The State of Telematics: Talking Toasters, Teenage Drivers, and Tracking Tanks

 

Telematics can be broadly described as the integration of telecommunications networks with some type of information technology (i.e., sensors, processors). The concept has been around for many years and is now considered mainstream, with terms such as “Internet of Things”, or “IoT”, advertised frequently.

Optimistic Forecasts

Gartner has suggested that by 2020 there will be more than 20 billion connected devices in the world. Others, like Ericsson, have predicted upwards of 50 billion by the same time.

Forecasts aside, by the end of 2017, Gartner says we are already on track to hit 8.4 billion connected devices with an annual revenue opportunity of over $2 trillion USD, representing an increase of a whopping 31% over 2016. This will attract many companies looking to capitalize, and such optimistic forecasts fuel interest and ultimately sales within the IoT ecosystem of devices, chipsets, semiconductors, networks and so on. Positive hype has been, and always will be, driving sales in this market.

Consumer IoT

Whilst there are some very good examples where IoT has been able to provide a simple and understandable use case (such as with vehicle and asset tracking), the industry has not done a great job describing what this means to the consumer and the impacts and changes IoT brings to our everyday lives.

Examples include the Bluetooth Connected Toaster and the Internet Fridge. Both of these might sound great to the technical, nerdy side of us all, but they really don’t provide enough for us to throw out our current refrigerator or toaster and invest in one that will let you know the milk is about to expire or your toast is done.

60% of existing connected devices are in the consumer market. But it’s probably fair to say there wouldn’t be too many of us that could rattle off what these connected devices actually do. You can only imagine how many more devices there would be if there was a way to bring IoT to the consumer market with a more understandable approach.

Transportation Focused IoT and Commoditization

Market / vertically focused solutions are a little easier. We all understand the need to track a vehicle or mobile asset, and that’s why we won’t have too much trouble finding a device to install in our vehicle telling us how fast we are driving or if our teenager is driving to the mall instead of school. Whilst this simple use case for the transportation industry makes sense, it doesn’t take long to figure out there are opportunities in markets / industries that require tracking but with a more personalized approach.

To make things a little more interesting, the commoditization of the telecommunications industry and device manufacturers have pushed consolidation across the market and a focus on the value of the application (e.g. Verizon’s recent acquisitions of Fleetmatics and Telogis).

The IOT “DNA”

The IoT “DNA” – or Device, Network and Application – allows us to look for opportunities to differentiate and build solutions that deliver on industry problems.

Device manufacturers are looking for better ways to allow and encourage developers to build on their platforms, manage their devices remotely, and provide easy interfaces into their technology.

Network providers are looking for ways to reduce the impact of IoT on their traditional customer base (your data hungry smart phone), but also provide service assurance and quality of service to ensure applications that need data are able to access it when needed (emergency services, banking, etc.).

However, Applications are the real interface to the user and it is applications that deliver the intelligence we apply to the data collected.

Think about the connected vending machine. You and I don’t care about the communications device used in the machine. In fact, most of us don’t know or care they’re connected or how it communicates. But what we do want to know is that we can get what we want, when we want it.

The same applies to your bank’s ATM. The communications device or the network over which these machines communicate doesn’t matter as long as they work. Given the availability and choice of communications (PSTN, cellular, satellite, LPWAN, Sigfox, Zigbee, etc.), the device will need to support the locally available network, but the application will ensure you have a soda in your vending machine or a $100 bill in the ATM.

With an IoT Application it knows what’s inside it and, based on the time of year, how many items it needs based on historical usage. It can then order what it needs to be replenished.

IoT and Asset Tracking

The asset tracking market also has some unique requirements. It requires devices that are self-powered for tracking tanks, containers, trailers, and tools, and able to operate in extreme conditions and hazardous environments. The device must be able to communicate while in very remote locations so it can provide managers the ability to locate their assets anywhere across the world. Where engine run time is needed, the device must be able to measure engine start/stop and allow the application to report total engine runtime and usage.

Geoforce delivers exactly that for the asset tracking market. Our Devices are battery powered, ruggedized, and environmentally suitable for extreme environments. For hazardous environments, we offer the GT1 Global Asset Tracker, the world’s most rugged intrinsically safe, ATEX Zone 0 certified device able to communicate across the globe via the Globalstar satellite Network.

Geoforce has also developed an Application that provides very comprehensive asset management tools that measure metrics such as compliance and utilization that allow asset managers to ensure asset availability and asset optimization. We also support devices that can provide engine run time and measure fluid levels.

If you would like to know more about how we can help your business, contact your local Geoforce representative or email us at sales@geoforce.com.

Tim Lapham is Geoforce’s General Manager for the Asia Pacific region, and a Director for our Geoforce (Australia) PTY LTD entity. Prior to Geoforce, Tim spent most of his career working within the telecommunications industry focused on mobile applications and tracking technologies. He can be reached at  +61484138062 or tlapham@geoforce.com.