Telematics: Covering Your Assets

It's 10 p.m. Do you know where your assets are? That may sound glib, but for enterprises with trucks, rail cars, cargo containers, earthmovers, and other mobile assets, it's a question worth pondering. For enterprises that don't have an answer to that question, there are plenty of reasons to develop a strategy for telematics, ranging from compliance with U.S. Homeland Security regulations to improving the productivity of both human and inanimate assets.

To help CIOs and IT managers sort through their options, the December issue of Unstrung Enterprise Insider, Enterprise Telematics: Covering Your Assets, looks at key issues such as rate plans, interfaces, network technologies, and upgrade options, and includes profiles of a dozen vendors and service providers.

One of the report's key findings is that fixating on price generally backfires. Telematics vendors complain that enterprises frequently focus on the cost of a solution to the point that they overlook factors that are equally important. That analysis could be dismissed as sales talk, but vendors have a valid point. For example, a trucking company may deploy a low-cost solution that does an acceptable job of locating vehicles. A year or two later, however, it might find the solution can’t be expanded to support additional applications such as remote vehicle diagnostics and remote door unlock. That’s one example of why spending more upfront often means spending less later on.

Another issue worth considering is interoperability and interfaces: One example is a truck-mounted module that uses a short-range wireless technology such as Bluetooth or ZigBee to communicate with a scanner at the end of the trailer to track pallets as they are loaded and unloaded. The module then would use cellular to backhaul that data to the enterprise. The big catch is that knitting together these types of multi-technology systems is easier said than done.

"Everything has been somewhat of a kludge," says Roger Dewey, president and CEO of Telit's U.S. division. "People are hammering together radios and boxes to make them talk."

The good news is that unless an enterprise wants to roll its own telematics solution – and most don't – then those integration headaches fall to the vendor that is riding lead on the project. As a result, when assessing vendors, enterprises should pay close attention to the company they keep because those relationships largely determine their ability to provide a compelling end-to-end solution. Established relationships also increase the likelihood that the companies have experience in a particular type of application, such as container tracking. In the often byzantine world of telematics, that kind of guidance is invaluable.

— Tim Kridel, Analyst, Unstrung Enterprise Insider

This report, Enterprise Telematics: Covering Your Assets, is available for $900. For more information, please visit: www.unstrung.com/enterprise.

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