Q&A: Meeting customer demand for tailor-made fleet solutions

Q&A: Meeting customer demand for tailor-made fleet solutions

Boris Pankov is no stranger to mobile communications. In the late 1980s, he developed mobile satellite communications for Soviet security ministries. In 1992, he was recruited to head up the mobile satellite communications department of Combellga, a Russian telecoms start-up.

He spent the past 15 years building Omnicomm, a leader in transport telematics and fuel spending control systems in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which today exports to 90countries.

Asymbix is a new challenge. The open development platform for fleet management solutions, which has been two years in the making, will launch this autumn. Pankov spoke to TU’s Jan Stojaspal about his vision for building tailor-made fleet solutions through open collaboration. 

Why bring a platform approach when the market is already swamped with commercial telematics solutions of all kinds?

What we have today is many solutions that are very similar to each other. Everybody has maps, routes, geo-fences. Everything looks similar. Yet, every customer needs a customized solution, and that is getting harder and harder to offer at a decent price, particularly as FMS solutions grow in complexity and customers become more demanding.

In our view, it is going to be hard to remain competitive with solutions that are produced all in-house because a typical in-house developer team in Russia has just 10 or 17 programmers. That’s not enough to keep up. We believe that more can be achieved through collaboration than competition and that our platform can change the game.

A platform has the luxury of being able to draw on many more developers and their efforts. We will carry all the necessary components and make them available through a marketplace. All one has to do is combine them, tune them up according to customer requirements, and have a customized solution ready very rapidly.

How are you going to attract developers to deliver the various components?

There are several incentives. First of all, we offer easy access to market. There is no need to develop a distribution network or to create a marketing campaign. Components are simply uploaded to the Asymbix marketplace, and all project participants are informed.

And it will be easy to collect money from any place on the planet. Co-marketing will act as a powerful driver of business. Also, we are one of the biggest players in the Russian telematics industry. People trust us.

Still, to get the platform off the ground, you will to need seed it with a basic selection of components. Where will those come from?

We have started development ourselves. We have done maps, geo fences, charts and some reports. And we already have several partner companies and independent developer teams in Russia who decided to join us. During the initial phase, we will do the testing of all new components, and they will carry out ‘quality certificate.’ Eventually, we hope customer reviews and references will guarantee quality. 

How are you planning to structure the platform and ensure data security?

It’s a cloud-based approach that provides isolated runtime environments for each customer. You will be safe, and your data will be separated from others. This way, if any bugs emerge, they will affect only one client, not all users, as it is often the case with other systems. What’s more, each system provider can define how safe his data are, and how often updates are made.

Still, you are pulling together many different components. How do I know I have everthing? And how do I know everything works together?

We will offer an SDK, a sandbox for testing. Still, it will take a bit of expertise to put the various components together. It is not for the final customer [to do]. He will have to ask some service provider or systems integrator for help. It’s a B2B proposition. 

We have another challenge in our business. We are talking about fleet telematics, but no transportation company works alone. It works with different companies, and to link them is a challenge. We have to understand how to combine different components, and the answer is in standards. We have to use common standards to be successful when we try to merge diferent applications. 

(For more on telematics in Russia, see Telematics in Russia, Part I: Waiting for ERA-GLONASSTelematics in Russia, Part II: The impact of ERA-GLONASS and Telematics in Russia, part III: Growing the market.)

Jan Stojaspal is the editor of Telematics Update

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Insurance Telematics USA 2013 on Sept. 4-5 in Chicago, Telematics Brazil & LATAM 2013 on Sept. 11-12 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Telematics Japan 2013 on Oct. 8-10 in Tokyo, Telematics Munich 2013 on Nov. 11-12 in Munich, Germany, Telematics for Fleet Management USA 2013 on Nov. 20-21 in Atlanta, Georgia, and Content and Apps for Automotive USA 2013 on Dec. 11-12 in San Francisco.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013The Automotive HMI Report 2013Insurance Telematics Report 2013 and Fleet & Asset Management Report 2012.

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