The convergence of different technologies is pushing vehicle manufacturers to develop networked strategies that will bring connection and convenience to drivers that were previously only imagined. This technology will also enable businesses to more effectively manage their mobile assets while providing greater benefits to staff. Sergio Barata, General Manager of Telogis EMEA explains.
For years now aftermarket in-vehicle technology has been moving at a far greater pace than the factory options offered by vehicle manufacturers, but everything seems to be balancing out as technologies advance and vehicles come up to speed. An example here is the built-in hands-free kits for mobile phones provided by some upmarket manufacturers in the early 2000s that were soon out of date as smartphone technology evolved. In the same way that it was once common practice for consumers to buy an after-market car stereo system, now every car comes with a decent sound system, soon manufacturers will be offering factory-built connectivity that will work with virtually any device running on any operating system. This will rationalise the use of devices such that drivers no longer need to carry a satnav, work phone/device and a private mobile phone. Nor will the vehicle need to be fitted with a separate 'black box' for the engine diagnostics/telematics system. All information systems will reside on one device, and come factory-fit.
In-Vehicle Technology Convergence
This catalyst is being caused by the maturing of several converging technologies. Systems such as GPS, GPRS, 3G (and soon 4G) are increasing in coverage, bandwidth and reliability. This is enabling a range of applications such as ubiquitous satellite navigation through to specialist mobile resource management systems that track vehicles, and highly complex telematics and engine/vehicle management systems that can provide remote diagnostics. Add to this the proliferation of cost effective, reliable and secure cloud storage, and we are starting to see the very real possibility of pulling together a whole host of applications that will provide better opportunities for businesses to improve efficiency and deliver better customer service.
Factory-installed connectivity using a mix of these technologies is leading to the emergence of the Connected Vehicle where organisations managing large fleets of vehicles, as well as the individual, can potentially use one device to connect to all their mobility platforms. So for an employee, they may use navigation/routing throughout the day, receive job allocation information and access customer information and other specialist knowledge held on the corporate network – all from a mobile device. With secure bi-directional communication they can provide reports as jobs are completed and they may even receive feedback about their driving behaviours, helping them work toward being a safer driver. During the evening they may use the same device to check email and access social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Innovative Business Mobility
The latest innovative business solutions that take advantage of the Connected Vehicle provide a range of cloud-based solutions accessible using any device. Crucially, these systems are open and interoperable, meaning that enterprises are not locked into one vendor, but may pick and mix their mobility applications to best meet their exact business requirements. The latest heads-up displays and real-time driver coaching alerts help employees to be more productive, while staying safe and compliant with the organisation's driver and behaviour guidelines. Use of paid for subscription services such as traffic and weather together with proprietary information layered on top of a cloud-based location intelligence platform can help organisations to locate the most appropriately skilled staff member with the required tools on board to attend an emergency call out, the quickest. Due to weather or traffic, this may not always be the closest employee.
In addition, the same connectivity will enable advanced diagnostics seen currently only in the very latest telematics solutions, using whatever 'black-box' is preinstalled in the vehicle. These systems can provide information remotely on servicing and other key maintenance issues, helping to prolong vehicle life, improve residual values and reduce insurance premiums. Such systems are also likely to incorporate the new eCall system (due to go live in 2015) that automatically calls for emergency assistance in the event of a serious accident anywhere in Europe (similar to the OnStar service from GM in the U.S.).
More Efficiency, Better Safety, Great Customer Service
As we continue to see announcements from the leading motor manufacturers such as Ford, GM, Volvo and others regarding the development of the Connected Vehicle so we can expect to see the widespread adoption of multi-purpose in-vehicle systems. These will be accessed using standard smartphones and tablet type devices, many of which will be owned by the employee themselves.
While organisations can reap the benefit of this widespread consumerisation of IT, they will also need to select systems that have open hardware platforms and can run on multiple devices. However, the savings are there to be made, leading to greater efficiency when managing mobile resources, including job allocation and work order management. Connected vehicles with real-time driver feedback ensure compliance with current driving legislation and greater safety on the road. More consistent driving and least-cost routing can result in greater fuel savings, a major environmental concern for every organisation. All of this leads ultimately to better service for the customer, which also affects the bottom line.