Aaron Marsh/Fleet Owner
PeopleNet President Brian McLaughlin (left) and TMW Systems President David Wangler spoke about the companies' latest technology integrations and the future of transportation at the open of their first combined in.sight user conference Monday, Sept. 26.

TMW and PeopleNet: Connected technology today, what's coming tomorrow

Sept. 27, 2016
NASHVILLE, TN. With some 2,400 trucking industry attendees at their inaugural in.sight joint user conference, PeopleNet and TMW Systems appropriately delivered a look at their latest connected technologies as well as what's coming — and parent company Trimble's vision — for the future of freight movement and transportation.

NASHVILLE, TN. With some 2,400 trucking industry attendees at their inaugural in.sight joint user conference, PeopleNet and TMW Systems appropriately delivered a look at their latest connected technologies as well as what's coming — and parent company Trimble's vision — for the future of freight movement and transportation.

With various players in trucking present, "one thing that we all share in common is the threat of digital disruption to our businesses and to the industry," noted TMW President David Wangler. Sharing the opening session stage, PeopleNet President Brian McLaughlin contended that disruption is nothing new for trucking and transportation.

"Take a step back to 1978, when Charlie Trimble and two of his partners took a major risk and launched one of the first commercial GPS applications the Earth had seen," McLaughlin told the audience.

The two explained how GPS technology helped enable Trimble's self-driving SUV that was one of five vehicles in 2005 to successfully meet a challenge from the U.S. Dept. of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for such a vehicle to cross the Mohave Desert. 

"The workhorse component of that first Trimble system was an inertial measurement unit that allowed highly accurate position data to be produced even during extended outages of satellite coverage," Wangler said. "The predictive intelligence in this system was far ahead of its time."

Now under the same corporate umbrella, PeopleNet and TMW have been linking up and integrating their solutions and functionalities along with those of fellow Trimble company ALK Technologies, which delivers advanced GPS and commercial routing applications to the mix, and others.

"This is the journey we're on: to help transform transportation," McLaughlin said. "Whether it's drivers, trucks, freight or other elements, our mission is to transform the way these things connect, interact and relate with each other."

Key to that effort is getting beyond "swivel chair integration," according to the companies, where users have to log in to a number of different systems — the idea is to streamline different technologies in a single user interface.

Here's a look at some of the latest from PeopleNet and TMW and what the companies see going forward in trucking:

1. 3GTMS shipper and 3PL transportation management system. Trimble acquired 3GTMS, a provider of software for shippers and 3PLs to manage inbound and outbound freight, two years ago. "From within the same solutions used to manage your assets and drivers, you can now have single-screen access to the 3GTMS rating engine along with advanced planning and optimization," Wangler said.

"What's it like to have a TMS that's a single source for freight management? Imagine all your planners clicking on any order in TMWSuite or TruckMate and easily finding carriers who can service the order based on geography, transit time and cost," he added. "Or, taking it a step further, imagine being able to manage all of your customers' freight — not just move the loads they choose to give you."

2. The Internet of Things (IoT) and evermore predictive maintenance. "The IoT is not only growing, it's invading," McLaughlin said, describing the new sensors and wireless devices being added as systems on trucks. He added that with the explosion of connected devices, "vehicles will soon become the most expensive smart devices that any of us owns going forward."

What will IoT systems accomplish? For one thing, they're enabling more and more proactive monitoring of part failures when combined with analytics. "And connected drivers are starting to explore more extreme forms of mobility, including sensors for driver fatigue, fitness and overall performance," he noted.

Right now, though, TMW and PeopleNet have integrated their respective Enterprise and Mobility software and added analytics. "We can not only sense when something's gone wrong but predict an event before an accident occurs, whether it's a truck breakdown, a safety issue, a driver issue, a route issue or one of many other conditions we deal with," McLaughlin contended.

Going forward, IoT systems will connect trucks to other trucks, transportation infrastructure or perhaps even smart cities, paving the way for increasingly autonomous trucks, he said, but that creates a problem: "Autonomous vehicles currently operating consume 1 GB of data per second. Imagine — how we can bring all this in without crashing the infrastructure?"

Another issue is preventing would-be hackers or cyberterrorists "from ever taking control of our vehicles," McLaughlin noted. "The good news is that this technology is ready today — we just need to safely connect it all."

3. More data and agility in fleet maintenance, too. "As compliance, safety expectations and the march to autonomous vehicles increases the complexity of equipment used to move freight, maintenance discipline will become even more critical to operations," according to Wangler.

TMW's Asset Maintenance software can deliver that maintenance finesse, he contended. "Say you have a truck due for preventive maintenance at 125,000 mi. The TMW fleet maintenance system uses mileage coming in from PeopleNet's ConnectedFleet platform and alerts the planner working in TMW to route the truck through a terminal to complete the service.

"As the truck approaches the terminal and crosses a geofence, both operations and maintenance are notified that the equipment has arrived," he continued. The TMW system schedules the service needed, manages and records the repair, and notifies fleet operations when it's done.

"The result is less dwell time and increased asset utilization," Wangler said.

4. Using remote diagnostics to discern "the future fate of a truck." McLaughlin pointed to his company's OEM relationship wherein PeopleNet's Mobile Gateway telematics box comes pre-installed in Kenworth and Peterbilt Class 8 trucks.

"These feed remote diagnostics portals with real-time health-monitoring tools," he noted of such factory telematics installs. "When a fault code occurs, the OEMs can make a decision on what to do about the fault and where to route the truck to get maintenance."

"All of this leads to smarter trucks in the not-too-distant future of predictive maintenance and prognostics, where systems can actually predict when a failure is going to occur," McLaughlin said. "We feel like we can do this today with historical component lifecycle analysis, truck driver history and vehicle demographics — put it all together, and we can see the future fate of a truck."

5. "True ETA and PTA" via TripInsight. Wangler said that next year, a new product called TripInsight will be available on ALK apps on PeopleNet mobile devices and TMW transportation management systems. It'll be designed to continually update estimated time of arrival (ETA) and projected time of availability (PTA), providing "true ETA" and "true PTA."

"Anyone who manages drivers knows that trip planning is an imprecise process," Wangler told listeners. "You can't necessarily blame the driver for how changing conditions like traffic and weather can affect the time it'll take to arrive at their next stop, or how small delays now can cause a stop hours later to be at risk — even if the stops in between are fine.

"Trimble has all the technology and platforms to create an automated solution to plan trips safely, efficiently and in partnership with drivers," he added, calling TripInsight "the transportation industry's first comprehensive journey management application."

TripInsight will build "a comprehensive, optimized trip plan" accounting for things like fuel stops, hours of service rest breaks, historical traffic and vehicle and load-specific route restrictions, Wangler said.

6. More integrated TMW-PeopleNet driver hours of service data. McLaughlin referred to driver hours of service data as "one of the greatest intersection points between PeopleNet and TMW Systems," and a "single sign-on," or SSO, capability has enhanced that.

"With 'single sign-on,' we've now made it possible for a driver manager to go in and drill down within the TMW interface and see all the hours of service information from the PeopleNet system in one click through one system," he said.

7. More driver mobility apps via PeopleNet's ConnectedDriver. PeopleNet introduced its ConnectedDriver mobile apps platform at its user conference last year, and some 11,000 drivers are now using the technology. McLaughlin cited an estimate from the American Transportation Research Institute that about 87% of truck drivers today use smartphones, and of those, 92% use apps.  

"Drivers are clearly not feeling victimized by mobile technology any longer," McLaughlin quipped. "To help with this, we've introduced on the PeopleNet side a lot of new consumer app-types of user interfaces to make sure they're comfortable with the applications." Already, he explained, drivers can put themselves "on duty," view a list of information from TMW like pay and rate details as well as stop details, a graphical timeline view, ALK map and weather info, HOS info and more and also chat with support and other drivers within the community.

ConnectedDriver works with a variety of mobile devices, he added, "and going forward, we expect that more and more drivers will embrace this off-the-shelf technology. We expect the number [of users] to explode with some new capabilities we're introducing."

Next steps will include adding scanning applications, instructional videos, video news feeds and image capture.

8. New business benchmarking tools from TMW, including an SAAS option. Wangler noted that TMW's Data Warehouse, Data Warehouse Explorer and Visual Analytics solutions will be rebranded as "TMW Reveal." The inspiration for the rebrand comes from customer sentiment that "for the first time, they see true operations insights into their business revealed," he said.

TMW will offer a new software-as-a-service option that "lowers the barrier of entry" for business data benchmarking tools. "We're now ready to begin offering you the opportunity to create operational data anonymously, and in return get access to benchmarks created from contributions by an ever-extending range of transportation businesses," Wangler explained. "Those of you who may have held back with limited data IT resources can now use these solutions to blend and analyze data from multiple areas — sales, maintenance, finance, drivers, assets and more."

About the Author

Aaron Marsh

Before computerization had fully taken hold and automotive work took someone who speaks engine, Aaron grew up in Upstate New York taking cars apart and fixing and rewiring them, keeping more than a few great jalopies (classics) on the road that probably didn't deserve to be. He spent a decade inside the Beltway covering Congress and the intricacies of the health care system before a stint in local New England news, picking up awards for both pen and camera.

He wrote about you-name-it, from transportation and law and the courts to events of all kinds and telecommunications, and landed in trucking when he joined FleetOwner in July 2015. Long an editorial leader, he was a keeper of knowledge at FleetOwner ready to dive in on the technical and the topical inside and all-around trucking—and still turned a wrench or two. Or three. 

Aaron previously wrote for FleetOwner. 

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