SAN ANTONIO, TX. Instead of re-engineering its existing technology to meet trucking’s growing use of telematics, PeopleNet is “innovating past it” with what it’s calling “a precision mobility platform.” Announced at its annual user conference, the new platform will encompass the company’s in-cab hub, core back-end systems and expanded analytics capabilities, according to chief technology officer Mark Botticelli.

The platform will take advantage of public cloud computing and machine-to-machine (M2M) architecture to provide “rock-solid communications with low latency and more efficient use of bandwidth,” Botticelli told Fleet Owner. Communications between drivers and back-office that now take minutes will be completed within a second or two, he said. The ability to access more data directly from a truck will also power a new “precision analytics engine” offering fleets greater operational intelligence and eventually even predictive analytics.

PeopleNet’s new in-cab hub component will feature 4G cellular communications that will be fast enough to stream video and provide a WiFi wireless access point (WAP) for other smart devices as well as Bluetooth capabilities. “It has a more powerful processor, too, so it can collect more data as well as move it more quickly,” Botticelli said. 

PeopleNet’s main applications will continue to be hosted in its own servers, but “mission critical data” will be stored in the public cloud at a service provider.  Using cloud storage not only improves communications speed, but provides more reliability and easier scalability, according to Botticelli. “Even if a region was to go down, it’s a federated system spread throughout the country, so there’s always access,” he said. 

The new platform’s core functions are also “de-coupled” so problems with one won’t impact driver and dispatch communications or other functions, according to Botticelli. And moving to an open web-based framework will allow the platform to more easily integrate with other fleet management systems and push data to other smart devices, he added.

The third component in the new platform -- advanced or “precision” analytics -- is being developed with Vusion, which is also a business unit of PeopleNet’s parent Trimble. The M2M architecture combined with the in-cab hub’s new capabilities “will expose more data” that can be used for new perspectives on a fleet’s operations, Botticelli said.

For example, simply reporting MPG figures by vehicle won’t help a fleet identify the underlying causes, said Tom Fansler, Vusion president. But adding data from vehicle telematics and a transportation management system could provide “context” with the proper analytics.  “Knowing how a vehicle should perform vs. how it is performing can let you see the real problem,” he said. Asset evaluations, route optimizations and many other fleet management problems could also be better addressed with better data use, he pointed out.

Looking ahead, such analytics could evolve into predictive tools, helping fleets best utilize on-duty driving time or identifying drivers with potential safety risks, according to Fansler. Streaming telematics and environmental data from trucks could even be analyzed to provide drivers with real-time coaching based on their actual performance, he added. 

“Re-engineering an existing platform can take too long,”   Botticelli told Fleet Owner.  “By the time you’re done, [the re-engineered one] can be old already. Instead, we’re introducing a new platform with new features that will naturally supplant the old one.”