SPEEDY Power is to raise the stakes in plant security with trials of miniature cameras on its generators, which photograph anyone who goes near them.
The cameras are the most high-tech step in a package of deterrents developed by the hirer in a bid to stop persistent and increasingly sophisticated theft.
The cameras remain dormant until they sense movement, at which point they take a picture of the person or registration and send it to a control centre.
Speedy estimates show that theft of generators, which are targeted for their combination of high value and high portability, cost UK hirers around £3 million pounds a year.
The Safe Set transmitter, which is being fitted to the Wigan firm's national fleet, provides both anti-theft and diagnostic functions.
'We are now having to keep some of the functions secret, so that thieves do not have a head start on how to disable them.
We are now dealing with people who know which wires to cut, ' said engineering director Brian Cornett.
With portables costing around £20,000, the hirer believes the Safe Set will save individual customers thousands of pounds in insurance excesses, as well as cut the downtime through theft.
Speedy's trials last year on 30 machines resulted in a 100 per cent recovery rate of stolen machines and led police to the discovery of £300,000-worth of stolen equipment in a warehouse. The tracker is designed to send a text message to the fleet manager or other personnel when it moves out of a pre-programmed zone.
'Unlike some proprietary trackers, the system is designed to alert the customer nearby as soon as it moves, ' said Mr Cornett.
Speedy is also one of the first hirers to capitalise on the tracking technology's remote diagnostic functions, which it believes will be even more valuable to hirers and contractors.
The Safe Set device is programmed to alert Speedy to potential repair calls, with a range of sensors providing early warning of potential breakdown. Originally developed for machines in remote locations, it can also be switched on and off remotely. 'Nine times out of 10, breakdowns are due to the engine running out of fuel, so we have sensors in the fuel tank to provide alerts to our engineers, ' said Mr Cornett.
'The response is so fast that, when we alert a client to a problem, they are often not aware of it themselves. The first they know is when our engineer rings to tell them about it.'
'It should be a huge benefit to us, because it should mean the end of customers running generators 500 hours past their service life and damaging the engine irreparably.'
The Safe Set also allows Speedy to monitor the generator performance and provides full logging of the service history.