Telematics transforms trucking.
Compared to the general public, owners of Class 8 truck fleets can find some significant value in telematics: Maximizing uptime by knowing where your trucks are at all times, how much fuel they are consuming, and whether their powertrains need adjustments or repairs can add significantly to the bottom line. That's why fleets are a key target for telematics developers. Now the truck manufacturer International Truck and Engine Corp. (Warrenville, IL) is getting into the act by offering a comprehensive telematics system on its latest vehicles. The hardware heart of the system is a black box that connects to International's multiplex electrical systems and can transmit real-time engine diagnostic data, as well as the truck's speed and location; so that fleet managers can not only monitor the vehicle's behavior but the driver's too. While this smacks of Big Brother in the cab, Mark Schumacher, marketing manager at International, points out that understanding driver behavior can help trucking companies identify problems like driver drowsiness and make adjustments that can reduce injury and property damage. The benefit to International (aside from raking in an approximately $40 monthly service fee per truck) is a robust flow of data about the performance of their products that can help reduce warranty costs and be fed back into new designs. To get its telematics venture off the ground, International chose IBM to orchestrate an end-to-end solution that included tapping telematics infrastructure service provider Wireless Car (Irvine, CA) for information capture and transmission, and setting up back-end servers based on IBM's Websphere architecture. Jim Ruthven, program director for Telematics Solutions at IBM, thinks that the depth of International's involvement with telematics could be a watershed event for vehicle manufacturers. "This is the most far-reaching integration of telematics into an enterprise to date," he says, "From an execution perspective International is pioneering and passenger car makers can learn a lot from this."--KEW