This new cloud-based system uses a free smartphone app to manage tool inventory, track tool performance, and most importantly—wirelessly transfer customized settings to specially equipped Milwaukee tools. It will be introduced in phases, the app first, tool reporting second, and tool control last.
Milwaukee’s smartphone app can be used to create customized
speed and torque settings on the One-Key M18 drills and drivers scheduled for release in January 2016. I’m covering them first because the ability for individuals to “program” their power tools is an exciting step forward.
The new One-Key tools will have a series of buttons, each corresponding to a pre-programmed setting for a particular combination of speed and torque. For example, the setting for driving self-drilling sheet metal screws causes the motor to start slowly so the fastener doesn’t skitter across the surface, spin at high speed after the flutes begin to bite, and then slow down at the end so you don’t strip or break fasteners. For driving big lags unpiloted in wood you’d want to start slow and then go all out till the end. Sure, you can do these things by feathering the trigger, but it is not as repeatable as using a program.
The possible combinations of speed and torque for optimal drilling and driving are endless because the combinations of bits, fasteners, and materials tradesmen use are endless. If the pre-programmed settings don’t do
what you want you can delete one or more and create settings of your own. They may not need to be wildly different than the originals; sometimes a minor tweak is all it takes to get a cleaner hole, longer bit life, or better performance. If you want to go back to the original settings, the option exists to clear custom settings and restore the defaults.
In introducing this technology, Milwaukee started with drills and drivers because every trade uses them and those tools are expected to perform a broad range of tasks. But there’s no reason this functionality could not be added to other tools. It would be cool to be able to tighten nuts and bolts to a predetermined torque with a cordless ratchet or be able to choose between the kind of power schemes that have long been available on laptop computers (max performance, max battery life, and the like).
The inventory component rolls out in September and will allow users to create a master database of all the tools owned by the company (including non-Milwaukee models) and track where they are and who has them. The ability to do these things will mean a lot to large companies with many crews and vehicles.
But there’s something in it for small operators too. Even if you don’t need help keeping track of where your tools are, it’s a good idea to have a complete list of what you own with model numbers, purchase date, price, and serial number. Because if your tools are stolen, that information will help you collect on insurance or recover your tools from a pawnshop or police evidence locker. The app contains fields for all of this info plus a place to upload a photo of the tool, if you have one. The data lives in the cloud and can be accessed from your computer or an app on your phone or tablet.
In October Milwaukee will introduce the M18 Force Logic 6T Utility Crimper, an electrician’s tool with functionality that may be transferable to tools for other trades. Power crimpers of this kind are used to make crimped connections on heavy electrical cable. Proper crimping is required to prevent a poor connection, overheating, or even fires.
One way to know that you did it right is to measure and record the amount of pressure applied to the fitting—which is what the reporting function does. The data can be transferred from the tool to a smart device equipped with the Milwaukee app and then uploaded to the cloud. A report can then be prepared to show every crimp was successful or identify ones that might need to be inspected or fixed. I will never use a utility crimper but I could see similar functionality being added to assembly tools, making it possible to verify that the nuts and bolts on a truck, plane, or piece of machinery were properly torqued.