The advent of Verizon on the horizon means there is a new player in the telematics space, but it is actually three old faces, with Verizon Connect coming together from three separate entities. Diesel News talks to the new boss of the new entity, Jim McKinlay.
Verizon Connect is a business which has formed from operations which have been active in the Australian telematics market for some time. Until this year the business traded as three separate entities under the governance of Verizon, the US telecom company.There was Telogis, a business founded originally in Christchurh, New Zealand in 1999 and grew in the enterprise market space. It moved to the US and grew there. 18 months ago was acquired by Verizon.
At around the same time, Fleetmatics was created in Ireland and also went to the USA before growing considerably before being acquired by Verizon around the same time as the Telogis acquisition. The structural changes saw these two come under the Verizon Telematics umbrella. The three companies have grown together and now go under the Verizon Connect name.
“Each of the three lines of business had been doing their own thing concentrating on different areas. Telogis at enterprise level, Fleetmatics in small to medium businesses and Verizon dealing with fleets, but also doing a lot of work with vehicle manufacturers,” says Jim McKinlay, Verizon Connect General Manager APAC. “At the top end some of the global customers could be running fleets in excess of 40,000 vehicles. At the smaller end and trucking company with six trucks was also a customer.
“Bringing everything together has really allowed us to go from, what we call, a micro-business through medium sized fleets up to as many vehicles as it is possible to have. The area we work in is from trucking companies, through utilities, to a whole range of different kinds of businesses. Our global customers are people like Coca Cola, Aspland, who are a vegetation management company. Some are heavy duty trucks all the way down to light vehicles like utes.”
The company has 3,600 employees and claims to be the largest telematics company globally. Verizon were already supplying the in-vehicle telematics on Mercedes Benz and BMW vehicles. Telogis were already being fitted in General Motors, Nissan, Isuzu and Hino vehicles being assembled in the US. There was also a relationship with Volvo, Mack and Freightliner in North America.
Data on the vehicle’s CANbus or other systems can be channeled through to the Verizon Connect system and overlaid on the company’s mapping system. With this system, trucking operators can see different brands of truck within their fleet and get basic position and diagnostics from the truck.
The latest technology is an attempt to improve the quality of data obtainable from the diagnostics of the trucks. In terms of the in-cab experience, Verizon Connect tend to work on either IOS or Android, so this gives the customer the ability to get the kind of technology they want, then we push stuff, via apps, to the driver.
Verizon Connect are aiming to be the conduit for data from the truck and the developer of the software to interpret the data back at base and to the driver. If the hardware already exists in the truck, they will try to use it.
“Effectively, what we have is a big gigantic modem inside the vehicle,” says Jim. “A lot of our construction-type customers are looking for wifi in the cab. This is one of the big trends in North America and will come here eventually. We are putting these wifi devices in for a company like Aspland. They will have five or six guys get into the truck and they will all connect to a wifi hub giving all of them wifi capability, but there’s only one sim card in the truck.
“If a trucking company has sourced a number of different devices in the truck, they can be running several sim cards in each trucks, all of which are on different plans and need administering. A lot of our customers are coming to us and saying they need wifi in the truck. We had been doing wifi in the light vehicles in the US, so it was an easy extension for us to move it into trucks.
“In the longer term, we are betting on the truck manufacturers being the ones who are putting this technology in the vehicle and then we will just become service providers of that technology. In the US all the Hinos coming off the production line are already fully equipped. All the owner has to do is activate it. In fact, they get the first year free and can then extend. They are getting a full over the air phone service.
“I think the large truck manufacturers are looking seriously at this technology as they see it as a big bonus for their customers.”
Verizon Connect expects its EWD to be available in August and fully compliant. At the moment it is likely to be a standalone app on an iPad or iPhone. The arrival of an EWD in Australia was seen by the company to be a good point for Verizon Connect to introduce itself to the Australian trucking market.