5 Predictions for the Future of Telematics

For the past 10+ years, the construction industry has made steady strides to deliver on the promise of the data driven job site. With respect to the equipment industry in particular, one of the hottest topics in this area has been telematics. With telematics, project managers can not only keep track of ‘what’ equipment is on a job site but also ‘how’ that piece of equipment is functioning and being used. This in turn helps improve efficiency, reduce costs and boost margins. All good things.

What customers want

Part of what makes this space such a challenge is the wide spectrum of needs that vary based on people, processes, equipment instrumentation and site conditions. That being said, we can certainly boil things down to the following key customer needs:

  • “Deliver the data to me in an easy to consume manner and make sure it is timely and accurate”
  • “Show me exactly where all my equipment is”
  • “Let me see how much each piece of equipment is being utilized and how close the utilization is to our target”
  • “Help me track how much fuel is being consumed”
  • “Proactively prompt me if there’s a maintenance issue that needs to be addressed”
  • “Let me access this information from anywhere (i.e., web and mobile)”

Why current solutions are falling short

Though the actual technology behind gathering data from machines has been developed and proven, the fact of the matter remains that only about 15–20% of heavy equipment are instrumented with telematics today.

While part of this is simply long decision making cycles and the difficulties involved in evaluating solutions from different vendors, one of the biggest hurdles is the fact that equipment manufacturers and 3rd party telematics box vendors have taken a “walled garden” approach in their go-to-market strategy.

Instead of empowering equipment owners to route information to their data warehouse and analytical dashboard of their choosing, vendors instead choose to sell licenses to proprietary software that unfortunately inhibits consolidation and normalization of information. This is unfortunate given the Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP) has a well defined standard for how telematic data should be structured regardless of OEM.

5 predictions for the future of telematics in the equipment management industry

#5: Low-fi telematics through operator crowd-sourcing of data

As the challenges of deploying telematics broadly remain high, equipment managers will look to tools that are cost efficient to deploy that enable operators on site to quickly gather key breadcrumbs of data. For example, one can imagine a mobile app that allows an equipment operator to quickly mark the hour meter, fuel levels, location (via GPS) and any maintenance needs that then feeds into a customizable dashboard for an equipment manager.

#4: API-ification

Telematic data will be set free via APIs. That’s not to say that access ‘to’ the data will be free. Rather, telematics vendors will pursue additional monetization models beyond yearly license fees. Customers will have the option to pay-per-access so they have flexibility to consume, integrate and visualize data in a manner that works best for them and their workflow.

#3: Data accessibility on mobile

As more construction management applications shift to mobile and tablet interfaces, so too will telematics dashboards for equipment managers. Moreover, mobile access to data will enable increased collaboration among multiple constituents at a job site as it pertains to optimizing equipment usage. For example, one can imagine an equipment manager who gets an alert regarding low utilization of backhoe ultimately triggering communication to a job site foreman to log into the same tool from the field and uncover the ‘why’.

This is certainly one of the core visions that our team over at Yard Club has and something we’ve already started to build into our mobile application for our partner rental suppliers.

Yard Club users can access mobile telematics from partner rental suppliers (Available on iOS and Android).

#2: Shift from ‘fire hose’ of data to ‘insights’

Another optimization that will take place in the future is the way telematic data is presented and visualized. Instead of simply showing as much information as possible, data will be streamlined and packaged into relevant insights that can quickly inform actions that need to be taken to help a contractor be more efficient and save money. It’s one thing to show a bunch of charts showing the utilization pattern of a set of machines but it’s another thing to say: “The weather at job site X was bad and based on historical data the utilization for this category of machines was as expected.”

#1: Computer assisted/automated equipment scheduling and dispatch

Currently, even with telematics instrumented on machines, most equipment managers spend a lot of time managing and optimizing their fleet. Determining which piece of equipment should be at each job site and whether or not rentals need to be sourced to provide additional capacity is currently a manual process. As databases of utilization information begin to grow, telematics can start to inform and assist equipment managers in evaluating different trade-offs and optimizing allocation.

Delivering on the promise

Cooperation within the industry across contractors, vendors and OEMs is something that will continue to be a challenge. Though it may seem natural to take a protectionist approach to telematics, industry leaders should think carefully about how a more open and flexible ecosystem could truly lead to meaningful advancements in the equipment management industry.

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