The proliferation of mobile devices has radically changed the way companies work. People plan and live their lives by them and expect their work environment to be equally accessible and efficient. Gone are the days when companies insisted that work was undertaken on the corporate Blackberry, it has become accepted practice for employees to use what suits them and BYOD – bring your own device – is the norm.
Frost & Sullivan estimates there will be 80 billion connected devices by 2020 and by 2018 there will be 6.2bn mobile users worldwide (Source: Radicati).
Mobile technology is also changing the jobs of fleet and travel managers, roles which are slowly converging. According to Mobility Solutions: Driving Your Company Ahead of the Competition, a paper produced by Drive Software Solutions and Asset Finance International, in the future, the aim of fleet managers and transport operators will be to offer the user access to a broad mix of mobility options, including short-term rental, train, bus, tube and planes, all available via a single touch on a smartphone.
Meanwhile, what applies to the wider world also applies to fleet. In a recent Fleet News online poll, 44% of respondents said they or their drivers used smartphones or tablets to manage company vehicles, 53% do not while 3% were planning to.
In addition, the latest Corporate Vehicles Observatory (CVO) Barometer research from Arval shows that 44% of UK-based respondents at companies with 100 or more employees find mobile phone apps a useful fleet management tool, as do 27% of smaller organisations.
The range of apps available to fleet managers and drivers is legion. There are dedicated tools that deal with one area such as mileage capture or driver behaviour and, inc- reasingly, wholelife vehicle management – from ordering vehicles to checking that mileage does not exceed the contract agreement.
According to respondents to the study, the top six most useful app functions are access to company car policy, services locator, services booking, driver behaviour, remote access to car data and consolidated dashboard.
However, there is a risk that fleet managers will be swamped by all this data. “Too many fleet decision makers become slaves to data capture and then do nothing with it,” says Martin Evans, managing director of Jaama.
“Information captured should act as the basis for implementing change, whether in respect of replacing expensive-to-maintain vehicles, changing operating cycles or maximising vehicle uptime.”
Finally, as the number of platforms on which devices operate proliferates, there is a move back to websites and portals, which ensures they are compatible with all types of mobile device.
If there was any doubt as to the value of mobile technology to fleet managers, some companies have designed technology to fit their purpose, including Kelly Fleet Services, whose defect app has been upgraded to be more user friendly and is a mobile app, instead of requiring users to go through the website.
The RAC has launched Advanced Crash Detection via a telematics device, which monitors acceleration and vibration to detect if a crash has taken place.
“The transport laboratory tested our telematics and it has a 92% accident detection rate,” says Nick Walker, managing director of telematics for RAC.
“That is almost double the industry standard.”
Ctrack is developing, with a vehicle manufacturer, an app that detects dashboard diagnostic warning lights and reports the problem to the manufacturer or dealer, who would then contact the customer to suggest booking the vehicle in for a service.
A work in progress is the RAC’s ability to read vehicle fault codes to diagnostic effect. “At every roadside event we record fault codes, symptoms and the fix we deployed, so we have a huge knowledge database on what they mean and what repair is required,” says Walker.
“We are bringing that capability to telematics, sending live data feeds to call centres who can make contact with drivers to discuss the problem with them. We are giving motorists and fleet managers information about how to avoid a breakdown – which seems counter-intuitive for a breakdown organisation.”