Connected Fleet Management: Why a Unified Network is Key

Damien Stephens -
Illustration: © IoT For All

As consumer demands evolve, fleet managers are turning to IoT to deliver products faster and more efficiently. The progress being made in edge computing represents the full potential of IoT: the power of data on the move. However, operating on the edge also reveals some of IoT’s greatest challenges: maintaining network security as the number of endpoints multiplies; rethinking traditional business models as industries become increasingly interdependent; and, perhaps most importantly, establishing a seamless, reliable network across borders, cultures, and regulatory environments.

Alone, each of these challenges is daunting. Taken together, they illustrate the need for a new approach to conducting business and providing services. And, for fleet managers, it becomes an exercise in strengthening device connectivity to collect data with broader network insights and staying up to date as new technologies emerge. This will ensure each new vehicle in a fleet is deployed with connectivity already in place.

The Right Data

Fleet managers operating at scale face the challenge of having to measure and analyze the right data at the right time in order to make business-critical decisions on constantly moving assets. Such data can provide insight into everything from pinpointing when and what kind of preventative maintenance might be needed for a vehicle to knowing what conditions help improve driver safety and performance. Achieving this level of detail requires solutions that allow fleet managers to seamlessly deploy a vehicle that’s fully connected, so they can augment data collected on the road with network information.

It’s often up to tracking technology providers to offer this kind of visibility. Right now, the bulk of the data collected is location information for asset tracking and telematics information from a device plugged into a vehicle. These trackers must connect to multiple networks to fill coverage gaps and ensure optimal performance when electronic logging devices (ELDs) communicate back to the cloud.

IoT company W-Locate faced these challenges when expanding into new territories. To attract potential customers, they needed a cost-effective, reliable way to track packages and fleet movements across continents. Partnering with a global telecommunications provider allowed them to avoid network lock-in and roaming costs, keeping operations competitive. They also gained the ability to switch between service providers seamlessly, based on local business needs, providing the kind of visibility companies are looking for at a significant price advantage.

Seamless connectivity will also not only make fleet managers and their drivers’ work environment safer, but protect workers’ rights by enabling the collection of hard data such as hours of service and behavior reports, which can be used to dispute abusive policies that push drivers to stretch the rules or guidelines.

Versatile Devices

One of the most important qualities for effective fleet management, especially when it comes to integrating new technology, is versatility. Supply chains are increasingly complex and involve an ever-growing number of stakeholders. Each of these stakeholders needs to be able to access the same data through the devices and applications they already use.

By prioritizing versatility, IoT hardware company Flex was able to provide customers with flexibility in how they analyze data through plug-and-play asset trackers. But, in order for a plug and play solution to deliver useful insights, it needs to be customizable to customer and stakeholder needs. Flex offered this with a wide range of applications underpinned by a globally reliable network provider. This kind of solution facilitates closer collaboration between professionals at every stage of the supply chain and even across industries.

Startups

For startups, a unified network is vital to lowering costs and freeing up time that can then be focused on business growth. DRVR, a rapidly growing fleet analytics company in the ASEAN region, has a business model dependent on reliable mobile data. Even after devoting the lion’s share of the company’s resources to negotiate roaming deals, service quality remained a constant concern. By introducing solutions and working with partners that could provide a unified, global network, they were able to avoid the upfront costs and complicated compliance processes while attaining the level of reliability that customers were looking for. Like many start-ups, DRVR was also born in the cloud. By choosing a network partner that was backed by a leading cloud provider, they ensured seamless integration and faster time to market for their IoT solutions.

Secure End Points

In the world of edge computing, security has always been a critical concern and difficult challenge. SIM cards and mobile networks have some inherent security built-in to the network deployment standards, but this is negated once the data reaches the edge of the network. Additional layers of security can be introduced through Virtual Private Network (VPN) connectivity, encryption and security tokens. In vehicle-based edge computing, these capabilities can be enhanced with additional security tokens issued from the SIM card itself, allowing a match between the SIM and the vehicle to ensure there has not been any tampering with the SIM. In cases where security is paramount visibility and data protection need to go hand-in-hand. The SYSTECH intelligent school bus system is able to provide up-to-date information on bus locations,  driver behavior, and vehicle performance while maintaining security by partnering with providers that provide VPN and eSIM solutions.

Like any promising new technology, edge computing brings with it a host of difficulties. But, as the experiences outlined show, no one organization has to go it alone. The key to finding success on the edge is building smart partnerships that can provide businesses, no matter their industry, with a unified platform for global market connectivity. Once those partnerships are in place, companies can free themselves from resource-draining mobile network negotiations and contract lock-in, in favor of quick expansion and low admin costs. They can also create solutions that provide easy data monitoring and management for real-time decision making. They can achieve reliability across borders, regardless of the place of the manufacturer, readying themselves for global operations and security compliance. Most of all, they can continue to innovate by turning their focus to the core mission that drives their businesses, value propositions, and bottom line.

Author
Damien Stephens - Associate Vice President, Mobility & IoT Solutions, Tata Communications

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Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All. If you're interested in contributing to IoT For All, cli...
Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All. If you're interested in contributing to IoT For All, cli...