“Zrrrt, this is your pay loader. I need an oil change; do you want me to schedule it myself? … P.S. I see Frank is only 20 miles away, do you want me to have him come do it?… P.S.S. Can you have him pick up the right filter this time? I know he is only 5 miles away from the nearest dealer who has one in their inventory?”
By now, most of us have been aware of telematics (sometimes referred to as machine-to-machine technologies) and specifically “GPS” tracking, a subset of telematics for some time. This technology has been around for years, handled primarily by “satellite networks,” and typically delivered by brand name equipment manufacturers or legacy system providers from end-to-end. Many of us are accustomed to hearing how “things move fast” in the technology sector. Indeed, things are moving fast, and the ability to move beyond mere “GPS location” but all kinds of information from your equipment is starting to emerge. Indeed, telematics is evolving from just tracking and into a world in which your equipment, assets, and machines will become “connected” contributing to your everyday workflow.
From scheduling their own maintenance, ordering their own parts (with permission), filling out their compliance, safety regulation reports, and aiding in billing and analyzing their daily operational performance and costs, your equipment will become part of the business systems you use to manage your operations. The end result is a streamlined and coordinated operations that connects your people in the field via mobile handsets to the equipment you own, run and/or manage to the people in the back office. So what are the catalysts enabling this change? Three things: wireless technology, better hardware, and cloud and mobile software.
Wireless technology is everywhere, and it’s getting less expensive to use, providing useful information on demand. Today, telematics and a large portion of connected equipment are still primarily delivered by satellite communications. No longer do the big wireless carriers see the future of their networks not just in smartphones and tablets. They see a network of “connected machines, assets, and equipment” across a wide variety of industries. With more than 105 percent penetration on cell phones (yes, some of us have two), the question on the wireless carrier’s mind is, “What’s next?” With billions of people on the planet but many times more than that in machines, equipment, and assets, guess who’s getting outfitted with a cell phone next? Also, the Verizon’s and AT&T’s of the world are not just stopping with their networks, they want to be your business partners; enabling the right pricing plans, packages for connected equipment, and even more so the right hardware and system software partners to solve specific business problems.
Smarter, better, faster, and cheaper hardware is here. In the past, the hardware required for telematics, including GPS, Canbus, etc., was expensive. As has been the case with personal computers, everything is getting better and more affordable. At one time, legacy or original equipment manufacturers designed and manufactured their own hardware. Now, companies specialize in telematics and remote monitoring hardware. Companies like Calamp, out of Oxnard, California, are becoming “a defacto standard and leader” of telematics/machine-to-machine hardware, making innovative, rugged and highly scalable products that can be retrofit, or even embedded, into all kinds of equipment and assets to collect information.
Yesterday’s legacy system providers who do it all cannot keep up with the cost and innovation these focused hardware providers bring. In addition, smartphone and tablet hardware providers promoting secure, yet open systems, such as Samsung, Google, and Apple are making it easier to stay connected with field personnel wherever they are at. There’s an emerging new breed of cloud and mobile software companies that partner with both the wireless carrier providers and best-of-breed hardware companies. They don’t manufacture hardware or build wireless networks. Their job is two-fold: to develop new and better business applications every day that help turn the oceans of new data coming from connected equipment and assets into actionable and useful information. In addition, they support the complex system from end-to-end, which is hardware, network, and their software, so that everything “just works” and you don’t need to become a tech company to run your business. The advent of “cloud software” or software, that runs on the Internet via a web browser and mobile applications using secure yet “open systems,” like Google Android or Apple IOS, that run on smartphone and tablets, are making it possible for the largest, to the smallest, organization to afford these systems and find immediate ROI.
In telemetry 1.0, these applications are delivered over one line of equipment or over one separate brand name. This looks good on paper but the construction industry is DIVERSE. There are many lines of equipment and brand names that run these businesses. Also, other systems help manage operations that need this information. Having one telemetry system for every piece of equipment utilized, as well the need for these applications to work with other important business systems, such operations like field service management, maintenance, and billing sound like a nightmare. That kind of ecosystems does not scale in most organizations. Should finance use six different accounting systems instead of one to run their department? No. So why should operation departments expect anything different?
Rather, “telemetry 2.0” is this new emerging ecosystem of market partnerships in best of breed hardware, network providers, and cloud system business software companies, seeking to solve these problems for the customer. In addition, original equipment manufacturers enabling integration to their legacy systems and the emergence of “Standards in Telematics,” such as the Associated of Equipment Manufacturers (AEMP) telematics specification is driving uniformity in the market. “Telemetry 2.0” enables equipment to become part of your workforce. Your operations are about to get an “upgrade.” ■
About The Author:
Alex Warner is a 15-year veteran in machine-to-machine and telematics technologies. He has designed, built, and delivered systems from end-to-end for the Department of Defense, as well as the Commercial Sector. He is also the founder, CEO, and chairman of Pedigree Technologies.
Modern Contractor Solutions, January 2014
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