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February 2013

'Smart' Telematics Solutions Increase Efficiency, Affordability

Transportation vehicles have the potential to become the biggest cost center for transit agencies. Therefore, employing telematics, whether it’s a vehicle health monitoring system or modes of communication en route, is essential to sustaining an economical budget.

As technology grows exponentially, new devices and “smart” solutions help operators examine their vehicles on the spot rather than waiting for weekly, monthly or even quarterly performance reports to make educated modifications. And the visibility, via data collection, can provide guidance on troubleshooting as well.

Tablets and Open Data
Seattle-based Zonar, a provider of electronic fleet operations systems, introduced the 2020 telematics tablet scheduled for release this quarter. The portable touch-screen device provides electronic inspection, hours-of-service, instant driver feedback, fuel efficiency, two-way messaging and more.

Utilizing popularizing data technology, as seen with smartphones, 2020 tablets are built on an open Android platform. This gives customers the ability to implement Zonar’s additional offerings or contact third-party companies to develop customized apps.

“We recognize that some agencies already use a particular software, so rather than forcing customers to use ours exclusively, we’re opening it up so collected data can be integrated into other software packages,” says Chris Oliver, CMO for Zonar.

In vehicles, the tablets hook up through V3 Zonar’s telematics box that plugs directly into the diagnostics port and engine control module. It transmits data through a 3G connection.

“The data captured is instantly available for powerful reporting and process improvements,” Oliver says. “Fleet managers get visibility, and drivers get a versatile tool.”

Other notable features on the 2020 include a 16GB NAND flash storage memory, ruggedized seven-inch display, SD/MMC card slot, five megapixel camera with LED flash, video recording capability, in-cab training, Bluetooth and a built-in flashlight.

Atlanta-based RouteMatch Software is taking advantage of consumer technology by utilizing tablets as well to compliment its software offerings. Tablets come fully ruggedized through RouteMatch mounting partners, and RouteMatch provides power and cabling solutions specifically designed for the transit environment.

The tablet’s main perks are that it has a flexible Android platform and is significantly more affordable than traditional vehicle tracking devices or mobile data computers.

According to Rob Bryans, fleet director for RouteMatch, 95% of the company’s customers are either using or switching to tablets.

RouteMatch has also released the newest version of its enterprise software, which can run on a tablet, to keep operations running smoothly and cost-effectively. There’s one platform for all components of the system. The technology is also hosted through RouteMatch cloud services, which started four years ago with heightened adoption within the past two years.

“We had to create a solution that’s incredibly flexible to fit into each of our customers’ different infrastructures,” says Bryans. “We now have a one-size-fits-many product suite.”

The solution provides emergency response notifications; full driver dispatch communications; route and schedule adherence feedback to supervisors; integrated work order management and vehicle inspection reporting.

When a driver logs into their tablet, there are a series of prompts that encourages them to walk around their vehicle and perform the required inspections.

“The driver is the last person to see the vehicle before it hits the road,”  Bryans says. “[They have] the ability to save people more than anyone. These forced checks are becoming tremendously popular and an important tool.”


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