The Potential of Telematics and OEM-Branded Apps

Telematics Update’s Susan Kuchinskas looks at the potential of (and barriers to) OEM-branded apps delivered to the phone in fleets in her recent informative online article.  Susan analyzes a variety of solutions, including the recently launched GreenRoad Smartphone edition. So, if you’re still not quite sure what it means, read on…

Handsets First

For its branded smartphone application, GreenRoad, provider of driver performance management services for fleets, took a different tack to others, starting with the phone and planning to connect to in-car systems later. In October, it released a beta version of GreenRoad Smartphone Edition, planning for the general release of the Android-based app this year, with an iOS version next year. (For more on fleets, see Industry insight: Fleet telematics.)

This product uses smartphone native functionality, including GPS and built-in accelerometers, without needing to connect to an embedded or installed unit. Drivers download the app, and place their phones into a vehicle mount. The company thinks it’s solved some of the difficulties of using the highly mobile phone to track vehicle motion.

“The algorithms we have in place have been trained to understand the difference between a legitimate vehicle maneuver and an out-of-cradle event. When the phone senses that the vehicle has stopped moving and I take it out of the cradle, a voice says, ‘GreenRoad trip ended,'” says Tanya Roberts, SVP of marketing.

The business case is straightforward. GreenRoad Smartphone Edition is designed to broaden the company’s market, appealing to the kind of business and delivery fleets characterized by rapid vehicle turnover, short-term leases and rotating fleet equipment.

Fleet telematics solutions in the US

The penetration of fleet telematics solutions in the United States is approximately 15 percent, according to company chairman and CEO Jim Heeger, with penetration of driver performance and safety applications even lower. “By porting the solution to the smartphone and being able to do the data capture there, you take out the need for a dedicated device in the vehicle. And that opens up the market to new fleets for which it otherwise wouldn’t be economical,” he says.

Eventually, GreenRoad does plan to tie this application to the car’s systems, likely via a Bluetooth dongle connecting with the engine connection module. That would allow the application to access odometer and other readings from the engine.

GreenRoad sees the smartphone edition ultimately complementing installed products as well. Says Roberts, “This provides sophisticated, real-time, in-the-moment feedback. While established fleets that already have telematics in the vehicle are reluctant to add another, I’m seeing interest across the board from fleets that want to provide real-time support in helping drivers to improve but already have devices in the vehicle.”

Susan Kuchinskas is a regular contributor to TU – Click here to read the full article.