Cloud computing and fleet management

Cloud computing and fleet management

Cloud computing is on a roll. A new global study from Spiceworks found that 24 percent of small- and medium-sized businesses have adopted or are in the process of adopting cloud-computing services.

That statistic jumps to 49 percent when you include private or hybrid clouds.

Large enterprises and government bodies are equally involved.

IBM is currently testing cloud computing for the US Air Force and a raft of cloud computing startups have received investments from large firms, led by Nimbula, which just announced $15 million in additional venture capital funding.

The enthusiasm around cloud computing has carried over to the fleet management space, especially with large enterprises searching for faster, easier, more comprehensive solutions to manage their fleets.

A cloud-based platform “allows us to capture a ton of information and data and to display it in a method that’s easy for executives and fleet managers,” says Sean McCormick, product manager for Telogis Fleet.

“It’s a solution that large enterprises can deploy to manage tens of thousands of assets in the field—vehicles, people, trailers—and to optimize those assets.”

The cloud catches an updraft

Cloud-based solutions have been around for nearly a decade in the fleet management space, but until recently concerns over safety and confusion over value held them back from broad adoption.

Now, providers like Telogis Fleet have solved the security issue. “Our developers design to the highest security standards that any IT developers would design to internally,” McCormick says. Companies, meanwhile, have seen the light on the value front.

Cloud-based solutions are far easier to maintain than client-based solutions, which require a company to invest in a server infrastructure and an IT team to maintain that server and deploy solutions.

“If you leverage the cloud, you can minimize that investment and essentially log onto a solution instantaneously,” McCormick says.

Almost all of Telogis Fleet’s clients use its cloud-based solution, including companies in the utility space (Southwest Gas, Florida Power and Light) and those in a wide range of other industries, such as timber (Aspen Tree Expert Co).

Many of Telogis Fleet’s competitors—like Trimble, Networkfleet, Wireless Matrix, and WebTech Wireless—have adopted cloud-based solutions as well.

“It’s going to quickly become the norm and a must-have,” according to McCormick.

The science of cloud-based solutions

Cloud computing takes the old clunky mainframe infrastructure and replaces it with the weightless virtual infrastructure of the Internet, with all its resources and software bundled together and delivered on demand—much like the electricity grid.

Telogis Fleet’s cloud-based solution, the Telogis Fleet Platform, sits on top of the company’s base geographic information system. Among other distinctions, the Fleet Platform recently won the “Innovative Product–Cloud Computing” category for the TechAmerica High-Tech Innovation Awards.

The Fleet Platform is, first and foremost, a deployment and maintenance solution.

A company can easily log into an account on the platform and quickly have a system up and running—no matter where they’re located.

Thereafter, fleet managers and Telogis Fleet specialists can log into the same account and view a problem simultaneously.

“You don’t have to have guys sitting on site maintaining a specific customer location,” McCormick says. “They can be across the world but looking on the same screen at the same problem.”

The platform is, secondly, a reporting tool that sends out safety alerts and maintenance schedules.

It also distills fleet data into an easy format for managers to process. The user interface includes an enterprise dashboard that reveals how aligned companies’ KPIs are in a simple red, yellow, and green chart.

“We have all the small bits and pieces of data, but executives don’t want to look at that, so we provide the ability to visualize it in a much simpler format,” McCormick says.

The future forecast

Beyond making fleet solutions easier and less expensive to deploy and maintain, McCormick believes cloud-based solutions will spawn a number of advancements in the coming years.

First, they’ll make it possible to bring various companies and agencies together and put them on the same map with the same visibility, so as to create faster, smarter solutions.

“As people start to get more and more integrated, the cloud is the easiest way to deploy and share information across multiple companies,” McCormick says.

He offers emergency response as an example. Harnessing the cloud in the wake of a hurricane, you can put an electric utility company, a vegetation clearance company, and a gas company on the same screen, with all their data visible for the others to process.

“They have access to all that information in real time and can work together in essentially a war room and be more efficient in emergency response,” McCormick says.

Telogis Fleet’s Platform already has started operating in this way.

Likewise, cloud-based solutions will increase internal data integration, allowing companies to pull data from numerous sources to make informed decisions in real time.

Finally, the cloud will allow for deeper integration with large enterprise planning systems.

“As big companies start to roll out telematics solutions, they’re going to want to be able to interface with their back offices,” McCormick says. “Providing solutions that can integrate seamlessly will be a necessity going forward.”

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to TU.

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