Introducing all-Verizon Networkfleet Weekly Brief—3.25.2013

In this week’s Brief: Verizon, Hughes Telematics, Samsung, Abalta Technologies, Volkswagen, Garmin, Kia and TomTom Business Solutions

Ever since Verizon acquired Hughes Telematics last year, we’ve been awaiting the inevitable. This week, Verizon announced it: the largest mobile operator in the U.S. officially rolled out Networkfleet (Hughes’ fleet-management solution) on the Verizon Wireless network.

The all-Verizon Networkfleet combines in-vehicle hardware and a web-based application to store, view and analyze data on specific vehicles and overall fleet performance. Vehicles are equipped with a GPS device that sends information to the Networkfleet Data Center over a secure wireless network. Key features include GPS fleet tracking, asset tracking, fleet maps, vehicle diagnostics with alerts, roadside assistance, and preventative maintenance.

The Networkfleet solution will debut in Verizon’s own U.S. service fleet, with 18,000 company vehicles getting the upgrade this year.

“As one of the largest commercial fleet operators in the United States, Verizon recognizes the challenges and opportunities associated with managing fleets and we continue to shape our offerings to help customers turn rolling assets into a competitive business advantage,’’ says  David Small, senior vice president and chief platform officer for Verizon Enterprise Solutions.

“We see the fleet management space as a tremendous opportunity and we will continue to work with our ecosystem to serve this growing market and are committed to innovating in the machine-to-machine space.”

In other news, Samsung unveiled the fourth generation of its GALAXY S phone, the GALAXY S4, which comes equipped with a Voice Drive feature that allows drivers to activate commands via voice control for optimization when driving.

Once connected with a car Bluetooth, the phone automatically turns into driving mode and converts text to speech so drivers can easily and safely check messages with no need to look at the screen. The Voice Drive feature is available immediately.

Abalta Technologies meanwhile launched WEBLINK, a software solution that enables smartphones to operate as the primary in-vehicle computing device in connected cars. By integrating the WEBLINK client software, OEMs can cost-effectively provide customers with an up-to-date and customized in-vehicle app experience that can run on all major smartphone operating systems.

The first apps available on the solution include WebNav, Slacker, Wcities, and Parkopedia.

In a surprise move at the Annual Press and Investors Conference in Wolfsburg, Volkswagen debuted the all-electric version of the up!, an EV that the OEM first revealed as a concept car four years ago in Frankfurt. The EV will come equipped with a removable PND from Garmin, which in addition to navigation will offer insights to the car’s battery and charging system.

The e-up! will be available to order by the end of the year, with the Frankfurt show in September the target date for release.

Kia announced that the 2014 Forte sedan will include Kia’s next-generation UVO in-vehicle infotainment and telematics system with eServices. UVO will come as a standard feature and will be integratable with an optional navigation system.

Additional standard features include remote keyless entry with trunk opener and Rear Camera Display, SiriusXM Satellite Radio and Bluetooth wireless technology.

Finally, returning to the fleet management space, new research out of the U.K. conducted by TomTom Business Solutions suggests that 46 percent of drivers overestimate their mileage when claiming expenses, with 35 percent doing so regularly. Companies and their employees are required by law to keep accurate mileage records for Benefit in Kind tax compliance, but only 10 percent of respondents have been challenged by their employers over the accuracy of their claims.

The research, which was conducted among company drivers not using an automated mileage recording system, further revealed that 70 percent of drivers find recording and submitting mileage a laborious process. For half of those questioned the process takes at least two hours each month, with a further 20 percent spending between one and two hours.

“It is worrying that such a large proportion of UK business drivers are overestimating mileage claims because it exposes their employers to serious financial consequences,” says Giles Margerison, Director UK and Ireland for TomTom Business Solutions.

“HMRC has the power to impose significant fines on both drivers and companies found guilty of inaccurate records, so the onus is on businesses to ensure relevant checks are in place to guarantee accuracy.”

For exclusive business analysis and insight about telematics applications, see Industry Insight: Telematics and Apps

Coming up in 2013: Insurance Telematics Europe 2013 on May 8-9 in London and Telematics India and South Asia 2013 on June 5-7 in India, plus TU Detroit June 5-6 in Detroit.

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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