There are two major challenges involved in the deployment of onboard communications systems, says Moreno. One is determining the type of information to be obtained. The other is deciding what to do with it. A basic onboard recorder might provide little more than GPS coordinates and data on vehicle utilization. The next level involves a multi-functional computer which generates valuable business information, and can integrate easily with other enterprise applications.
The issue of integration is an especially tricky one. Historically, says Moreno, companies have suffered from a disconnect between major information systems. Certain legacy applications require the transmission of data in the form of text or flat file, making it tough to distribute content throughout an organization's IT infrastructure.
Companies are now beginning to realize the value of onboard systems that are much more sophisticated than the old "black box." Fuel haulers, for example, can obtain value information on vehicle safety. Dispatchers and customer-service departments can get access to dynamic updates on pickup and delivery. As a result, companies can react more quickly to critical factors such as price fluctuations and changes in buying patterns.
Security is a key area of concern. Onboard systems can monitor the progress of a vehicle throughout its journey. They can relay information on a real-time basis about any unplanned stops, accidents, equipment failures or thefts. In the event of the last, the system can respond by shutting down the vehicle remotely.
For the most part, fleet managers want reports only when something goes wrong. Exception-based systems can issue alerts and even take appropriate action. Or they can provide the basis for human intervention, such as the dispatching of repair crews or the rerouting of freight.
Moreno predicts that onboard systems will be deployed in a broader range of vehicles, from large trucks to home-delivery vans. "The opportunity is really wide open," he says.
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