The VRPETERS mobile safety application helps operators monitor equipment stability.

That’s the message family members of a tractor operator could receive if a mobile application developed by a Univ. of Missouri researcher makes it to market.

“It has great potential to save lives by reducing rescue time,” says A. Bulet Koc, assistant professor of agricultural systems management at the Univ. of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. He developed the application with the help of his research assistant Bo Liu.

The application, called VRPETERS (Vehicle Rollover Prevention Education Training Emergency Reporting System), uses the sensors and GPS capability built into mobile devices to detect a rollover. It then sends an automatic emergency email and phone message with accident location coordinates to their emergency contacts, such as a family member. The preferred operating method is to mount the phone into a holder on the tractor, similar to how a GPS is mounted in a car.

To set up the application, the users enter their name, their emergency contact phone number, emergency contact email, and tractor information (such as track width, wheelbase, weight, etc.). The application then monitors and displays the tractor’s roll and pitch angles, graphically and numerically, by showing an image and a sliding scale. On the scale, 100 is safe and 0 indicates a rollover condition. A message displays on the screen when the scale hits 20 or below. An email and phone call is sent when 0, or a possible rollover, is detected.

“We started developing the application about 2 years ago and have been looking for partner for the last 6 months. We field tested the application on farm tractors in the summer and believe it can be adapted for other motorized vehicles, such as construction or military vehicles and even recreational vehicles like snowmobiles and ATVs.

“We want this app to be available to public, so we’re looking for a company or partner to market and sell it. We would then work with that partnering company for updates and adapting it for other vehicles,” Koc says. The application has been developed for Apple products (iPhone 4 and 4S as well as other devices, such as iPods with GPS and messaging capabilities), but could be adapted for other mobile platforms.

He also says the device could also be useful for fleet managers. For instance, reports could be developed for how equipment is used on different terrains and managers could use that information to better train employees.

Koc says dealers could play an important role, once the application becomes available, in demonstrating how to set up and use VRPETERS to their tractor customers.

What do you think? Is this app something your customers might be interested in and something you might be willing to share? It could be another way to leverage your role as consultant, demonstrating a simple, but potentially life-saving tool that takes advantage of the latest technologies. If you believe in the possibilities of this application, maybe dealers can play a bigger role by bringing the idea to manufacturers.

The tool, as good as it sounds, can’t prevent rollovers. Alan Foy, turf salesperson with A&M Green Power Group, Pacific Junction, Iowa, agrees the application could save lives, and raises this point: “I hope it doesn’t give operators a sense of false security.”

That’s again where dealers can make a difference. With the cold, hard facts showing that one out of every 10 equipment operators will overturn a machine in their lifetime, dealers should take a leadership role in teaching and preaching safety.