27 January, 2015
Major funding to help develop uses of big data
As big data gains an increasingly high profile in the road transport sector, telematics specialist Microlise has won funding from the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board to develop innovative uses of the data that is gathered automatically by its telematics and vehicle tracking systems.
"Big data" is the currently voguish term for the massive consolidated databases of information captured from large communities in a given field of activity such as vehicle operations.
In the case of Microlise, the £359,000 award goes to the company in association with the University of Nottingham, whose head of automated scheduling, optimisation and planning (ASAP) research, Professor Robert John, is leading the project. Nottingham is providing resources such as data mining expertise and advanced data analytics techniques.
An as-yet unnamed global vehicle manufacturer is also involved in the project, which will cost £500,000 in total. Microlise has worked with various companies over the years, and has had links in the US with Ford and in India with Tata, but we have no further details on this aspect yet.
The project is named Value Enhancement for Data from Assets and Transactions (VEDAT), and aims to evolve what are termed novel tools and approaches to the use of the data. There are also hopes that additional applications will emerge across other sectors that suffer "data silo" black holes, such as finance, engineering and biotech/informatics.
According to Professor John: "A huge amount of data is collected each day that has the capability to offer great insight to those in industry. Our aim is allow organisations to unlock the power of this data."
Royal Mail to roll out 76,000 handhelds to postmen and women
Royal Mail has announced that it is to spend £130 million on handheld computing technology over the next five years – and a large part of that spending looks likely to come within three years as it rolls out 76,000 new handheld terminals to its postmen and women. The first of these should appear during 2015, the organisation says, and the delivery should be completed by the financial year 2016-2017.
It has not revealed what make of device it will be using, but says it is working with its contractor BT to reach that decision, and will announce the findings within weeks.
As part of the deal, Royal Mail will entrust te day-to-day management of current and new devices and operating platform to BT for five years. It already uses BT under a separate contract to provide mobile connectivity.
Finally, Royal Mail is acquiring new software to run on the devices, and says it expects to finalise that contract in the coming weeks.
The development is described at part of a transformation programme aimed at supporting Royal Mail’s strategy for enhancing its parcel delivery service and becoming more flexible and customer-responsive. Key elements include providing improved management information and enhanced tracking by measures such as adding expanded barcode data to shipping labels.
Earlier this year Royal Mail launched a new parcels shipping and tracking platform that is said to ease integration with e-retailers’ IT systems, and it has also enhanced its Local Collect service (under which retailers can offer collection from a Post Office as part of their portfolio).
Symbol to the fore as Zebra completes Motorola acquisition
Zebra Technologies has completed its acquisition of Motorola Solutions’ enterprise division, which specialises in rugged mobile computing, for a total consideration of $3.45 billion in cash. The transaction was funded by $200 million of cash on hand and $3.25 billion in new debt. As part of the sale, 4,500 Motorola Solutions employees around the world will transfer to Zebra.
We had no definitive information about future branding when we closed for press, but in recent promotion Motorola has been increasingly mentioning the Symbol brand – which it killed off after acquiring Symbol Technologies eight years ago, but which never quite faded away. Its latest product, the TC70 Android handheld, is explicitly branded Symbol.
It is not clear if Zebra intends to unpick this change and apply Zebra branding instead, or stick with it. It the latter, Symbol would become the future name for the range.
Zebra’s own web site has been augmented with a micro-site talking up the strategic benefits of the acquisition, with an accent on the currently voguish "internet of things".
According to chief executive officer Anders Gustafsson: "This transformative acquisition creates one company with unparalleled capabilities and leading global brands in our industry."
Motorola Solutions itself survives as a substantial independent organisation. It says it has 50,000 public safety and commercial customers in more than 100 countries.
Study into potential safety benefits of behavioural driving analysis
Can behavioural driving analysis actually assess whether someone represents a high driving risk? That’s the challenge addressed by a new study, Driver Safe 2015, that is being mounted by Applied Driving Techniques in association with Brake, the leading road safety charity.
The study aims to seek to investigate the possibility of making accurate predictions of a driver’s inherent risk status by using a behavioural profiling approach incorporating psychometric, emotional intelligence and motivator profiling techniques.
Applied Driving Techniques is already active in this field, offering a range of services including telematics and tracking, behavioural analysis, licence monitoring and fleet management.
The 20,000 participants in the new study are likely to come from leading health and safety-focused, UK-based organisations, encompassing a diverse range of car, van and commercial vehicle operations within different sized businesses and industry sectors.
The idea is to see whether it will be possible to develop a scientifically-validated driver risk tool that can provide benefits in terms of driver recruitment, accident reduction and road safety.
All-round sensors the key to Volvo’s ‘accident-free truck’
Volvo Trucks has unveiled its vision of a future vehicle that will be able to scan everything happening around it and prompt the driver to take avoiding action if it detects an impending accident. The company says the technology can scan multiple sources simultaneously, and likens its functioning to that of the human mind.
It’s not pie in the sky; the components already exist, and are said to be in a test phase. The main element is a data platform that combines the input from cameras, radar and other sensors positioned on all sides of the vehicle. This enables the truck to perform a 360-degree scan of its surroundings every 25 milliseconds.
The data input is interpreted, risk situations are analysed, and different route options for the vehicle are generated. Volvo says the system is clever enough to differentiate between pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and other vehicles, since it can sense both their distance and direction.
According to Mansour Keshavarz, systems engineer at Volvo Trucks: “The technology can predict traffic scenarios up to five seconds ahead, depending on the speed of the objects, and map out the best plan of action.”
The technology is the result of a research project called “Non-hit car and truck”, mounted in co-operation with Volvo Cars. The bad news: it could be five to ten years before it will be a standard system on trucks, which by their nature are much more complex and less nimble in traffic than cars. The good news: Volvo reckons it means that a truly accident-free truck really is within reach.
Growth and consolidation in European telematics market
The adoption of commercial vehicle telematics systems is still growing briskly, according to Berg Insight, which refers to these products as fleet management systems.
Berg says the number of active systems deployed in commercial fleets in Europe was 3.65 million in the fourth quarter of 2013, and adds that the market is growing at a compound annual rate of 14.2 per cent. The total is expected to reach 7.1 million by 2018, it says.
Berg says a group of international aftermarket solution providers have emerged as the leaders in the European market. Sharing the top slot are Masternaut, with an active installed base of close to 350,000 units in July 2014, mainly in France and the UK; and TomTom Telematics, now with 400,000 subscribers and with the fastest growth rate.
Digicore, which trades in Britain as Ctrack, has also joined the exclusive group of top providers in Europe, Berg says, having more than 100,000 active devices in the field. Transics is number one in the heavy trucks segment with an estimated 85,000 active units installed – though it has very little presence in the UK so far.
A major trend in the past three years, Berg says, has been the announcement of standard line fitment of fleet management solutions by heavy commercial vehicle manufacturers such as Scania, Daimler, Volvo and MAN.
FleetBoard by Daimler, Dynafleet by Volvo and Scania Fleet Management are the most sold systems, it says, with cumulative shipments of 150,000 units, 135,000 units and 100,000 units respectively.
TomTom – fifteen years in telematics
Those who still see TomTom primarily as a pioneer of satellite navigation might be surprised to know that the company is celebrating no fewer than fifteen years in the fleet management business.
It was back in 1999 that the company launched its Webfleet product, offering vehicle tracking and a range of fleet management features. Since then, according to ABI Research, TomTom has grown into one of the world’s top three companies in commercial vehicle telematics, with more than 400,000 subscriptions worldwide. It says drivers use its products in more than 60 countries, and it is active in 37.
Managing director Thomas Schmidt claims that its systems contribute to worldwide savings of 80 million euros a month, and save 11.5 million litres of fuel a day.
The company is also a world leader in digital mapping, producing one of the key map data sets used in navigation and countless other applications. It bought into this sector when it acquired Tele Atlas in 2008. That brand name was subsequently dropped, but now TomTom has developed a new mapping brand, MultiNet.
The Amsterdam-based company was founded in 1991, and has a workforce of 4,000.