Photo by Jeff Rubenstone / ENR
With One Key, power tool settings can be selected on a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth, and performance data and telematics can be uploaded to inventory-control systems.

The next time you need a little extra power out of your cordless drill, you could just take out your smartphone and dial it in.

Milwaukee Tool is bringing power tools into the “Internet of Things” with its new One Key system. Launching this fall, the system will allow Bluetooth-enabled power tools to be configured via a smartphone app, with full control over tool performance and behavior. These electronically controlled tools will also be uploading performance data to the cloud, bringing power tools into the growing field of jobsite telematics.

“This is just the beginning for our users, the beginning of providing a level of access to information that they’ve never had before,” says Christian Coulis, Milwaukee vice president. “This is the beginning of getting to the fully connected jobsite.”

One Key will initially only be available on Milwaukee drills and impact drivers. Multiple settings on those tools are nothing new, but One Key will allow users to program their own custom settings. Once a tool is paired with a smartphone via Bluetooth, the One Key app allows full customization of rpm, torque, even the LED work light. These settings are then saved as a profile to the cloud and can be accessed at any time.

Each tool can hold four profiles at a time, which can by cycled through with a switch. The tool cannot be accessed wirelessly while in operation, and performance data and usage information can be uploaded later to the cloud.

Manually configuring tools might suit the perfectionist user, but Milwaukee sees the real benefit in downloading preset settings for common tasks. “In the future, we envision several setup options to choose from,” says Coulis. “From one screen, I have the ability to select what gauge, length, diameter and type of screw I want to run,” he says. After a user inputs the task he or she wants to perform, the app will submit a query to Milwaukee’s online database and download the preset profile into the tool.

One use case might be HVAC contractors driving self-tapping screws with an impact driver. “The tool can actually sense as it’s breaking through the different materials—when it reaches metal-on-metal, it adjusts accordingly,” says Coulis. “The [One Key] database provides settings for a starting speed, a driving speed for when it breaks through the first material layer, and then a final speed.” Any downloaded preset can then be tweaked in the app to suite the user, he says.

But productivity gains from One Key’s programmable tool settings may prove to be the Trojan Horse that gains Milwaukee entry into the inventory-management game. All One Key-enabled tools are compatible with the One Key tool-management system, an online interface for tracking tools. “Our system is scalable for large organizations, but we’ve found most of the contractors in the U.S. are crews of 10 men or less,” says Corey Dickert, director of product management at Milwaukee. “It’s a tough putt for a 10-man crew to spend $10,000 a year on an inventory-tracking system, and the alternative is Excel or pen-and-paper.” Dickert sees an opportunity to bring users into Milwaukee’s system through the One Key program. “We’re going to provide free software for online and mobile record-keeping to users of any size. We’ll start by focusing on the smaller-size user, and demonstrating how they can use this information in their day-to-day operations.”

The first iteration of the One Key online system will focus on tracking tool se- rial numbers and other basic information, but future One Key-enabled tools will upload detailed telematics on their usage and performance. “These reporting tools are going to be growing in the future,” says Steve Matson, Milwaukee product manager. “We’ll be reporting not just on tools but on inventory, consumables—anything that the contractor’s uses can be tracked to improve efficiency.”

According to Milwaukee, One Key tools will be compatible with Milwaukee’s existing M18 battery platform and will be available as bare tools. The app will be available for iOS and Android devices. One Key-enabled drills and impact drivers will come with a roughly $50 price premium over normal models, and the price increase for other tools may vary.