“Predictive modeling” poised to be next phase of telematics

April 9, 2013

The increasing amounts of data being made available from a variety of truck components – such as the engine, transmission, braking system, etc. – and the improving ability to divine what all that information means will drive telematics development in the near future, according to telematics providers.

In interviews with Fleet Owner, telematics providers such as Qualcomm Enterprise Services – which plans to change its name to Omnitracs Inc. later this spring – argue that the ability to generate more precise information from the data-streams emitted from today’s trucks will help boost vehicle and driver efficiencies, eventually providing carriers with the ability to creatively differentiate their service offerings.

“'Predictive modeling' will increase the level of intelligence on trucks … beginning to create a balance between known data objects – such as driver, vehicle, route, freight – and variable data objects, such as traffic, available parking, weather,” explained Adam Kahn, Qualcomm’s director of marketing.

That will enable carriers to “create a model that blends these data elements into an optimized operational map that will enable advanced service offerings to the carrier’s shippers and provide stronger visibility into the elements needed to operate a profitable business,” Kahn pointed out.

“Fleets today are already using and benefitting significantly from the predictive modeling technology,” he added. “In the coming year, we envision an even wider adoption of this technology.”

In addition to predictive modeling, the increase in applications for “smart” devices – such as mobile phones and tablet computers – will continue to help blend the vehicle operation with driver work assignments. That will help make trucks even “smarter” by enhancing productivity while creating more compliant-friendly, business-optimized routes to help fleets keep their drivers and trucks safe, Kahn believes.

“At no time in history has there ever been more useful vehicle data available to fleets to help them build a better, more efficient fleet,” noted Ryan Foisy, manager of WEX Telematics. “The nature of a telematics unit makes the vehicles they are in, smarter. Through the use of remote diagnostics, a vehicle can tell you when it is in poor ‘health’ by checking the engine, fluid and pressure statuses. This way, potentially serious issues can be addressed before they create a big expense.”

As technologies advance and the OEMs push further into the telematics space, Foisy believes even more data will be transmitted from the vehicle for optimal efficiency.

“To build on that point, with the integration of such data and smart phone technologies, there are opportunities to allow for more interactive control by fleet managers,” he said. “For example, upon notification of a 10-minute engine idling event, the engine can be stopped remotely. This would be similar in nature to the control feature on today’s higher-end remote starters.”

From a fuel telematics perspective, Foisy envisions a future where the ability to pay for fuel at the pump would be simply based on the proximity a vehicle is to the pump. “Perhaps the vehicle will someday even tell us when and where to fuel as well,” he noted.

From the perspective of drivers, Charlie Cahill – CEO/managing director for Blue Tree Systems – thinks telematics advances in the next five years will turn the truck more into a mobile “connected office” that ever before.

“The driver will have essentially unlimited access to web portals, email, phone services that are typically common place in office today,” he explained, with being “on the move” less associated with restricted access to technology or information.

“Truck technology will advance to improve driver performance and safety [as] it is expected that camera technology will become standard in all trucks to improve driver awareness of surroundings and improve safety,” Cahill noted. “Other safety features expected to become more main stream in the smarter truck include lane assist and other collision avoidance systems.”

Those are just some of the reasons why the future of telematics is not only about the truck directly, stressed, Christian Schenk, senior vp- product strategy and market growth for XRS Corp.

“Think about the largest trends in the consumer industries: Nike with the release of the ‘Fuel bands’ and Google's ‘Glass,’ the wearable computer,” he noted. “These technologies will surpass anything in the automotive industry, and while it will take time for the technologies to converge, this is where the future will be for fleets and technology companies providing data to them.”

That’s why the future of telematics will be focused in part on how drivers and trucks correlate during the “act” of driving.

“Can we help a driver be in better shape and help fleets mitigate risk based on how tired a driver actually is versus how many hours he drove? Will we one day be able to control the truck if the driver suddenly can't? Will fleets save money on insurance and risk if they have healthier drivers? Will shippers pay more for that comfort?” Schenk asked. “I would bet on it, but only the future will tell.”

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr | Editor in Chief

Sean previously reported and commented on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry. Also be sure to visit Sean's blog Trucks at Work where he offers analysis on a variety of different topics inside the trucking industry.

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