Fleet telematics and the intelligent mobile enterprise

Fleet telematics and the intelligent mobile enterprise

Flexibility may be an industry buzzword when it comes to fleet management solutions, but this thinking breaks from an older paradigm that relied on software developers to give fleet managers out-of-the-box solutions with a promise of direct customer support.

“The more sophisticated the customer, the more diverse the application content that they will use to run their business,” says Kevin Moore, vice president of OEM sales at Telogis, a fleet solutions company. “So when you think about fleet management solutions, those fleet management solutions need to be able to support the tools that a customer uses to run their business.”

Fleet operators rely on an increasing number of systems to help with day-to-day operations. Meanwhile, the data available to operators is becoming more robust. Telematics devices are collecting more information from vehicles, and with powerful new analytics, that data is being translated into meaningful optimization strategies. (For more on fleets, see Special report: Fleet telematics.)

Flexible integration

This is all good news for operators, but also creates problems of integration. As managers have found, overwhelming drivers with new processes and platforms can be counterproductive, especially in the short- to medium-term.

Which is why Moore sees the need for flexible integration of these systems with solutions that reduce the number of platforms and interfaces that drivers—and managers—have to work with.

“It’s really about mobile ERP [enterprise resource planning],” says Moore. “It’s about taking the enterprise that you have, that you use to run your business today, and being able to extend that and embrace that with your fleet management, your mobile resources.”

Many companies use robust work order management systems like Maximo to help manage their dispatching and invoicing procedures. Managers have invested valuable time training drivers to use and understand these systems, but all too often the newest fleet management tools don’t interface well with them.

Robust solutions

When Lampson International, a company that services and rents heavy equipment for the construction industry, was looking for a GPS solution to track its equipment, it wanted the new system to be able to help with customer billing as well. Lampson had previously been tracking equipment with cellular technology, which meant spotty coverage in remote areas.

The company ended up working with Telogis on a robust GPS solution. Telogis designed the new management tools to produce reports that seamlessly integrated with billing systems. Driver logs, billing, and equipment tracking all began working together in one module.

Lampson managers reported that billing became more consistent, eliminating the need for monthly customer calls to gather information on equipment use. After starting with 150 cranes in 2011, Lampson now plans to integrate the new GPS solution fleet-wide.

“The tools your operations staff are experienced with need to be able to work seamlessly with other systems,” says Moore, “particularly fleet management systems, so that the end worker isn’t faced with the daunting task of relearning new processes and procedures.” (For more on advances in fleet telematics, see The future of fleet telematics, part I and The future of fleet telematics, part II.)

Sync for fleets?

OEMs are increasingly aware that flexible management solutions are necessary inside the vehicle. The future of flexible management, then, may lie in the application of agile solutions that manufacturers are making standard.

Ford’s Sync, for example, allows drivers to bring their smartphones, along with the applications they’re familiar with, into the vehicle. While the target is currently the consumer market, there’s every reason to expect that Sync can be leveraged to streamline fleet management as well.

OnStar is another important player developing what has been termed an ‘application sandbox’. In each system, the goal is to maximize flexibility, which will mean streamlined operations, reduced redundancies, and bottom line savings.

Greg Nichols is a regular contributor to TU.

For more on fleets, see Special report: Fleet telematics.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Content and Apps for Automotive USA 2012 on December 4-5 in San Diego.

Coming up in 2013: Consumer Telematics Show 2013 on January 7 in Las Vegas, V2X for Auto Safety and Mobility Europe 2013 on February 19-20 in Frankfurt, Telematics for Fleet Management Europe 2013 on March 19-20 in Amsterdam, Insurance Telematics Europe 2013 on May 8-9 in London and Telematics India and South Asia 2013 on June 5-7 in India.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports on In-Vehicle Smartphone Integration Report, Human Machine Interface Technologies and Smart Vehicle Technology: The Future of Insurance Telematics.

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