Four years ago, I wrote an article entitled 5 Predictions for the Future of Telematics in which I tried to think about how telematics technology would evolve and impact equipment management in the construction industry. In broad strokes, my thesis at the time was centered around there being major improvements in (i) data acquisition (more data from more assets), (ii) data accessibility (data available real time from within a web application or through a mobile app), and (iii) data presentation and interpretation (information presented in a way that’s easier to understand and take action on).
Looking back, it’s amazing to see how much progress the industry has made. Here’s a list of some of the more noteworthy shifts that have taken place:
While it’s exciting to reflect on how far the industry has come, there’s still a lot more work to be done and the innovation pipeline remains strong. Below are five specific themes and trends that should continue to develop throughout 2021 in the construction telematics space.
Interoperability and data portability will continue to be unlocked as solution providers in the industry continue to shift away from a walled garden approach to more of a customer-centric model. Customers want to be able aggregate all their telematics data across their mixed fleets in one spot and data standards delivered by organizations such as the AEMP are making this possible. For example, Tenna (a leading mixed fleet telematics and equipment management platform) is capable of ingesting data from any platform through APIs.
One of the biggest challenges for the adoption of telematics by smaller fleets has been the fact that tracking machines is not much of a problem if you only have 5-10 pieces of equipment. It was much harder to get a return on investment and many small fleet owners decided to take a wait and see approach. In 2021 however, we now live in a world where everything we own is connected. From the car you drive to the 20 different smart devices you have around the house, connectivity is ubiquitous and people are more accustomed to checking their phone to see what’s going on with their devices and assets. While a small fleet owner might always know where their Cat 320 excavator is located, they’ll still want to be able to remotely view key pieces of data such as fuel levels, fault codes, and upcoming required maintenance. In many respects, connectivity is becoming another feature of the machines.
The industry has grown to be pretty sophisticated about tracking large machines but on a given jobsite there can also be hundreds of smaller assets such as attachments and tools. These smaller items are notoriously difficult to keep track of and are also prone to theft. While full blown telematics hardware is not an appropriate solution for these items (since they often do not have a power source), telematics providers have come up with clever solutions utilizing technologies such as bluetooth and QR codes to make it possible for the “boots on the ground” to keep track of these assets using their mobile phones. Take for example the Cat PL161 which is an attachment locator that communicates to fleet management platforms through the Cat App.
One of the most underutilized elements of telematics today is being able to use the data as a feedback loop for operations. In 2021, we will see an increasing focus on telematics being used to improve jobsite productivity by both identifying assets that are spending too much time idling (burning fuel and not working) as well as using data to determine which operators are not operating the machines most effectively (and might require additional training).
Last but not least, there is an increasing interest in using machine history and telematics data for the purposes of appropriately partnering with other entities and services. For example, many equipment dealers are selling enhanced customer service agreements where they bear more of the risk of machine downtime. In order to accomplish this, the dealer needs unfettered access to telematics data so that they can be proactive and stay on top of maintenance to avoid any surprise failures. Additionally, insurers are becoming interested in using telematics to price risk and determine what premium to charge contractors on both an asset level as well as a company level (e.g., likelihood of there being a loss based on how well equipment in the fleet is operated and maintained).
Our team at Boom & Bucket would love to chat with you and understand how the growth of telematics is impacting your fleet operations and business. Please reach out to our team at email@example.com. We’re always excited to talk shop with folks from the construction industry.