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Title:
REMOTE LEVEL INDICATOR AND TRAILER LIGHT TEST UNIT
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/010538
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A remote level indicator and trailer light test unit including a housing having a first attachment point configured to attach a tow vehicle socket and a second attachment point configured to attach a trailer plug, and a controller associated with a wireless communication hub and both the first attachment point and the second attachment point to receive activation instructions and cause activation of at least one electrical circuit on the trailer drawing electrical power from the tow vehicle socket and to send information from the test unit based on an operational status of at least one electrical circuit on the trailer for transfer to a remote personal computer device.

Inventors:
MUNT, Peter William (1976 Flagstone Creek Road, Upper Flagstone, Queensland 4344, 4344, AU)
RENNICK, Kyran (c/- Level 6, 175 Eagle StreetBrisbane, Queensland 4000, 4000, AU)
Application Number:
AU2018/050723
Publication Date:
January 17, 2019
Filing Date:
July 13, 2018
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
MUNT, Peter William (1976 Flagstone Creek Road, Upper Flagstone, Queensland 4344, 4344, AU)
RENNICK, Kyran (c/- Level 6, 175 Eagle StreetBrisbane, Queensland 4000, 4000, AU)
International Classes:
G01R31/44; B60Q1/26; B60Q11/00; B60R16/023; B62D63/06
Domestic Patent References:
WO2014102171A12014-07-03
Foreign References:
US20160035156A12016-02-04
DE10033345A12002-01-17
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SPRUSON & FERGUSON (Level 24, Tower 2 Darling Park,201 Sussex Stree, Sydney New South Wales 2000, 2000, AU)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A remote level indicator and trailer light test unit including a housing having a first

attachment point configured to attach a tow vehicle socket and a second attachment point configured to attach a trailer plug, and a controller associated with a wireless

communication hub and both the first attachment point and the second attachment point to receive activation instructions and cause activation of at least one electrical circuit on the trailer drawing electrical power from the tow vehicle socket and to send information from the test unit based on an operational status of at least one electrical circuit on the trailer for transfer to a remote personal computer device.

2. A remote level indicator and trailer light test system including

a) a remote level indicator and trailer light test unit including a housing having a first

attachment point configured to attach a tow vehicle socket and a second attachment point configured to attach a trailer plug, and a controller associated with a wireless

communication hub and both the first attachment point and the second attachment point to receive activation instructions and cause activation of at least one electrical circuit on the trailer drawing electrical power from the tow vehicle socket and to send information from the test unit based on an operational status of at least one electrical circuit on the trailer for transfer to a remote personal computer device; and

b) a personal computing device operating a software application to send instructions to the wireless communication hub and receive information from the wireless communication hub, the software application configured to generate and display at least one interface on the personal computing device to allow an operator to:

i. send trailer test instructions to the wireless communication hub of the test unit to cause activation of at least one electrical circuit on the trailer and to receive operational status information back regarding the operational status of the at least one electrical circuit and

ii. receive operational status information back regarding the operational status of the at least one electrical circuit if an operator operates vehicle -based actuators to cause activation of at least one electrical circuit on the trailer.

3. A test unit as claimed in claim 1 further including at least one level sensor associated with the wireless communication hub and configured to capture and transmit level data indicative of the level of the trailer.

4. A test system as claimed in claim 2 wherein the test unit further includes at least one level sensor associated with the wireless communication hub and configured to capture and transmit level data indicative of the level of the trailer to the personal computing device operating the software application such that the software application can generate and display at least one interface on the personal computing device indicating the orientation of the trailer and/or the difference from level, preferably in at least two directions .

Description:
REMOTE LEVEL INDICATOR AND TRAILER LIGHT TEST UNIT

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] The present invention relates generally to vehicle electrics and testing and specifically to a remote level indicator and trailer light test unit and system.

BACKGROUND ART

[0002] Electrical testing equipment for testing the signal and operational capacity of the electrical system and lighting system for a trailer is available.

[0003] The simplest type of testing equipment is a circuit tester which is a unit with male extensions to be received and mate with an electrical plug on the tow vehicle and an indicator light associated with each extension to show the operational status of each of the ports in the plug. A user plugs the circuit tester into the vehicle plug and then activates each of the lights in sequence with the indicator lights on the circuit tester showing the status. This is for the tow vehicle.

[0004] For testing the complementary system on the trailer, a circuit tester is provided with a control unit linked to the circuit tester. The circuit tester is attached to the trailer plug and then a user actuates each system on the trailer utilising the control unit and can watch for the resultant action on the trailer. This requires two units each with a power source and the circuit tester power source must also supply the power to actuate the system on the trailer which would normally be drawn from the actuation signal from the vehicle. This can impose a significant drain on the power source of the circuit tester as well as requiring a user to keep track of two items, the loss of either one rendering the system useless.

[0005] It will be clearly understood that, if a prior art publication is referred to herein, this reference does not constitute an admission that the publication forms part of the common general knowledge in the art in Australia or in any other country.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

[0006] The present invention is directed to a remote level indicator and trailer light test unit and system, which may at least partially overcome at least one of the abovementioned disadvantages or provide the consumer with a useful or commercial choice.

[0007] With the foregoing in view, the present invention in one form, resides broadly in a remote level indicator and trailer light test unit including a housing having a first attachment point configured to attach a tow vehicle socket and a second attachment point configured to attach a trailer plug, and a controller associated with a wireless communication hub and both the first attachment point and the second attachment point to receive activation instructions and cause activation of at least one electrical circuit on the trailer drawing electrical power from the tow vehicle socket and to send information from the test unit based on an operational status of at least one electrical circuit on the trailer for transfer to a remote personal computer device.

[0008] In another form, the present invention resides broadly in a remote level indicator and trailer light test system including a) a remote level indicator and trailer light test unit including a housing having a first

attachment point configured to attach a tow vehicle socket and a second attachment point configured to attach a trailer plug, and a controller associated with a wireless

communication hub and both the first attachment point and the second attachment point to receive activation instructions and cause activation of at least one electrical circuit on the trailer drawing electrical power from the tow vehicle socket and to send information from the test unit based on an operational status of at least one electrical circuit on the trailer for transfer to a remote personal computer device; and

b) a personal computing device operating a software application to send instructions to the wireless communication hub and receive information from the wireless communication hub, the software application configured to generate and display at least one interface on the personal computing device to allow an operator to:

i. send trailer test instructions to the wireless communication hub of the test unit to cause activation of at least one electrical circuit on the trailer and to receive operational status information back regarding the operational status of the at least one electrical circuit and

ii. receive operational status information back regarding the operational status of the at least one electrical circuit if an operator operates vehicle-based actuators to cause activation of at least one electrical circuit on the trailer.

[0009] In a further preferred form, the test unit may include at least one level sensor associated with the wireless communication hub and configured to capture and transmit level data indicative of the level of the trailer, particularly to the personal computing device operating the software application such that the software application can generate and display at least one interface on the personal computing device indicating the orientation of the trailer and/or the difference from level, preferably in at least two directions (front to back and side to side).

[0010] The remote level indicator in trailer light test unit of the present invention includes a housing in order to house internal components and to provide attachment points for the vehicle socket and the trailer plug. Normally, the test unit housing is attached to the towed vehicle or trailer rather than the towing vehicle. Normally, the test unit housing is attached to the trailer arm or the towed vehicle bed.

[0011] The test unit housing can have any form but is normally closed housing with at least a pair of attachment ports, one for the tow vehicle socket and a second attachment port for the trailer plug. However, the housing of the present invention may accept a hard wired connection rather than attaching the particular socket and plug. Attachment of the socket and plug is a preferred form though because in this form, the test unit can be easily retrofit to existing trailers without requiring special training or equipment.

[0012] Typically, the test unit housing will include a base relative to which internal components of the housing are mounted and a cover which is preferably detachable as required in order to access the internal components.

[0013] The test unit housing will typically house a microcontroller which is associated with the wireless communication hub and the first attachment point and the second attachment point.

[0014] The housing may include a battery, but typically, powerful the device will be drawn from the vehicle power supply through the tow vehicle socket which is attached to the test unit via the first attachment point. If an on board battery is provided in the housing, it is preferably only provided to allow emergency communication and/or to the wireless

communication hub.

[0015] The housing will typically include a number of attachment points in order to allow the housing to be attached relative to the towed vehicle or trailer. It is preferred that the attachment point allow simple and easy installation or attachment of the housing relative to the towed vehicle or trailer. According to one preferred embodiment, the attachment use may be one or more U-bolts which extend around a trailer arm but other mechanisms such as cable ties for example could be used with an appropriate attachment point provided.

[0016] It is preferred that the attachment point be provided through at least a portion of the housing. [0017] It is preferred that the housing be manufactured of an appropriate material such as a robust plastic or metal for example. It is further preferred that when the housing is closed as it will be in general use of the test unit, the housing be substantially water and dust resistant, typically to a high level.

[0018] The first attachment point is typically provided to attach the tow vehicle socket to the test unit housing in order to allow insertion of at least a portion of the trailer plug thereinto. Normally, the first attachment point will be a shaped orifice or port provided into the housing with appropriate connections provided within the housing or in association with the first attachment point to engage with the particular configuration of the tow vehicle socket.

Preferably, a sealing member will be provided in association with the first attachment point in order to provide a water or dust resistant seal when the tow vehicle socket is attached to the first attachment point.

[0019] As mentioned above, the first attachment point is normally provided with an appropriate connection to attach tow vehicle socket. Normally, the first attachment point is provided with a connection which is the same as the trailer plug but which is connected to the controller in the housing rather than to the trailer plug itself. This provides the controller with the ability to report on the operational status of each circuit associated with the tow vehicle socket and/or the power supply portion which would normally be attached to the trailer plug.

[0020] The second attachment point is typically provided for attachment of the trailer plug relative to the housing. The second attachment point is normally a shaped orifice or port provided into the housing in order to allow insertion of at least a portion of the trailer plug there into. Normally, the second attachment point will have the opposite configuration to the first attachment point in other words, the second attachment point will normally be configured with an appropriate connection to attach the trailer plug and therefore, will normally have a configuration which is the same as the vehicle socket but instead of connecting to the vehicle socket, the second attachment point will provide a connection to the controller in the housing. Again, this provides the controller with the ability to report on the operational status of each circuit associated with the trailer plug which would normally be attached to the vehicle socket.

[0021] Again, normally there are a number of points or contacts corresponding to the vehicle socket located in association with the second attachment point to properly attach and engage with the trailer plug.

[0022] One or more sealing members is typically provided in association with the second attachment point to form a substantially water and dust resistant seal with the trailer plug.

[0023] The second attachment point is typically similar in most respects to the first attachment point except being of the opposite configuration.

[0024] There are many different types of vehicle sockets and corresponding trailer plugs including rectangular and round and with a number of different pins and receptacles.

Importantly, in order to attach the electrics of the trailer to those of the vehicle, a vehicle socket must have a corresponding trailer plug. Therefore, the first attachment point on a test unit and the second attachment point on the test unit will typically be configured for a matched set of socket and plug, with a first plug-type attachment point provided to attach the vehicle socket and a second socket- type attachment point provided to attach the trailer plug.

[0025] The controller provided in the test unit of the present invention will typically link the first attachment point on the second attachment point to convey signals in normal use through the test unit from the vehicle socket to the trailer plug. However, when testing is required, the controller will preferably report on information received as to the operational status of at least one, and typically both of the vehicle socket and trailer plug attached to the respective first attachment point and second attachment point.

[0026] It is preferred that the controller of the present invention user portion of the power from the signal provided to the controller via the vehicle socket for power of the test unit components. This power will normally be provided from the vehicle power source upon actuation of the towing vehicle mounted controls by user. The test unit may use one or more field effect transistors to switch DC voltage provided from the vehicle power source.

[0027] The controller will typically action instructions provided from the remote personal computer device delivered via the wireless communication hub as well as action instructions provided through the vehicle socket upon actuation of the towing vehicle mounted controls by user.

[0028] The controller will typically be able to actuate one or more circuits on the towed trailer or vehicle. The controller will typically report on the operation of one or more circuits associated with the tow vehicle socket attached to the first attachment point, that is the vehicle side connections and/or circuits and/or the operation of one or more circuits associated with the trailer plug attached to the 2nd attachment point, that is the trailer side connections and/or circuits. [0029] The test unit may report the operational status of one or more connections and/or circuits and/or be configured to activate circuits upon receipt of specific instructions, typically in relation to the trailer side circuits. Preferably, the test unit will be able to undertake both operations, namely to report operational status and also to activate circuits if required.

[0030] The wireless communication hub provided in the housing of the test unit of the present invention may be of any type and have access to one or more communication pathways. A relatively close range communication pathway is typically used for association with the preferred personal computing device in a particularly preferred communication pathway is Bluetooth. This will allow the wireless communication hub to send and receive

information/instructions to and from the preferred personal computing device. Typically, the wireless communication hub will send information provided or collected to the controller and receive instructions from the personal computing device in order to provide these instructions to the controller. Normally, information and instructions are provided through the software application operating on the preferred personal computing device and the controller may be provided with a corresponding software application or a more simple operation such as a printed circuit board may be provided.

[0031] The test unit of the present invention may be provided with additional sensor functionality. For example, the test unit may be provided with at least one level sensor in order to sense the level or orientation of the test unit. In one preferred embodiment, a level sensor such as a gyroscope and/or an accelerometer may be provided in order to gain level data in relation to the test unit. One or more other sensors may be provided such as a tire pressure sensor, a voltage sensor, current sensor, or a temperature sensor.

[0032] The test unit of the present invention may include a location receiver/transmitter.

The location receiver/transmitter may be associated with the level sensor in order to actuate an alert message for example if the level sensor detects that the test unit, and by association the trailer itself, is not within normal operational parameters such as for example if the level sensor detects that the trailer is inverted or on a side for example.

[0033] A longer range wireless communication pathway may be utilised if such an alert message is to be transmitted.

[0034] As mentioned above, whilst the test unit of the preferred embodiment may include an on board battery, it is preferred that the test unit is powered from the vehicle power supply through the attachment of the vehicle socket to the first attachment point. Any battery provided in the test unit will typically be for backup or emergency purposes only.

[0035] The personal computing device can be any type that can send instructions and/or receive and display results, however, a smart phone, computer tablet or other portable device is preferred.

[0036] The personal computing device preferred for use in the present invention includes a processor with on-board memory, a display, at least one input apparatus, and access to at least one communication pathway. The display will preferably be a touchscreen as many personal computing devices currently available have this feature. The advantages of the touchscreen include allowing a larger display and also allowing the display to function as a part of or as, the input apparatus.

[0037] Preferably, the software application is provided to operate on a personal computing device with appropriate connections through the personal computing device to connect or link to the test unit.

[0038] The user will normally download the software application to their personal computing device. The download of the software application will normally include appropriate instructions to be stored in the memory of the personal computing device in order to create and maintain links and associations with the test unit in order to communicate with the test unit via the wireless communications hub of the test unit.

[0039] The at least one input apparatus therefore will typically be formed or displayed on the display of the personal computing device as required. The at least one input apparatus may include a virtual keyboard including letters of the alphabet, numbers and/or symbols as well as one or more action icons or portions, typically a representation of one or more circuits to be test and their location, to allow a user to implement action on the personal computing device.

[0040] Typically, a portion of the interface displayed on the display of the personal computing device will be provided as visual feedback reflecting the input provided by the user of the personal computing device.

[0041] The system of the present invention will normally be implemented through instructions which when followed, generates one or more interfaces on a personal computing device. The instructions will normally be stored in the memory of the user's personal computing device and will then be followed in order to generate and update an interface in real time according to the consumer's interaction with the interface. This will allow a user to issue instructions to the test unit via the one or more generated and displayed interfaces and also to display the results of tests conducted through the test unit on the display of the personal computing device.

[0042] Many of personal computing devices (PCD) have touchscreens for display allowing the user to directly interact with the touch screen in order to interact with the interface. However, a normal non-touchscreen display can be used with a movable pointer or selection tool in order to allow a consumer to interact with the interface. One or more "buttons" are provided on the interface to allow the user to interact with the PCD and through the PCD, to interact with the system.

[0043] The generated interface will typically be updated substantially in real time according to the rules or instructions in conjunction with information received from the test unit. The generated interface will also typically be updated substantially in real time according to interactions by the user(s) with the system.

[0044] Once the software application is preferably downloaded to the personal computing device, the personal computing device can then be used to sync or link or with the test unit. This is typically done using a unique identification code provided with each test unit and each software application or personal computing device and providing the unique identification code to each of the test unit and the software application or personal computing device.

[0045] The software application will then preferably provide the user with the ability to control one or more tests or testing regimes in relation to the vehicle side connections and/or circuits and/or the trailer side connections and/or circuits via the personal computing device.

[0046] It is particularly preferred that the software application will provide the user with the ability to undertake a number of tests.

[0047] One test which the software application will typically allow the user to undertake is a test with the user is external to both the vehicle and the trailer and tests the trailer side circuits by activation of at least one circuit and the user visually inspecting the operational status of the activated circuit. In this configuration, the user will typically use the personal computing device to issue instructions via the software application to the test unit and particularly the controller of the test unit in order to activate at least one circuit as required so that the user can view the result. The software application will normally have a generated and displayed interface which will provide one or more action buttons on the interface in order to issue a respective instruction. For example, the user may choose to send an instruction to activate the brake lights on the trailer via the software application and the personal computing device will issue this instruction to the test unit, where it is received by the wireless

communication hub, passed to the controller and then to the second attachment point in association with the trailer plug to pass a signal to the brake lights. If there is an issue with any portion of the circuit between the controller and the brake lights, then the brake lights will not be lit or there may be a problem with the manner in which the brake lights are lit in which case a user standing externally of the trailer at the rear observing the brake lights will notice the problem and know that there is a fault somewhere in between the test unit and the brake lights.

[0048] Another test that may be provided in the software application of the present invention is a trailer level test. In this configuration, the test unit may capture information from at least one level sensor and send that information via the wireless communication hub to the remote personal computing device of a user who may be in the towing vehicle and thereby may use the information provided which is typically graphically represented on an interface provided on the personal computing device in order to level the trailer. Typically, the information captured in relation to the level of the test unit will be captured in at least two directions, namely front to back of the trailer and site side of the trailer. The graphical representation may have any form but will typically indicate to the user the degree to which the test unit, and thereby the trailer itself, is out of level allowing the user to take remedial action to level the trailer. Information will typically be provided in real time allowing the user a great deal of flexibility in not only understanding how the trailer is out of level but also undertaking the remedial action.

[0049] A third test which may be provided in the system of the present invention is a vehicle socket test or conductivity test in which the user can test whether the instructions issued by the vehicle-based actuators to the vehicle socket are being correctly passed as a signal to the vehicle socket due to its attachment to the test unit and the controller therein. This test may also be capable of testing whether the signal passed to the vehicle socket is correctly passed to the trailer plug. In other words, the test may be a two-way test to test whether the actuation signal from the vehicle is passed correctly through the vehicle socket to the trailer plug and also whether actuation of the desired circuit on the trailer side occurs. In this test, the user may be located in the vehicle and operate the vehicle actuators such as brake lights or brakes for example. Normally, the controller will issue the results of the test detected from the first attachment point and/or the 2nd attachment point to the remote personal computing device via the wireless communication hub which preferably is then fed into the software application which produces and generates an interface on the personal computing device as to the status of the tested circuit. Further information may be provided such as not only the operational status of the circuit but also the operational status of the circuit by the lateral side of the vehicle, that is whether the left brake light is functioning in the right brake light is not functioning for example. This test may be capable of testing either the signal from the vehicle side and the operational status from the trailer side or may test both and provide feedback to the user via a graphical representation on an interface produced and generated on the personal computing device.

[0050] The system of a preferred embodiment may include an atmospheric condition monitoring device that collects information on one or more atmospheric conditions such as temperature and/or humidity and broadcasts that information on to the test unit and/or to the software application.

[0051] In a preferred embodiment, a remote temperature and/or humidity sensor is utilised in any location where temperature and humidity need to be monitored. One example may be in the situation where the trailer is an RV or caravan with an internal refrigerator or freezer unit. The temperature and humidity can then be communicated to the test unit which in turn can relays the information to the software application. The information can be communicated directly to the software application if the sensor is equipped with access to a communications pathway, such as for example when the test unit is not "on-line".

[0052] The system of a preferred embodiment may include an axle temperature monitoring device that collects information relating to the axle temperature and broadcasts that information on to the test unit and/or to the software application. This may be achieved by fixing a temperature sensing device to the trailer/caravan axle ends close to the wheel bearings. The axle temperature monitoring device can then measure the axle/bearing temperature and communicates this to the test unit which relays the information to the software application. The information can be communicated directly to the software application if the sensor is equipped with access to a communications pathway.

[0053] The system of a preferred embodiment may include a tyre pressure monitoring device that collects information relating to the tyre pressure and broadcasts that information on to the test unit and/or to the software application. Tyre Pressure Measuring Sensors (TPMS) may be utilised on the trailer/caravan wheels to monitor tyre pressure and communicate this information to the test unit which relays the information to the software application. The information can be communicated directly to the software application if the sensor is equipped with access to a communications pathway. [0054] The software application preferably has push notifications for alarm points for all sensors provided as a part of the system. Push notifications will preferably be sent to a monitoring device (e.g. phone operating the software application) when any of the sensors are deemed to be outside of normal operation or as determined by selectable user settings.

[0055] The system of a preferred embodiment may include current sensing on the circuit(s) monitoring for fault detection. Current sensing is typically utilised on the

trailer/caravan lights from associated with eth test unit. If a fault is detected (e.g. blown tail light) this information can then be then communicated to the software application to notify the user of the fault condition.

[0056] The system of a preferred embodiment may include one or more reversing sensors that collects information relating to the objects around the trailer and broadcasts that information on to the test unit and/or to the software application. Ultrasonic reverse sensors may be utilised to determine the proximity of obstacles relative to the trailer/caravan. This

information can then be communicated to the test unit which relays the information to the software application. The information can be communicated directly to the software application if the sensor is equipped with access to a communications pathway.

[0057] The system of a preferred embodiment may include one or more external battery voltage and current sensor that collects information relating to external battery voltage and current and broadcasts that information on to the test unit and/or to the software application. A battery voltage monitor may be placed at the battery terminals or another convenient battery voltage source and communicates the voltage and/or charge/discharge current to the test unit which relays the information to the software application. The information can be communicated directly to the software application if the sensor is equipped with access to a communications pathway, such as may occur when the test unit is not "on-line".

[0058] The system of a preferred embodiment may allow vehicle brake controller testing at the test unit. This can be achieved by measuring the PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) originating from the brake controller which is mounted within the vehicle. The test unit can then send the amount of brake force applied and/or a "go or no go" operation, to the software application.

[0059] The system of a preferred embodiment may allow electronic trailer brake testing on trailers/vans. This can be achieved by measuring the amount of current drawn by the trailer/van brake assemblies. This information ca then be relayed to the software application. [0060] The system of a preferred embodiment may be configured to export level information to integrate with self-levelling systems. The test unit can export the level sensor data by the means of any communication protocol to integrate with any self-levelling system. These can include but not limited to trailer/caravan air suspensions, AC or DC motorised leg systems.

[0061] Any of the features described herein can be combined in any combination with any one or more of the other features described herein within the scope of the invention.

[0062] The reference to any prior art in this specification is not, and should not be taken as an acknowledgement or any form of suggestion that the prior art forms part of the common general knowledge.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[0063] Preferred features, embodiments and variations of the invention may be discerned from the following Detailed Description which provides sufficient information for those skilled in the art to perform the invention. The Detailed Description is not to be regarded as limiting the scope of the preceding Summary of the Invention in any way. The Detailed

Description will make reference to a number of drawings as follows:

[0064] Figure 1 is a schematic view of a preferred embodiment of the system of the present invention including the test unit.

[0065] Figure 2 is a schematic view of the embodiment illustrated in Figure 1 with remote testing of trailer lights by an external operator.

[0066] Figure 3 is a schematic view of the embodiment illustrated in Figure 1 with remote testing of trailer level.

[0067] Figure 4 is a schematic view of the embodiment illustrated in Figure 1 with remote testing of the trailer plug.

DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

[0068] According to a particularly preferred embodiment of the present invention, to a remote level indicator and trailer light test unit 10 and system is provided.

[0069] The remote level indicator and trailer light test unit 10 of the preferred embodiment as illustrated in Figure 1, includes a housing having a first attachment point configured to attach a tow vehicle socket associated with an electrical cable 12 from the towing vehicle 13 and a second attachment point configured to attach a trailer plug associated with an electrical cable 14 to the towed vehicle or trailer 15.

[0070] The test unit includes a controller associated with a wireless communication hub and both the first attachment point and the second attachment point to receive activation instructions and cause activation of at least one electrical circuit on the towed vehicle or trailer 15drawing electrical power from the tow vehicle socket and to send information from the test unit 10 based on an operational status of at least one electrical circuit on the towed vehicle or trailer 15 for transfer to a remote personal computer device 16.

[0071] The remote level indicator and trailer light test system as also illustrated generically in Figure 1 includes a) a remote level indicator and trailer light test unit 10; and

b) a personal computing device 16 operating a software application to send instructions to the wireless communication hub of the test unit 10 and receive information from the wireless communication hub, the software application configured to generate and display at least one interface on the personal computing device 16 to allow an operator to:

i. send trailer test instructions to the wireless communication hub of the test unit 10 to cause activation of at least one electrical circuit on the trailer and to receive operational status information back regarding the operational status of the at least one electrical circuit; and

ii. receive operational status information back regarding the operational status of the at least one electrical circuit if an operator operates vehicle -based actuators to cause activation of at least one electrical circuit on the towed vehicle or trailer 15.

[0072] In a further preferred form illustrated in Figure 3, the test unit also includes at least one level sensor associated with the wireless communication hub and configured to capture and transmit level data indicative of the level of the towed vehicle or trailer 15, particularly to the personal computing device 16 operating the software application such that the software application can generate and display at least one interface on the personal computing device 16 indicating the orientation of the towed vehicle or trailer 15 and/or the difference from level, preferably in at least two directions (front to back and side to side).

[0073] The remote level indicator and trailer light test unit 10 of the present invention includes a housing in order to house internal components and to provide attachment points for the vehicle socket and the trailer plug. Normally, the test unit housing is attached to the towed vehicle or trailer rather than the towing vehicle and preferably, as illustrated in Figure 1, attached to the trailer arm 12.

[0074] The test unit housing can have any form but is normally closed housing with at least a pair of attachment ports, one for the tow vehicle socket and a second attachment port for the trailer plug. However, the housing of the present invention may accept a hard wired connections rather than attaching the particular socket and plug. Attachment of the socket and plug is a preferred form though because in this form, the test unit can be easily retrofit to existing trailers without requiring special training or equipment.

[0075] Typically, the test unit housing will include a base relative to which internal components of the housing are mounted and a cover which is preferably detachable as required in order to access the internal components.

[0076] The test unit housing will typically house a microcontroller which is associated with the wireless communication hub and the first attachment point and the second attachment point.

[0077] The housing may include a battery, but typically, powerful the device will be drawn from the vehicle power supply through the tow vehicle socket which is attached to the test unit via the first attachment point. If an on board battery is provided in the housing, it is preferably only provided to allow emergency communication and/or to the wireless

communication hub.

[0078] The housing will typically include a number of attachment points in order to allow the housing to be attached relative to the towed vehicle or trailer. It is preferred that the attachment point allow simple and easy installation or attachment of the housing relative to the towed vehicle or trailer. According to one preferred embodiment, the attachment use may be one or more U-bolts which extend around a trailer arm but other mechanisms such as cable ties 17 for example could be used with an appropriate attachment point provided. It is preferred that the attachment point be provided through at least a portion of the housing.

[0079] It is preferred that the housing be manufactured of an appropriate material such as a robust plastic or metal for example. It is further preferred that when the housing is closed as it will be in general use of the test unit, the housing be substantially water and dust resistant, typically to a high level.

[0080] The first attachment point is typically provided to attach the tow vehicle socket to the test unit housing in order to allow insertion of at least a portion of the trailer plug thereinto. Normally, the first attachment point will be a shaped orifice or port provided into the housing with appropriate connections provided within the housing or in association with the first attachment point to engage with the particular configuration of the tow vehicle socket.

Preferably, a sealing member will be provided in association with the first attachment point in order to provide a water or dust resistant seal when the tow vehicle socket is attached to the first attachment point.

[0081] As mentioned above, the first attachment point is normally provided with an appropriate connection to attach tow vehicle socket. Normally, the first attachment point is provided with a connection which is the same as the trailer plug but which is connected to the controller in the housing rather than to the trailer plug itself. This provides the controller with the ability to report on the operational status of each circuit associated with the tow vehicle socket and/or the power supply portion which would normally be attached to the trailer plug.

[0082] The second attachment point is typically provided for attachment of the trailer plug relative to the housing. The second attachment point is normally a shaped orifice or port provided into the housing in order to allow insertion of at least a portion of the trailer plug there into. Normally, the second attachment point will have the opposite configuration to the first attachment point in other words, the second attachment point will normally be configured with an appropriate connection to attach the trailer plug and therefore, will normally have a configuration which is the same as the vehicle socket but instead of connecting to the vehicle socket, the second attachment point will provide a connection to the controller in the housing. Again, this provides the controller with the ability to report on the operational status of each circuit associated with the trailer plug which would normally be attached to the vehicle socket.

[0083] Again, normally there are a number of points or contacts corresponding to the vehicle socket located in association with the second attachment point to properly attach and engage with the trailer plug.

[0084] One or more sealing members is typically provided in association with the second attachment point to form a substantially water and dust resistant seal with the trailer plug.

[0085] The second attachment point is typically similar in most respects to the first attachment point except being of the opposite configuration.

[0086] The controller provided in the test unit of the present invention will typically link the first attachment point on the 2nd attachment point to convey signals in normal use through the test unit from the vehicle socket to the trailer plug. However, when testing is required, the controller will preferably report on information received as to the operational status of at least one, and typically both of the vehicle socket and trailer plug attached to the respective first attachment point and second attachment point.

[0087] It is preferred that the controller of the present invention user portion of the power from the signal provided to the controller via the vehicle socket for power of the test unit components. This power will normally be provided from the vehicle power source upon actuation of the towing vehicle mounted controls by user. The test unit may use one or more field effect transistors to switch DC voltage provided from the vehicle power source.

[0088] The controller will typically action instructions provided from the remote personal computer device delivered via the wireless communication hub as well as action instructions provided through the vehicle socket upon actuation of the towing vehicle mounted controls by user.

[0089] The controller will typically be able to actuate one or more circuits on the towed trailer or vehicle. The controller will typically report on the operation of one or more circuits associated with the tow vehicle socket attached to the first attachment point, that is the vehicle side connections and/or circuits and/or the operation of one or more circuits associated with the trailer plug attached to the 2nd attachment point, that is the trailer side connections and/or circuits.

[0090] The test unit may report the operational status of one or more connections and/or circuits and/or be configured to activate circuits upon receipt of specific instructions, typically in relation to the trailer side circuits. Preferably, the test unit will be able to undertake both operations, namely to report operational status and also to activate circuits if required.

[0091] The wireless communication hub provided in the housing of the test unit of the present invention may be of any type and have access to one or more communication pathways. A relatively close range communication pathway is typically used for association with the preferred personal computing device in a particularly preferred communication pathway is Bluetooth. This will allow the wireless communication hub to send and receive

information/instructions to and from the preferred personal computing device. Typically, the wireless communication hub will send information provided or collected to the controller and receive instructions from the personal computing device in order to provide these instructions to the controller. Normally, information and instructions are provided through the software application operating on the preferred personal computing device and the controller may be provided with a corresponding software application or a more simple operation such as a printed circuit board may be provided.

[0092] The test unit of the present invention may be provided with additional sensor functionality. For example, the test unit may be provided with at least one level sensor in order to sense the level or orientation of the test unit. In one preferred embodiment, a level sensor such as a gyroscope and/or an accelerometer may be provided in order to gain level data in relation to the test unit. One or more other sensors may be provided such as a tire pressure sensor, a voltage sensor, current sensor, or a temperature sensor.

[0093] The test unit of the present invention may include a location receiver/transmitter such as a GPS receiver. The location receiver/transmitter may be associated with the level sensor in order to actuate an alert message for example if the level sensor detects that the test unit, and by association the trailer itself, is not within normal operational parameters such as for example if the level sensor detects that the trailer is inverted or on a side for example.

[0094] A longer range wireless communication pathway may be utilised if such an alert message is to be transmitted.

[0095] As mentioned above, whilst the test unit of the preferred embodiment may include an on board battery, it is preferred that the test unit is powered from the vehicle power supply through the attachment of the vehicle socket to the first attachment point. Any battery provided in the test unit will typically be for backup or emergency purposes only.

[0096] The personal computing device 16 can be any type that can send instructions and/or receive and display results, however, a smart phone (as illustrated), computer tablet or other portable device is preferred.

[0097] The personal computing device preferred for use in the present invention includes a processor with on-board memory, a display, at least one input apparatus, and access to at least one communication pathway. The display will preferably be a touchscreen as many personal computing devices currently available have this feature. The advantages of the touchscreen include allowing a larger display and also allowing the display to function as a part of or as, the input apparatus.

[0098] Preferably, the software application is provided to operate on a personal computing device with appropriate connections through the personal computing device to connect or link to the test unit.

[0099] The user will normally download the software application to their personal computing device. The download of the software application will normally include appropriate instructions to be stored in the memory of the personal computing device in order to create and maintain links and associations with the test unit in order to communicate with the test unit via the wireless communications hub of the test unit.

[0100] The at least one input apparatus therefore will typically be formed or displayed on the display of the personal computing device as required. The at least one input apparatus may include a virtual keyboard including letters of the alphabet, numbers and/or symbols as well as one or more action icons or portions, typically a representation of one or more circuits to be test and their location, to allow a user to implement action on the personal computing device.

[0101] Typically, a portion of the interface displayed on the display of the personal computing device will be provided as visual feedback reflecting the input provided by the user of the personal computing device.

[0102] The system of the present invention will normally be implemented through instructions which when followed, generates one or more interfaces on a personal computing device. The instructions will normally be stored in the memory of the user's personal computing device and will then be followed in order to generate and update an interface in real time according to the consumer's interaction with the interface. This will allow a user to issue instructions to the test unit via the one or more generated and displayed interfaces and also to display the results of tests conducted through the test unit on the display of the personal computing device.

[0103] Many of personal computing devices 16 (PCD) have touchscreens for display allowing the user to directly interact with the touch screen in order to interact with the interface. However, a normal non-touchscreen display can be used with a movable pointer or selection tool in order to allow a consumer to interact with the interface. One or more "buttons" are provided on the interface such as those illustrated in Figures 2 and 4 to allow the user to interact with the PCD and through the PCD, to interact with the system.

[0104] The generated interface will typically be updated substantially in real time according to the rules or instructions in conjunction with information received from the test unit. The generated interface will also typically be updated substantially in real time according to interactions by the user(s) with the system. [0105] Once the software application is preferably downloaded to the personal computing device 16, the personal computing device 16 can then be used to sync or link or with the test unit

10. This is typically done using a unique identification code provided with each test unit and each software application or personal computing device and providing the unique identification code to each of the test unit and the software application or personal computing device.

[0106] The software application will then preferably provide the user 19 with the ability to control one or more tests or testing regimes in relation to the vehicle-side connections and/or circuits and/or the trailer- side connections and/or circuits via the personal computing device 16.

[0107] It is particularly preferred that the software application will provide the user with the ability to undertake a number of tests.

[0108] One test which the software application will typically allow the user to undertake as illustrated in Figure 2 is a test with the user 19 is external to both the vehicle 13 and the trailer 15 and tests the trailer-side circuits by activation of at least one circuit-related button 18 and the user 19 visually inspecting the operational status of the activated circuit. In this configuration, the user 19 will typically use the personal computing device 16 to issue instructions via the software application to the test unit 10 and particularly the controller of the test unit in order to activate at least one circuit as required so that the user can view the result. The software application will normally have a generated and displayed interface which will provide one or more action buttons 18 on the interface in order to issue a respective instruction. For example, the user may choose to send an instruction to activate the brake lights 20 on the trailer 15 via the software application and the personal computing device 16 will issue this instruction to the test unit 10, where it is received by the wireless communication hub, passed to the controller and then to the second attachment point in association with the trailer plug to pass a signal to the brake lights 20. If there is an issue with any portion of the circuit between the controller and the brake lights 20, then the brake lights 20 will not be lit or there may be a problem with the manner in which the brake lights 20 are lit (such as intermittent flashing) in which case a user 19 standing externally of the trailer 15 at the rear observing the brake lights 20 will notice the problem and know that there is a fault somewhere in between the test unit 10 and the brake lights 20.

[0109] Another test that may be provided in the software application of the present invention is a trailer level test such as that illustrated in Figure 3. In this configuration, the test unit 10 captures information from at least one level sensor provided in the test unit 10 and sends that information via the wireless communication hub to the remote personal computing device 16 of a user 19 who may be in the towing vehicle 13 and thereby may use the information provided, which is typically graphically represented on an interface provided on the personal computing device 16 in order to level the trailer 15. Typically, the information captured in relation to the level of the test unit will be captured in at least two directions, namely front to back of the trailer 15 and site side of the trailer 15. The graphical representation (such as that illustrated on the PCD 16 interface) may have any form but will typically indicate to the user the degree to which the test unit 10, and thereby the trailer 15 itself, is out of level allowing the user to take remedial action to level the trailer 15, for example using ramps 21. Information will typically be provided in real time allowing the user 19 a great deal of flexibility in not only understanding how the trailer 15 is out of level but also undertaking the remedial action.

[0110] A third test which may be provided in the system of the present invention is a vehicle socket test or conductivity test, such as that illustrated in Figure 4 in which the user 19 can test whether the instructions issued by the vehicle -based actuators to the vehicle socket are being correctly passed as a signal to the vehicle socket due to its attachment to the test unit 10 and the controller therein. This test may also be capable of testing whether the signal passed to the vehicle socket is correctly passed to the trailer plug. In other words, the test may be a two-way test to test whether the actuation signal from the vehicle is passed correctly through the vehicle socket to the trailer plug and also whether actuation of the desired circuit on the trailer side occurs.

[0111] In this test, the user 19 may be located in the vehicle 13 and operate the vehicle actuators such as brake lights 20 or brakes for example. Normally, the controller will issue the results of the test detected from the first attachment point and/or the second attachment point to the remote personal computing device 16 via the wireless communication hub which preferably is then fed into the software application which produces and generates an interface on the personal computing device 16 as to the status of the tested circuit. Further information may be provided such as not only the operational status of the circuit but also the operational status of the circuit by the lateral side of the vehicle, that is whether the left brake light is functioning in the right brake light is not functioning for example, as shown in the two columns of indicators on the example interface on the PCD 16 illustrated in Figure 4. This test may be capable of testing either the signal from the vehicle-side and the operational status from the trailer-side or may test both and provide feedback to the user 19 via a graphical representation on an interface produced and generated on the personal computing device 16.

[0112] In the present specification and claims (if any), the word 'comprising' and its derivatives including 'comprises' and 'comprise' include each of the stated integers but does not exclude the inclusion of one or more further integers.

[0113] Reference throughout this specification to 'one embodiment' or 'an embodiment' means that a particular feature, structure, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment of the present invention. Thus, the appearance of the phrases 'in one embodiment' or 'in an embodiment' in various places throughout this specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment.

Furthermore, the particular features, structures, or characteristics may be combined in any suitable manner in one or more combinations.

[0114] In compliance with the statute, the invention has been described in language more or less specific to structural or methodical features. It is to be understood that the invention is not limited to specific features shown or described since the means herein described comprises preferred forms of putting the invention into effect. The invention is, therefore, claimed in any of its forms or modifications within the proper scope of the appended claims (if any)

appropriately interpreted by those skilled in the art.