Fleet News

Operating a connected fleet

Jurgen Hase, vice president M2M competence center, Deutsche Telekom AG.

When a vehicle relays its location and payload condition to the dispatcher automatically, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication is involved. M2M makes workflows simpler and processes leaner, facilitating entirely new business models, and can be put to good use in fleet management.

Fleet managers have been using M2M-based solutions for several years. What experts mean by M2M is automated exchange of information between terminal devices such as machines or vehicles with a control centre. This principle has been around in logistics for some time, alongside telematics.

The solutions have developed constantly, however. Above all, acquisition and running costs have fallen significantly in the meantime, making M2M solutions attractive for small and medium-sized businesses too.

M2M solutions not only improve transport and distribution management, they also increase driver safety, for example. The EU adopted a resolution on the subject last year. From 2015, all new cars must be equipped with an eCall automatic emergency call system. In the event of an accident, eCall alerts the emergency services automatically.

Furthermore, mobile Internet is now a part of many people’s daily lives. Carmakers are increasingly integrating embedded SIM chips in their vehicles to fulfil customers’ needs and comply with the new regulations. That brings the vision of a connected vehicle in a totally connected fleet one step closer.

Tracking solutions improve scheduling

M2M solutions are already helping fleet managers with their scheduling. Special tracking boxes are used as a rule, firmly installed in the vehicle. They are mostly smaller than a cigarette packet with contents that include a GPS module, to determine the vehicle’s current location.

Some of these solutions are also fitted out with an acceleration sensor that records rapid acceleration, abrupt movements, current speed and idle times. A wireless unit with a built-in SIM card sends the data via cellular networks to a server.

The fleet manager can look at this data in processed form almost in real time on an online portal. A portal application visualises the vehicle’s position data in real time on a map. That enables the control centre to better schedule drivers, optimize loads and routes, and thereby reduce the fleet’s fuel consumption by cutting the distances travelled.

The portal also compiles automatic reports on driving behaviour and helps the drivers to adjust their driving to the lowest possible fuel consumption.

M2M solutions can be deployed internationally

Many companies already use tracking solutions of this kind successfully. Lower acquisition and running costs will lead to more widespread use of tracking and tracing solutions in the years ahead. Along with tracking solutions, other M2M components for the logistics industry are available on the M2M Marketplace – sensors to measure diesel fuel consumption, for example.

Vehicle scheduling is not always the local matter that it is for the emergency services. Freight forwarders and logistics companies in particular frequently work across borders. To ensure international accessibility and common communication standards, mobile network operators cooperate with each other.

A key technology for car sharing

M2M also makes entirely new business models possible. For the vehicle fleet of car sharing providers M2M is a key technology. M2M solutions in the cars relay position, mileage and fuel level continuously to the car sharing provider, who thereby always knows where his fleet is and, thanks to the continuous documentation, can also pass on traffic tickets to the driver who was responsible for the infringement. In addition, repair and maintenance can be scheduled better.

Users, for their part, can locate cars easily by means of an app on their smartphone and make a booking using the same app.

Focus on tracking solutions

The freight management system also localises the container’s position by GPS. Each customer specifies in advance which events they want to be informed of. When the route of the container, for example, differs from the one that was scheduled, the system informs the owner about it. The M2M solution relays the data required via the mobile network. Software then processes the information and sends it to the customer by e-mail or on a Web-based dashboard.

The focus today may still often be on tracking solutions, but other M2M solutions are gradually coming into their own. In future, the crucial factor will be how these solutions are integrated into the supply chain. How the data is handled will also play an important role.

Monitoring solutions record the GPS coordinates and temperatures of a refrigerated shipment, and store this data in databases. That leads to an exponential increase in global data volumes. This data is accordingly known as Big Data.

M2M delivers competitive advantages

Analyses have hitherto been restricted to retroactive data interpretation. An additional benefit is gained when Big Data is analysed in real time. Using conventional data analysis, relevant patterns are frequently identified too late. Methods of analysis that view incoming data in real time are currently under development.

In this way, for example, self-learning systems will be able to spot engine wear and tear in vehicles. They monitor processes over a long period and thereby reveal even creeping changes. By using this technology early, adopters will gain a significant competitive advantage.


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