The Evolution of Vehicle Telematics: How we Got to Now

Telematics – the remote monitoring and collection of vehicle data – is nothing new. Through the use of location, speed, and engine computer data, telematics helps to reduce fuel and maintenance costs, improve coordination and scheduling, and helps with safety and compliance. With all these great benefits, what took so long for this technology to arrive? Public Global Positioning System (GPS) and commercial vehicle navigation systems have been around since the 1980’s.  However, modern telematics includes much more than these early location tracking systems. How did we get to telematics today? Let’s take a look at how the convergent evolution of GPS, vehicle On-board Diagnostic (OBD) systems, and wireless networks have come together to form modern telematics.

GPS

The roots of telematics started with vehicle location tracking. The GPS network of satellites started as a military project in the 1960’s with growing precision as the technology improved and more satellites were added.  Though the initial commercial use case was airline navigation, other applications quickly emerged.

On-board Diagnostics

Location is one thing, but telematics also involves the transmission of other kinds of vehicle data. Engines are incredibly complex systems. Over time they have made growing use of electronic sensors and computer systems to coordinate various sub-systems and optimize performance.  This data can also be used to identify when something is wrong.

Wouldn’t it be nice if vehicles had a simple interface to give you all the data they have? That’s exactly what On-board Diagnostics (OBD) systems do. OBD systems interface with the vehicle’s built-in sensor systems to report on vehicle status and problems. Initially these systems had proprietary interfaces that could only be read with specialized equipment from the vehicle manufacturer. This data was great for repair technicians, but the many different interfaces and data formats left the market created a fragmented market. In an effort to help reduce emissions through standardized reporting, the state of California started to push the industry toward a single specification. In 1996, a standard system, called OBD-II, was mandated for all cars manufactured in the United States, creating a market for interfacing with these systems. OBD-II included the SAE J1962 connector that is still in common use for passenger vehicles today. Similar systems were later required for some commercial vehicles as part of Heavy Duty On-board Diagnostic (HDOBD) specifications   These systems evolved from providing simple “check engine” messages to supporting dozens of sensors or more with detailed diagnostic information that includes everything from fuel usage rates to cylinder misfires.

What can you do with all this data? OBD data was originally designed to be read by technicians who had physical access to the connector. Telematics takes this data and sends it remotely so the technician does not need to be physically there. Remote access to this data is not only convenient for identifying issues, but it can also be used to help prevent the need for major repairs in the first place. Rather than waiting for something to break, telematics can be used to identify when a its time for lower-cost, routine maintenance.  A central dispatcher can keep an eye on a large fleet and schedule pro-active maintenance appropriately – when it is needed but before its too late. As an added bonus, telematics data often includes speed an acceleration data that can be used to identify bad driving habits that no only lead to more wear but increase accidents.

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Wireless Networks

Generating a lot of telematics data does not do much good if you can’t economically send it anywhere. The third piece that has evolved considerably to enable telematics is wireless networks. Initially vehicle location systems relied on two-way radio networks that were restricted to specific areas. As cellular data networks evolved, vehicle location systems started to work anywhere in the country. These systems were initially large, power-hungry, had spotty coverage and were expensive. The mobile phone industry helped to miniaturize components, make coverage near ubiquitous, and significantly reduce prices. As the electronics became smaller and mobile data networks became more commonplace, it started to become cost effective to put dedicated mobile data radios in vehicles and accessory devices.  To better service he growing market for Internet-enabled devices, commonly known as the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile phone providers are now offering specialized wireless network services optimized for these devices like LTE-M and LTE NB-IoT.

Today, a complete telematics system with GPS, OBD interface, and nationwide coverage can is no more than a few inches in size. The main reason it isn’t smaller is because it would be too hard to plug in! Many vehicles, especially high-end commercial ones, now have telematics as a standard option built-in. As new technologies like drive-by-wire and autonomous driving are introduced, vehicles are producing more and more data. Manufacturers uses this data in aggregate across models to look for design flaws and to make improvements.  Many manufacturers now provide software updates that can improve performance without any physical changes.

Interested in learning more about Telematics and how it can help improve your fleet’s efficiency and safety? Next Wednesday, Greg Arlen, Tenna’s Director of Product, will be hosting a webinar on this topic with Construction Executive where will be digging into Telematics’ many benefits and where this technology is going. Register for the webinar.

The Challenges of High/Fast Growth Companies vis-a-vis Asset Tracking

The dream of many owners is to grow their company from a small business to one of the major players in their market, and to do it quickly and strategically. As anyone who has attempted this journey knows, it’s a lot easier said than done – especially if you don’t invest in the technology and infrastructure to support expansion. Everyone wants to reap the rewards of fast growth, but not everyone understands what it takes to make it happen.

In today’s world, if you run a construction or other type of industrial business and want to achieve fast growth, there’s one investment you can’t do without – a modern asset tracking system. Here’s why:

As your company grows and begins taking on bigger and more complex projects, you’re going to need more tools and equipment (assets) to handle more jobs and increase revenues. This requires investing in two different types of assets – the tools and equipment you use to perform the work, such as earth movers, backhoes, etc., and the equipment you need to efficiently manage your assets.

Challenge 1 – Scalability

In the early days of a new business, small companies can usually get by with manual procedures and looser control over asset utilization and management. The owner and a few key employees know the business inside and out and can make sure the right things happen at the right time. But as you grow, if you don’t have the right tools in place to monitor and manage the influx of new assets and people, data will be lost, key individuals won’t be able to access the data they need and your quest to achieve rapid growth can quickly become a nightmare rather than a dream come true.

Challenge 2 –  All for One or One for All

Fast growth creates continuous change. If key players who have a lot of knowledge about your assets are on vacation, or multiple personnel are tracking assets in their own separate way, you can’t access accurate data when you need it. If you are using static magnet boards and spreadsheets to manage your assets and don’t have the technology in place to permanently document and update records in real-time, it causes confusion and rework. Automated record-keeping and accessible data is critical, and modern technology offers digital tools to automate and store data efficiently together.

Challenge 3 – Data for Informed Decision Making

The third big challenge has to do with securing the new customers and accounts to drive your company’s rapid growth. As you pursue bigger and more sophisticated clients, you need modern tools and technologies to capture operational costs, win future work and forecast future growth. Once your business reaches a certain size, “going with your gut” just won’t cut it.

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Let Go of Your Past

In today’s fast-paced markets, business success is all about having the right data in the right place at the right time. That way, your senior management team, mid-level managers and front-line employees can all make well-informed decisions to optimize asset utilization. And if you’re growing quickly, you’re going to find yourself with a lot more data to manage than ever before. Old-school asset tracking tools and techniques will hold you back rather than propelling your company forward.

It may feel uncomfortable to consider leaving magnetic boards or manual tool lists behind, but consider the problems they cause. Magnetic boards can only display a limited amount of data and in one place. If it gets erased, it’s lost forever. Compare that to a digital asset tracking system such as Tenna, which has room for virtually unlimited amounts of data. Moreover, this data is available to anyone, at any time – whether in the office or on a job site – as long as they have WiFi or Internet access and is always up to date.

Conversely, tool lists don’t reflect real time, so the information constantly has to be updated – a time-consuming task. Yard rounds can be rife with human error, and they don’t help locate anything that’s already missing. Excel spreadsheets are somewhat better, but they’re still a static, dated way of tracking assets that need constant manual updating. With telematics and digital asset tracking, you can find location and other asset data in just a few clicks. You know the data is up-to-date, and you know it’s accurate.

Grow or Go Home

Still not convinced of the need for modern asset tracking?  Consider the following:

How many times have you mistaken a 1 for a 7? Lost a critical part or tool? Ordered a piece of machinery from the yard only to find it nonoperational due to irregular maintenance? How often do you purchase a new part or material and then discover you already have several in stock? How often does it take you longer to correct data-entry mistakes than it took you to record the data in the first place?

Then there’s the issue of tracking driver time, miles driven, fuel usage and all sorts of asset usage data. You can do it the old way and take hours to collect and organize the data manually. Or you can have it automatically tracked and instantly relayed to your asset management system for everyone to see. Which do you think your managers would prefer?

Like it or not, today’s business environment demands the fast, accurate capture of asset management information. With today’s cloud-based systems, you can easily track assets of all types and sizes, all in one integrated system. Stop begging your employees for updates. Let the information alert you when you need to pay attention, and switch from reactive to proactive management.

Failure to invest in digital asset tracking will inhibit your company’s growth, so why risk your future?

Top 4 Reasons to Attend GIE Expo (and Hardscape North America)

This event isn’t just one tradeshow.  It is two!  The GIE Expo is one of the tradeshows.  Hardscape North America is the second.  They are both at the same location, which gives an attendee or exhibitor the two-for-one ability to see what is going on in the industry and to get some quality face-to-face time with the many attendees visiting this show.

1.  Show of the year.

This is THE show of the year for landscapers, hardscapers, dealers, retailers, distributors and more in the Landscaping Industry.  There will be over 850 exhibitors and close to 20,000+ attendees over the course of the 3-day show.  This is a lot of potential contacts in a lot of space—over half a million square feet inside the Kentucky Exposition Center and in the turf area.  Tenna is excited to be exhibiting at this show.  It was the event that many people at last week’s  Landscape Show were talking about!

2. Location is everything.

With accessibility considered, the show is being held in Louisville, Kentucky. This location is within driving distance for about 60% of America’s population.  If you’re not registered yet, there is still time to get your road trip on and make it to the show.

3. There is a TON of stuff to do.

Not only are there outdoor demonstrations to see, but there are also trainings, a keynote from Dr. Robert Ballard (that I personally am excited about), concerts every single night, numerous opportunities to network and a bunch of great people and products to familiarize yourself with. Not to mention all the local attractions that Louisville has to offer.

4. New equipment and technology.

There will be several exhibitors present with new equipment and new technology relevant to your business.  Tenna is among them.  We want to remind you that you need to protect your investments.  Tracking your equipment and assets is vital and we, like our fellow exibitors, will be on the floor to show you how to bring value to your business.

Stop by our booths, Indoor 30063 and Outdoor 7842D, to find out how we can help you manage and track your small tools, equipment and even fleet vehicles on one platform utilizing a variety of solutions that make sense for your needs.

If you are attending the show, Tenna is participating in the giveawayRegister to win at our indoor booth 30063.

All of us on the GIE Team (Jose, George, Jolene, Mark, Emily, Joe and Ryan) look forward to meeting you and participating in this event.

What is Asset Management Software?

Asset management software is a computer program or digital system that helps keep track of an organization’s stuff. That stuff can be machines, vehicles, products, or pretty much any physical item that matters in terms of cost or revenue. Asset management is needed because things – large and small – have value. Losing and item is costly in terms of the capital cost of replacing the item, the man-time spent searching for misplaced items, and the opportunity-cost of not using that asset for productive work when it would otherwise be utilized.

Small organizations typically start out with a simple spreadsheet to track their items. This may works with a small number of items and a few employees, but limited systems quickly gets out of hand as organizations grow larger. Asset Management Software helps organizations keep track of their items by automating data entry, facilitating information sharing, and providing automated alerts and reports. Modern asset management software for distributed organizations usually runs in the cloud, acting as a single system of record that can be securely accessed from any location.

Industrial and Construction Asset Management Software

Every industry has its own unique tracking requirements so a variety asset management software tools exist that are customized for distinct industry needs. Businesses such as construction, oil & gas, waste management, landscaping, and industrial manufacturers often have a wide variety of assets that are geographically distributed and often on the move between locations with different teams sharing and reusing equipment. While there is some similarities, specialized software for these businesses often will look very different than asset management software designed for other industries like Information Technology tracking (i.e. computers, printers, etc.) or tracking work-in-progress products through an assembly line for a manufacturer.

Automating Data Entry

The time savings benefits of asset management should also factor the time spent entering and updating items. Shortened search time is not much benefit if it is offset by long data entry times. In addition, if it is difficult to enter and update an asset’s status, users will avoid doing it, leaving the system underutilized or partly populated. To avoid these problems, asset management systems usually provides an easy or automated means of data entry to minimizes the amount of time required to accurately track an asset.

To facilitate simple data entry, modern asset management systems often include technology integration options such as:

  • Mobile phone software that can run on employees’ mobile devices for viewing inventory, mobile data entry, and scanning items
  • Asset tags like using barcode, QR code, or RFID technology that allow for quick tagging and scanning of items
  • Wireless technologies for transmitting data
  • GPS for identifying item locations
  • Telematics for gathering vehicle data

Combined with alerting and reporting software, these asset tracking technologies help to form a compressive Asset Management System.

Additional Use Cases

Many asset management software solutions leverage their data and field trackers to provide insight into other areas of the organization. This may include additional capabilities such as:

Trends

As tracking technology becomes more affordable, the economics of tracking smaller, less expensive items becomes viable leading to larger and larger quantities of items tracked. In addition, embedded computer technology is finding its way into more objects – often referred to the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT devices may have built-in tracking technologies that simplify managing their large quantities.  As the number of assets tracked grows, software systems are improving their search and coordination capabilities so that usage of the software does not grow in difficulty .

Tracking Your Assets Live – A Closer Look

Tenna’s current Dashboard provides a view to your Assets and the Sites to which they are assigned, or “allocated,” at a glance.

In our upcoming release, we are diving further into your Live Data, a huge improvement to see not only where your Assets are allocated, but where they were last found, and with GPS cellular products, where they are now.

Screenshots

See where your assets are now with GPS Cellular.

Easily locate your assets’ current location, and watch your assets move and update in real time.

Using QR, RFID, or BLE?  See last known location.

Even without having Tenna’s GPS Cellular products, you can quickly dive into the last known location update from QR, RFID, and Bluetooth-tagged assets.

Learn equipment updates in the office or on the go.

See your specific alerts marked as High, Medium, or Low-Level priorities, and get alerted by email or text message for those that you wish, or assign them to your colleagues for action and resolution.

Gain context with Notifications and Geofences.

Tired of wondering when your assets entered and left your project sites? Whether you are using QR, RFID, Bluetooth, or GPS Cellular Trackers, get the updates from your Trackers or your Team’s scanning by using Geofences.

Quickly switch back to Site Data for Dashboard View.

Don’t worry. Our classic Dashboard View, or “Site Data” as it will be termed in this Tenna 3.3 Update, will still be available for your access anytime, anywhere.

The Value of Fleet Tracking for Construction Companies

Companies rely on their fleet of vehicles to get equipment and materials to job sites, finish projects on time & stay within budget. From heavy civil contractors to utility contractors and more, construction companies rely on their fleet of vehicles, trucks and trailers to get equipment and materials to job sites, finish projects on time and stay within budget. That’s why more and more construction firms are employing digital asset management systems like Tenna to capture the data they need to efficiently manage their fleets. (more…)

How Growing Construction Companies Can Build Their Business And Protect Their Bottom Line Through Cloud-Based Asset Management

For the past two decades, digital asset management has enabled construction companies to track their assets anywhere at any time with a minimum of manual involvement. This has produced significant improvements in operational efficiencies, lower costs and healthier bottom lines for construction companies of all types and sizes. (more…)