The Evolution of Telematics
Telematics has evolved far beyond basic GPS technology as product providers continue to advance product features for specific fleet needs. Learn more about some of the latest solutions available.
The amount of telematics products available today has grown considerably over the past few years. Industry data shows mounting pressure on fleet companies to reduce their carbon footprint and develop a greener image has played a significant role in the growth of the market.
Fleet solutions providers are amping up features to target fleet-specific needs to cut costs and boost productivity, automakers have enhanced their lineups with in-vehicle technology systems that attract individuals seeking convenience, and even telecommunications companies have jumped on the bandwagon to offer applications and devices equipped with features such as location-based emergency services and navigation.
Several companies with products specifically designed for fleet customers are highlighted.
Discrete Wireless Designed to Maximize Efficiency
Discrete Wireless (now called NexTraq), an 11-year industry veteran, provides a 100-percent, Web-based GPS fleet tracking solution. MARCUS applications enable organizations to manage and track fleets in real-time while reducing operational expenses and maximizing revenue, the company stated. Designed for ease of use and rapid deployment and ROI, the MARCUS Fleet Tracking solution works to increase productivity, profitability, accurate billing, and job validation while reducing fuel, insurance, labor and maintenance costs, and vehicle idle time, according to the company. The system allows customers to access real-time GPS fleet tracking information from a computer or any Web-enabled device, including smartphones, by logging on to a secure site.
The MARCUS Fleet Tracking solution integrates with MARCUS Drive, an integrated dispatching solution that enables fleet managers and dispatchers to plan optimal driving routes for drivers by setting up their daily jobs with an in-vehicle Garmin device. Additionally, MARCUS Drive provides two-way messaging between the office and drivers on the road for instant communication. The dispatching solution can save companies hours per day in job completion. One Discrete Wireless customer attributed a 20-percent increase in driver productivity due to the MARCUS Drive solution.
The tracking solution offers more than 20 reports to measure key performance indicators such as stop/start and idle time. Administrators can also set up alerts to receive e-mails on a predefined basis for such key metrics as idle time and speeding. The MARCUS Fleet Tracking solution also features 32-point geo-fencing and additional add-on functionality, such as MARCUS SpeedLimit, an automated real-time alert function that notifies fleet managers and owners when a vehicle moves faster than a posted speed limit while traveling on major highways and motorways. The information is also available on secondary roads in more than 60 cities throughout the United States.
MARCUS Guard is an extended three-year warranty plan available on the vehicle GPS tracking hardware, which also includes service calls and covers installation services for the fleet management solution.
MARCUS Vault offers up to a full year of online access, data archiving, and data backup services of the GPS fleet tracking system data.
Discrete Wireless Web Services offers an API resource for programmers to help transfer data easily between the online fleet management software and other operational applications used to manage businesses and fleets. Initial and ongoing training is available through Discrete's customer care team. Users can schedule a Webinar with a specialist to learn the basic functionality of the MARCUS solution or more advanced features.
Fleet One Helps Narrow Down Important Data
Fleet One, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., offers a variety of GPS tracking options to businesses and government agencies, with the ability to service any size fleet from one pickup truck to a Class 8 commercial carrier. The company offers fuel and maintenance purchasing controls, detailed reporting, online account management, and other cost-saving services to its customers across the country.
Fleet One Vehicle Tracking is a secure, enhanced GPS tracking system that provides customers with specific fuel stop locations and amenities to be directly communicated with their drivers. The system utilizes GPS to offer the security of quickly locating stolen assets and prevention of off-hour use of equipment or out-of-route miles.
"Our system allows for full-fledged tracking on the most basic level," said Allen Goetz, product specialist for Fleet One. "We've tried to 'bake-in' as many money-saving features into our standard package as posible. This includes integration with Google Maps, unlimited reporting and alerting, and speed and engine idling information." Fleet One also offers the ability to integrate with a two-way touchscreen for in-cab communication, dispatching, and multi-point routing, he added.
New features include the ability to offer $0 up-front purchase plans and integrated fuel transaction reporting. Fleets can view transactions that have occurred on their Fleet One fuel card displayed in their "start/stop" reporting, which can help eliminate fraud at the pump, said Goetz.
"Automated reporting is a simple way to make sure that only the most important data reaches a manager's inbox instead of so much data that a manager gets lost in it," said Goetz. "Oftentimes fleets think that they need to 'watch' events occur in order to use GPS efficiently. Once a fleet has purchased a system from us, we make sure that they are set up for success by making sure their critical success factors are being measured and reported on."
GPS salespeople are also responsible for training users on the new system through a combination of Webinars and phone calls to ensure all conversations that occurred in the sales process will come to fruition in the implementation phase for the new program. "We make sure each fleet has a chance to get hands-on with their new product while one of our reps is on the phone with them. We typically set up multiple training sessions as well so a fleet has time to practice what they've learned before moving on to a more advanced understanding of their system," said Goetz.
Geotab Helps Fleets Control Costs
Geotab provides turnkey hardware and software solutions, stating it works closely with its customers in a "whole-company approach" to telematics. Fleets can utilize Geotab software and hardware platform to help maintain their fleet maintenance budget even while fuel costs increase, according to the company.
Based in Canada, the company now operates on a new platform that enables fleet managers to receive e-mail notifications when vehicles exhibit high engine fault and low battery voltage and coolant; monitor vehicles that park offsite or in branch locations to reduce unplanned fleet expense; and perform fuel-saving options ranging from idling reduction to mileage optimization.
Enabling location, driver safety performance analysis, time and attendance, customer management, and route assistance, the company is able to service customers who desire a bundled, all-inclusive solution at a low monthly investment, according to Geotab.
The GO5 hardware device, Geotab's newest product line addition, utilizes plug-and-play technology. It is self-contained and can be self-installed. Geotab has also added a new G-Force sensor to better profile vehicle and driver performance. The interactive audible alert in the vehicle informs drivers when they are excessively idling, accelerating too rapidly, or braking too hard so they can drive more safely and fuel-efficiently.
Geotab said another feature it provides customers is user customization of the 30-plus possible reports to meet specific fleet needs. In most cases, customers can create a performance dashboard chart that is displayed on their software or e-mail it to themselves.
Geotab provides customer training, which includes its newest series of online YouTube videos that users can view on a number of devices including Apple TV, iPod Touch, the iPhone, and some BlackBerry devices. The two- to three-minute videos are available to watch at www.geotab.com/videos.aspx or via the company's YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/
mygeotab. More in-depth training videos and classes are also available.
GPS Insight Can Meet 'Out-of-the-Box' Requirements
GPS Insight offers vehicle and asset tracking for fleets and a Web-based portal with maps, alerts, and reports to help improve overall efficiency, reduce risk, provide proof of service, aid in vehicle recovery, and identify labor fraud, among other things.
New features include a route efficiency report, which identifies drivers who pad their hours and miles, and Garmin integration, which helps send stops and routes to drivers and allows two-way communication to dispatch.
Because fleet managers and supervisors often don't have time to log into the product and dig into details about their fleets, GPS Insight strongly recommends setting up a handful of alerts and scheduled reports. Exceptions and other data are delivered via e-mail and/or SMS (short message service, or texting).
"It drives significant ROI knowing in real time what is going on with your fleet," said Robert Donat, president of GPS Insight. "If you don't use alerts, you are throwing away this return on your investment."
Configurable and customizable for "out-of-the-box" requirements, according to the company, the GPS Insight dashboard can be customized and saved in many different ways (roughly 40 per user) based on their requirements (whether dispatch, safety, proof of service, messaging, or other important aspects of the product). Alerts and reports can also be customized to only include certain vehicles, exclude or include certain groups of landmarks, and also be driver-centric versus vehicle-centric. New capabilities or enhancements based on customer requests are frequently added, with approximately 50 new features incorporated into products quarterly based on customer requests.
Specific customer requests have included the ability to enter numbers into a Garmin device to automatically "tally" the number of passengers on a bus or the number of work items performed, to alerts to notify supervisors when a vehicle is being used without an authorized key fob. Specific features/functions are either incorporated into the overall product or made available as specific options for certain customers only. Donat said some requests are as simple as adding an extra column on a report, while others are highly detailed, such as a route compliance report. Integration with other third-party software, such as orders/dispatch/accounting systems are frequent requests as well.
Although most users can receive training online through Live WebEx (a training portal with courses on various parts of the product) and online video demonstrations, on-site training is also available.