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Telematics reborn? Part One

Aug 18 • Features, Fleet Technology, Software and Apps • 3469 Views • No Comments on Telematics reborn? Part One

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The great and the good of the telematics industry arrived in Amsterdam for the TomTom Telematics’ Developers Conference and left with a new vision of what telematics may look like in the not so distant future…

It’s a strange quirk of fate at the moment that almost every other event in the European field service calendar seems to be held in the wonderful city of Amsterdam. The Dutch capital has become something of a European hub for field service in recent years and another event to add to that list was this year’s TomTom Telematics’ Developers Conference.

However, given that the telematics giant have their headquarters in Amsterdam, perhaps the decision to host their annual conference in the City too, was more about taking advantage of being on home turf. The one-day conference was held at the De Hallen centre, a former tram depot. What better place then for members of the telematics industry to come together to discuss both the latest trends in technology and how they can help in overcoming the seemingly perennial challenges of reducing fuel costs, improving driver behaviour and of course getting field engineers to the right place, on time, everytime?

And whether it was a reflection of the sense of community in the area we found ourselves in or the ongoing effort of TomTom to bring those operating in various pockets of the telematics world together, there was a true sense of community across the day’s event.

For the Rotterdam Fire Service getting to their next job on time really is a matter of life and death.

It was fantastic to see developers, providers and end users from all across the continent and beyond – even as far as Malaysia and Morocco – all coming together to discuss best practices and new ideas across the break out sessions and in the networking zone throughout the day.

It would have been easy for TomTom to attempt to shoe-horn a number of sales pitches in throughout the day but instead the sessions were focused much more on problem solving, emerging technologies or case studies of how companies are using telematics to improve their workflow, including an excellent session with the Rotterdam Fire Service, which really brought home just how important a role technology can play for an organisation for whom getting to their next job on time really is a matter of life and death.

Platform-as-a-Service

Of those sessions that did focus on TomTom and their own offerings there was a very clear message that came through. TomTom Telematics is evolving, they are doing so rapidly and they are quite possibly going to change the way we view telematics forever as they do so.

A big statement? Perhaps but whilst the core technologies of vehicle tracking and routing of course remain a strong element of what TomTom Telematics offer, they can no longer be considered as simply a pure play telematics provider. Instead they have grown and developed, becoming very much a fully fledged Platform-as-a-Service provider within the telematics space in a move seemingly modeled on Salesforce’s approach to CRM.

TomTom Telematics can no longer be considered as simply a pure play telematics provider, but as a fully fledged Platform-as-a-Service provider within the telematics space.

It is a move that has been gaining momentum for a while: last year in an exclusive interview with Field Service News, Giles Margerison talked at length about the importance of their focus on establishing three separate APIs to make connectivity to the TomTom Telematics platform as simple as possible.

The TomTom app store

However, the momentum has now really kicked in with TomTom using the Developer Conference to officially launch their new app store. Even at launch this was full of various  apps provided by both the numerous developers attending and demonstrating their solutions at the conference, and the many, many more out in the wider TomTom ecosystem.

George De Boer, International Alliance Manager at TomTom Telematics commented: “We started out as a telematics company making sure fleet managers could manage their fleet but as soon as we introduced the connected navigation, together with telematics it soon became a solution that you could use for optimising your business processes.” “So we went from purely managing fuel and savings on the wear and tear on the vehicle to becoming an end-to-end manufacturer and supplier of a solution that could be used throughout the whole business process.”

The responsibility for driving the technology forward seems to be very much shared between TomTom, their developer partners and their customers.

Whilst TomTom have now placed themselves firmly at the heart of this telematics revolution, the responsibility for driving the technology forward seems to be very much shared between TomTom themselves, their developer partners and, most importantly, their customers.

The customer role

One such customer which has worked closely with TomTom in a relationship that sees both companies driving the use of telematics forward as they work alongside each other, is UK utilities company Scotia Gas Networks (SGN).

With a remit to maintain 74,000km of gas main pipe within the UK, and a fleet of over 2,000 vehicles, plus SLAs that include response times of just one hour, keeping track of the fleet is absolutely vital for SGN.

Having originally implemented the TomTom Telematics system for just point-to-point referencing – knowing where the vehicle is, and using the system for time sheet validation and so on – SGN soon realised that they could achieve much more with the WebFleet system.

SGN’s open approach to working closely with TomTom on new developments is yielding far greater dividends than a more hands-off approach might.

“Straight away I knew what TomTom could do for us” recalls Chris Stone, SGN Head of Finance. “We’ve evolved now into a relationship where we are trying to do more and more. In fact we are pioneering a lot of what TomTom do and what they can do,” he adds

Indeed Stone, and SGN’s open approach to working closely with TomTom on their new developments is yielding far greater dividends than a more hands-off approach might. “I like to get two or three benefits out of a system I invest in.” states Stone “Yes we can put a tracking system in our vehicles and we can track them but what else can we get out of it? Well we can get driver behaviour, fuel efficiency, economy…. there are all these other bolt-ons”

However, whilst there are clear benefits for establishing such a close working relationship with your technology partners and adopting a leading edge appetite for utilising new technology, to continuously enhance your service standards and improve margins, it is not an approach all companies can take. After all, not every company has the influence of a utilities company with a fleet of  2,000.

However, the emergence of TomTom as a platform provider is big news for companies of all sizes.

Look out for Part 2 of our report, where we’ll hear more about TomTom’s new App Store. Is it set to revolutionise the way we build our telematics solutions in the not too distant future? What will be its role in the emergence of the connected vehicle?

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