There’s been a lot of talk lately about the intersection of trucks and technology. From the futuristic appeal of smart highways to the utilitarian need for GPS units and in-cab video systems, technology and trucking are married.
As the two continue to figure out how to complement each other, things are changing. As we leave paper logs and inefficient processes behind, the “connected fleet” is making a rise.
As we look far into the future, we could see the term connected fleet reflecting rigs traveling on smart highways and wirelessly communicating with the world around them. While we are beginning to see the beginning of that vision, it will take many years for it to reach fruition.
What is happening now is something much more incremental. It may not represent a tectonic shift in trucking, but it is beginning to show us how we can see the benefits of tomorrows connected fleet today.
Modern Day Connectedness
The cloud is on the rise, and it is through it that fleets are beginning to reap the big rewards sown during the technology boom of the 2000s. Today, vehicle-to-infrastructure solutions are increasing in number and scope.
This generally comes in the form of total connectivity between a vehicle and a manufacturer and the rest of the fleet. It’s what happens when a dispatcher looks at a map on a desktop displaying the location and status of the vehicles being managed.
This is what modern day connectivity looks like, and most fleets are quite familiar with it. A dispatcher can capture data from other systems and components on the truck, see load status, or even have access to the driver’s current hours status, speed, and other performance-related information.
Generations of Connectivity
The key to all of this is big data. Third-party telematics providers have actually been facilitating this vehicle to fleet communication for some time. The future is in analyzing the vast amounts of vehicle and road data to form a big picture of fleet operations.
One can view fleet connectivity as a generational thing. The first generation was satellite GPS tracking, the second cellular connectivity, and the third cloud-based solutions.
Simple dot-on-a-map solutions were revolutionary during first-generation development, but we’ve come a long way since then. Now fleets can download real-time, historical data that can be plugged into complex analytics systems.
The ability to pull in data, real-time, from a truck and trailer, then do smart things with it, represents a real revolution. As we move into the future, now disparate parts of the fleet will all be able to quickly and efficiently communicate with each other over long distance and in real-time.
This is the point where we will go from merely “connected fleets” to “connected intelligence.” When the relationship between people, vehicles and work activity connects through data, intelligent decisions can be made. Fleet operation efficiency and effectiveness only stands to improve.
Imagine using aggregated data for route planning. One way a fleet manager could do this is by analyzing cloud-based data that might show a certain percentage of trucks had a rollover prevention system triggered on a particular off-ramp. Being able to pinpoint inherent risks in the system is one of the most obvious ways data can be leveraged for the benefit of the fleet.
The Future of Connectivity
In this future a lot of the data may not even come from the vehicle itself. As mobile technologies continue to take over our existence, things like handheld devices for scanning barcodes and taking signatures will factor into the equation as well. We are already beginning to see smartphones and RFID tags transport paper tasks into the digital world.
Although we speak about this future in far off terms, in this case the future is now. The technology available to collect and analyze this data gets better by the day. From video devices to tablets and wearable technology, there will soon be a variety of ways that fleets can find the best way to run their operations.
Sure truly intelligent trucks and highways are still many, many years away, but time flies. The connected fleet of today is already here, and it will only increase as we travel down the road.