-  Photo: docstockmedia via Shutterstock.

Photo: docstockmedia via Shutterstock.

The proliferation of connected vehicle technology has created the capability to use vehicle-generated data in non-fleet-related business activities. Today, real-time telematics data is gaining a growing recognition as a valuable business intelligence (BI) tool for entities outside of fleet management to collect, integrate, and analyze business information.

A case in point was the Sept. 1, 2020, announcement of a strategic alliance between Geotab and Deliotte member companies in Canada and Chile to use aggregated and anonymized fleet data to augment to their existing suite of professional products, such as consulting and advisory services. Deloitte is a multinational professional services network and is largest in the world by revenue and number of professionals employed.

Telematics as an Economic Forecasting Tool

Fleet is a good barometer of the overall macroeconomy and telematics is the new survey tool since industries operating vehicle fleets represent a cross section of entire national economies around the world. Data from these commercial vehicles can be used as vital contributors in making assessments of an economy’s overall vitality. For instance, the widespread proliferation of telematics devices provides the ability to track in real-time the number of commercial miles driven by fleets.

Since these are business vehicles, the more (or fewer) miles driven is an important indicator of overall business activity. The COVID-19 pandemic is a good case study. Corporate compliance with the economic lockdown was validated as telematics data revealed a drastic reduction in miles driven and is now validating an economic recovery by documenting real-time increases in overall commercial miles broken out by business segment.

Using fleet vehicles as rolling data platforms, telematics can function as a dynamic BI tool. This data, when anonymized and aggregated, can provide industry-wide insights derived from millions of telematic-equipped vehicles currently on the road.  Not only is it real-time, but this data can be very granular. This data can be examined by region, business segment, and vehicle class. This data can be further dissected by daily volume of trips made by specific types of commercial vehicles compared against past operating behaviors.

Another barometer of business activity is fuel consumption based on the number of gallons purchased and frequency of fill-ups, which can be segmented by region, business segment, and vehicle class. At a macroeconomic level, telematics data can track cross-border trade, examining not only traffic volume, but also the direction of traffic identifying export and import trends.

Data is Core to Effective Business Intelligence

Data analytical tools create the ability to turn raw data into actionable events. This watershed development is significantly impacting not only fleet managers, regardless of fleet vocation and fleet size, but also other non-fleet-related business segments.

The next-generation of data analytics will correlate these massive amounts of data points to identify new best practices that will find applications in unanticipated areas outside of fleet management.

  • Micro-Weather Forecasting:  Data from the operation of windshield wipers tied to a GPS coordinate are now a part of a “Weather-of-Things” ecosystem. Companies, such as HyperCast, provide minute-by-minute, street-by-street weather forecasts using vehicle telematics data, cell tower signals, data from planes, drones, and IoT devices. Using AI-driven models, this data can be analyzed at resolutions of hundreds of meters and updated within minutes.
  • Collison Reconstruction: Vehicle telematics can provide the data to analyze and understand the events that occurred before, during, and after a collision. Telematics data provides an accurate scientific record of events that goes beyond word-of-mouth testimony.
  • Seismic Detection Tool: Telematics devices are equipped with accelerometers that track acceleration in the X, Y, and Z axises. While these readings are typically used to help fleets meet their safety goals by reducing erratic driving events and in accident reconstruction, they can also be used to monitor the effects of other forces that are exerted on a vehicle while it is parked. If there is sufficient seismic G-forces applied to a vehicle it will trigger the telematics device’s accelerometer as was the case when the 7.1 earthquake epicenter struck in Puebla, near Mexico City in September 2017, causing a significant spike in accelerometer activity in the surrounding area at the exact time of the quake.

Crossing the Threshold from Art to Science

Integrating data analytics on an industry-wide aggregated and anonymized scale has opened a new chapter in the history of fleet management. Telematics is the critical juncture that has changed fleet management from an art to a science.

Currently, and even more so in the future, fleet productivity will revolve around telematics. Fleet productivity tools are evolving at a rapid pace due to the improvements in the standardization of data collected between telematics providers and their devices, as well as between vehicle types. Ultimately, data being generated by the vehicle itself, combined with its actual and predictive maintenance data, will allow fleets to target replacement schedules on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis rather than a generalized time/mile replacement policy.

The value of business intelligence lies in how well an organization is able to draw insight from data to turn it into measurable revenue generation or cost savings or corporate efficiencies. As more connected vehicles enter fleet service, a growing source of industry insight and business intelligence will be telematics data.

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About the author
Mike Antich

Mike Antich

Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike Antich has covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted in the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010 and inducted in the Global Fleet of Hal in 2022. He also won the Industry Icon Award presented jointly by the IARA and NAAA industry associations.

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