The Road to the Connected Fleet of the Future Part 2

One major way fleets will benefit from enhanced data about road usage is likely to come from usage-based insurance schemes, or UBI. In the United States, Verizon Telematics, the TSP behind Allstate's DriveWise in most states, sees itself as a provider of enhanced data about traffic, road conditions and driving behavior, according to Tom Taylor, vice president of advanced strategy for Verizon Telematics.

The company is working with several states to determine if UBI data can be used as a fairer way to charge drivers for road maintenance. He foresees even more uses for connected-car data, such as automatically tracking emissions instead of making drivers show up for smog checks every year or two.

Vehicle Data Science is another company that's aiming at the convergence between UBI and connected transportation. It's developed a prototype called Kinematic Map that aggregates millions of vehicle traces to create an accurate and information-rich roadway map. The company hopes to serve the automotive, insurance, and fleet management industries, with initial discussions targeting OEMs and insurers.

The Kinetic Map assembles probe data from vehicles and uses analytics to build information models of the most appropriate ways to drive on a particular stretch of road.

Getting probe data from vehicles could help solve a lot of the transportation issues we face, according to Chris Wilson, CEO of Vehicle Data Science. He sees access to his company's enhanced road data as an incentive for OEMs to publish their probe data to the greater connected transportation ecosystem. The biggest barrier to connecting transportation and infrastructure is creating a business model for OEMs to do this, he says. "Right now, OEMs are very protective of this data and not inclined to share it at all. If they can make better safety systems based on probe data, they will be more likely to enable its collection."

While OEMs could use this data as well for advanced safety systems that could perhaps warn a driver when he's exceeding a safe speed for current conditions, for example, Wilson also sees the insurance sector finding value in the information. Does a driver habitually take corners faster than the majority of drivers or not respond correctly to bad weather?

Wilson says the system can help identify someone "driving just a little bit bad. By building models, we can see the details of how someone drives and that will be more indicative of risk," he says.

Intelligent transportation systems could also benefit by consuming UBI data, according to Franck Leveque, vice president of automotive and transportation for Frost & Sullivan. By studying driving patterns, transportation planners can gain insights to better design roadways and implement other changes. For example, by identifying routes where more drivers use harsh braking or corner too fast, they could place warning signs. They could also gain more insight into exactly where, when and why accidents most often happen.

There might need to be a bit of jiggering of algorithms and better cooperation between UBI and navigation systems, Leveque thinks. Not only could an insurance provider be able to take into consideration the hours when the vehicle is driven, it could also account for where it was actually driven.

On the other hand, in the case of fleets, these two systems could be at odds. The navigation/fleet management system might be programmed to route a truck away from a traffic jam in order to save time and use less fuel. The UBI system, on the other hand, might have a geofence to make sure trucks avoid dangerous routes and stay on highways or autobahns as much as possible, regardless of traffic.

Data in, money out

It's likely that many entities in the connected transportation infrastructure will be both providers and consumers of data – and some of that data will come from beyond transportation systems. Says Christian Kotscher, CEO of MetroTech Net, "It's no longer the ITS show. It's smarter cities plus it's mobility plus it's connected cars — how the infrastructure and people and vehicles work together." MetroTech Net is developing technologies that turn video feeds from traffic and security cameras into data that can be used to better synchronize traffic lights.

The result of weaving all these sources together will be what Kotscher calls "dynamic content". That’s the kind of information that Microsoft’s Peter Vanderminden, industry manager for manufacturing and supply chain, identifies as being crucial for fully automated vehicles.

Connected supply chain

Just a few years ago, fleet operators had concerns that drivers would resist being tracked and rated by telematics applications. Today, drivers themselves are leading the charge for mobile applications, according to Kelly Frey, vice president of product marketing for Telogis, a location intelligence platform that works with commercial clients.

"I think we're over that. With the explosion of smartphones and tablets, there are very sophisticated applications in the hands of drivers behind the wheel," Frey says. "Some explorations of these technologies are starting at the grassroots level, with drivers themselves looking for ways to be more productive and get home sooner."

He thinks the conversation should be reframed to shift the focus somewhat away from driver performance toward better coordination with supply-chain partners. "One of the biggest productivity wasters in the shipping industry is the unnecessary waiting time at pickup and receiving locations," Frey says. "We still do not really enforce pickup and delivery appointment setting and don't impose unnecessary waiting time penalties, even though most contracts have them."

That's in part because shippers have the power; if a carrier complains about waiting around to load or unload, the shipper can switch to another. But shippers, too, could benefit from better information about truck locations, Frey says. "Shippers and carriers need to realize we're all in this together."

Retailers, for one, could benefit from getting an ETA for inbound loads so they can coordinate back-of-store resources. In addition, Frey points out, some supercenter stores are becoming outbound delivery locations. To do this, "They have to have a very coordinated physical flow of goods in and out of the store – and for that, they have to have very good data flow from carriers," Frey says.

Aggregated, cloud-based data platforms could aggregate information from intermodal containers, the chassis the containers are sitting on, and even individual pallets or packages of goods, thanks to technologies like ZigBee, Bluetooth Low Energy and RFID, he posits. "As the internet of things continues to permeate, there will be more and more opportunities to integrate these GPS feeds to give supply chain anchors very good visibility down to even the pallet level," he says.

Ports could access the same data to track how many vehicles are waiting in line to unload and share that back to drayage companies, reducing their idling time and – at least in theory – providing them with firm appointments.

Frey says, "A global supply chain and the sourcing of global products means we need to get better at thinking of the world globally and integrating cross-modal. The more definite we can be about the coordination between the modes of transportation, the better we'll be."

Data hubs

To make this work, Leveque says, all participants in a supply chain must be connected into an integrated information system that is independent of location of the participants, with appropriate interconnectivity between different participants. This concept began to gain ground across industries during the last decade, owing to the increasingly globalized business environment, in which different participants in a supply chain are based in various geographies.

It's been speeded by the rapid adoption of cloud-based information systems and mobile communications in the past couple of years. The penetration of smart mobile devices into the business environment has facilitated the adoption of integrated connectivity solutions, according to Leveque. And with all those devices, comes even more data.

"Data is fast becoming the new energy with spiraling usage without which companies cannot operate," says Leveque. This connected supply chain is giving rise to innovations such as delivery market place platforms aiming to serve a variety of industries from delivery to vehicle maintenance.

He adds, "Through this data, of which 80 percent is considered unstructured and a very large majority of the rest unused, companies have the potential to make better decisions, improve their products, optimize their processes, enhance customer value, satisfaction and loyalty. This is not a fad, but a reality."

For the latest update on connected fleets in Europe, take a look at Connected Fleets Europe 2015 Conference and Exhibition (10th-11th March).

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