westerfield Insurance, a company well known for their construction coverage. “I was working with a team in 2018 that interviewed GCs, subs and everyone in the industry, trying to find areas that are not well served today by insurance products.

“The one thing that kept coming at us from all angles was the financial impact and schedule disruptions caused by weather,” he says. That’s not news to anybody but it really created a lot of psychological stress for these people. That really stuck out. And we were starting to learn about some cutting-edge weather technology, that, as far as we could tell, no one was applying to the construction industry. With those two things in mind, we put together a handful of products for ideas to test and the winner just kept on being weather warrants.”

While Weather Warranty can track weather issues with pinpoint precision, different regions, jobsites and soil types can recover from of rain or snow or ice with various degrees of timeliness. And the same weather can have different impacts on different trades or types of equipment. So, to more accurately fit customer needs, Weather Warranty is designed to be customizable as well.

“We have the option for any salesperson or counter agent to do on the fly customization,” says Wilmot. “And that adds no more than 30 seconds. Most of the folks that we work with, don’t have a need for that. But for those who do, especially those who may be in a specialty business or line of work, we had that built in from day one.”

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Equipment World Announces Editorial Leadership Transition

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After a stretch of more than three decades, Randall-Reilly announces a change at the top of the Equipment World editorial team.

Marcia Doyle, Equipment World’s chief editor, is retiring at the end of 2021. She will be succeeded by Jordanne Waldschmidt, formerly head of content for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), who joins the Equipment World team this month as chief editor. Doyle will serve as the brand’s editor emeritus during the transition.

Doyle joined Randall-Reilly in 1989 and has expertly guided Equipment World since its inception, helping readers navigate the ever-changing construction industry and evolving equipment trends. She also served as editorial director for Randall-Reilly’s construction brands and successfully launched new brands in related markets such as Total Landscape Care and Big Iron Dealer.

Under Doyle’s leadership, Equipment World has become the most respected media brand in the construction industry and has won dozens of awards from the American Society of Business Press Editors and other industry associations. Equipment World’s June 2018 special report, “Death by Trench,” won the Jesse H. Neal award for Best Single Issue from Connective, the Business Information Association, a division of SIIA.

Equipment World would not be where it is today without Marcia’s tireless service and dedication over the last 32 years,” said Jeff Crissey, content director, OEM/Aftermarket, for Randall-Reilly. “She has been the driving force behind award-winning content, and most recently guided the Equipment World team through the transition from print to digital and multimedia content.”

Waldschmidt joins Randall-Reilly from AEM, where she served as the organization’s content marketing manager for more than nine years leading trade show editorial, content marketing and social media strategies. Her audience focus and multimedia content skillset will propel Equipment World to new heights for audience engagement.

Waldschmidt has earned awards from the Content Marketing Institute, Construction Media Alliance and other organizations for her forward-looking approach to social media and audience engagement for AEM’s CONEXPO-CON/AGG trade show.

“For decades, Equipment World has set the standard for trusted industry news and insights,” said Waldschmidt. “It is an honor to lead a team of top journalists as we explore new opportunities to serve construction professionals in a digital-first world.”

“Serving this industry as a journalist has been a great honor,” said Doyle. “I treasure the memories and look forward to seeing Jordanne and her team propel Equipment World to new heights.”

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