Driving data: Fleet management meets big data
Fleet and technology experts discuss what is lacking in the current fleet management systems and how the Internet of Things (IoT) could be the key to finally unlock greater system integration
The significance of IoT in fleet management cannot be overstated: as major Middle East markets like the UAE and Saudi Arabia look to improve their transportation infrastructure, digitalisation will drive the uptake of telematics in the region. Already, private sector contractors have begun to see the benefits of telematics dashboards that integrate features such as location tracking, operator mapping, user safety, and sensor detection to provide a holistic transport management system.
No more is the scope for IoT integration with telematics dashboards more evident than in the region’s logistics sector. Tom Nauwelaerts, MD of Momentum points out that standalone systems — especially those developed in-house — often demand better integration between the elements of telematics, but that IoT could, with time, improve the situation.
He explains: “The systems we see today are independent, so you have separate transportation, planning and routing systems, and then a separate system purely for the management of the asset — to see how a truck behaves — and then you have to link these things together. Then you have a system driven by GPS coordinates to do the routing, in order to know where the vehicle is and so on.
“All these things are fairly independent from each other. Integration is difficult, and once it’s implemented, it’s pretty static, so I think there is a lot to be done there.”
Indeed, advisory firm Analysys Mason forecasts a 10% compound annual growth rate in IoT in the segment over the next decade.
Nauwelaerts adds: “There are a couple of platforms certified to communicate on an IoT layer, and a few others that provide fleet management solutions and transport planning that integrate with IoT, but I don’t see too many of them that have that. It’s still in the infancy stage; maybe we should wait a bit longer till it’s all out there, up and running.”
Mahmud Awad, Vodafone Qatar’s chief business officer, agrees with Nauwelaerts. “The IoT market in the region is at a relatively early stage in its development and, given the complexity of the technologies involved, developing the necessary infrastructure, ecosystem, and applications will naturally take time. But we’re seeing growing demand from existing and potential customers for IoT solutions. Increasingly, urban challenges are being addressed via technology and the IoT, and this is particularly true in rapidly developing economies and markets like Qatar.
“Our IoT Barometer market report confirms that the market for connected devices has come of age: 28% of organisations globally are already using IoT, and a further 35% say they are less than a year away from doing so. What matters now is not whether a business should adopt IoT, but how,” he says.
Companies that develop fleet management systems in-house are quite comfortable with the features they have, however, says Bassel El Dabbagh, CEO of Agility Abu Dhabi: “Our platform, which is fully developed in-house, is quite a comprehensive fleet management and transport management system. It’s called Microtransport, and has several modules, including driver management, maintenance management, fuel management, and operations management.
“It gives us full visibility for all the lorries, including a log of all the maintenance carried out on each vehicle, and shows the entire history of each and every vehicle — how much we’ve spent on it and what spare parts were used.”
Rapid Access, a global provider of powered access platform equipment, has its own management system for its fleet. Regional operations director for the company in the region, Michael Maynard, says: “We’ve got an IT system for tracking all of our assets. This shows us utilisation by machine types for each country — and each depot within those countries.
“This means that if we’re highly utilised when it comes to a certain model in one country, we can transfer machines around the region accordingly. This system allows Rapid Access to make informed decisions about where its fleet is needed in the Middle East. Each depot is thinking a quarter ahead, in terms of what levels of demand they’re expecting.”
The innovation division of the Lavendon Group, the parent company of Rapid Access, has also developed SkySentry, a keypad system designed to prevent unauthorised use.
Maynard explains: “Only a trained operator will get a passcode to actually use the machine. It’s also web-based, which means you can pull reports off it. We’re offering that system to customers; a plant and machinery manager of a big site can see how many hours each day a piece of equipment has worked. They can look at this data on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, and this allows them to manage their sites more effectively. They can see whether equipment is under- or over-utilised. They can also see exactly which operator was using a machine in the event of an incident.”
The Lavendon Group also has SkySiren, a device designed to reduce the risk of operators becoming trapped at height. Maynard notes: “The Lavendon Group’s BlueSky division tends to be developing technologies before other manufacturers. So the competition have been playing catch-up.”
Many fleet management systems provide features that include geo-fencing abilities — which prevent units from being operated outside of designated boundaries — as well as complete system information on vehicles, including braking, turning, GPS coordinates, fuel consumption, asset performance, and driver behaviour. What Nauwelaerts hopes for is to see an integration of these features onto a single platform.
He concludes: “It should be a standalone platform, which is as simple as possible to use and connects with the outside world.”