As the world moves towards more digitisation, technology is making life easier for everyone, including the transportation industry.
Experts are of the opinion that Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming the mainstay of transport operations, where freight needs to be delivered rapidly across continents, and where driver and vehicle monitoring is essential to maintain a competitive advantage and safety.
Independent research suggests fleet management is probably the most mature IoT market segment. Analysys Mason, a research and advisory firm providing telecoms, media, and technology (TMT) related insight, forecasts a 10% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next decade in this sector.
Having said that, many logistics companies that rely heavily on the current fleet management system are not sure when a complete integration will set in. Especially when the platform is not developed in-house.
Tom Nauwelaerts, managing director of Momentum Logistics, says: “The systems we see today are independent. So, you have separate transportation, planning, and routing systems where you [need to] have another separate system that is purely [for] the management of the asset, to look at how the truck behaves, and then you have to link these things together. Then you have a system driven by GPS coordinates to do the routing, knowing 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. I think there is a lot to be done there.”
Nauwelaerts adds: “There are a couple of platforms that are, for instance, 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. I think 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 widely referenced market report, the IoT Barometer, confirms that the market for connected devices has truly come of age. [In total,] 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, 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 on all the lorries, including maintenance carried out on every vehicle, [which] is logged on to the system, 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 company’s innovation division, BlueSky, developed a SkySentry keypad system, which is designed to prevent unauthorised use. “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, machinery, and vehicles] 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,” he says.
Rapid Access has also developed SkySiren, a device designed to reduce the risk of operators becoming trapped at height. Maynard says: “Our BlueSky division tends to be developing technologies before the manufacturers. So the manufacturers have been playing catch-up.”
While most fleet management systems provide features that include geofencing abilities, which prevents units from being operated outside of designated boundaries, as well as complete system information on vehicles, such as braking, turning, GPS coordinates, fuel consumption, asset performance, and driver behaviour, Nauwelaerts hopes to see an integration of these features onto a single platform.
“It should be a standalone platform, which is as simple as possible to use and connects with the outside world,” he concludes.