Simply put, telematics combines vehicle on-board computers with networks and telecommunication systems to transmit operating information of the vehicle and its driver performance. Using telematics effectively can contribute to a higher level of operating efficiency improvements in the functional areas of safety, and maintenance. As well, when properly integrated with other fleet management systems safety and vehicle reliability is expected to improve.
School bus operators have been purchasing bits of wireless technology for years, systems or software for bus routing, maintenance scheduling, parts management, driver payroll, and student management. The problem is having many different systems for all types of information gathered independent of other systems, commonly referred to as operating in a silos, requiring costly human resources to gather all the relevant data and communicate it within the transportation and administrative network.
Recently we have seen an increase by vehicle manufacturers in the development of technology that will capture information from on-board vehicle sensors and computers to analyze the potential for vehicle system or component problems providing early indication of potential component failure, and with the ability to pre-set operating parameters for engine idle time, speed, and deceleration. The technology, when used with effective network communications, will provide event and alert notification to desktop, laptop, tablets and, handheld mobile devices. It won’t be long before we will see the OEM working to provide an in-dash GPS system that would provide route and traffic information.
As vehicle, maintenance, driver, and student management technology evolves, users should prevent systems from being developed into silos of independent management information.
A relatively new technology called “Cloud Computing” can prevent the excessive cost of poor communication and managing in silos. Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the Internet. These services are broadly divided into three categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service and Software-as-a-Service. The name cloud computing was inspired by the cloud symbol that's often used to represent the Internet in flowcharts and diagrams.
A cloud service has three distinct characteristics that differentiate it from traditional hosting. It is sold on demand, typically by the minute or the hour. A user can have as much or as little of a service as they want at any given time, and the service is fully managed by the provider (the consumer needs nothing but a personal computer and Internet access). Significant innovations in virtualization and distributed computing, as well as improved access to high-speed Internet and a weak economy, have accelerated interest in cloud computing, its use reduces the capital cost of equipment and keeps system operating expenses under control by being predictable.
Make sure when communicating with OEM telematics representatives, routing and, fleet management system providers, you discuss the option of integrating those services thru the advance technology of cloud computing services.
Pudlewski is the maintenance and technology contributing editor to School Transportation News and is the retired vice president of fleet operations for Laidlaw Education Services and First Student.