Technology Transformation

The future is closer than you think at Best In Fleet event

January 23, 2018
by Michael Power

From the December 2017 print edition

Don Woods (left) and Mike Stallone. Image: Dorothy Jakovina

Like many industries, fleets face myriad what-ifs regarding how technology might transform their operations. According to two industry insiders, that future may be closer than it appears and looking 20 years down the road might be too long to wait. “I challenge it could be different in five years, the technology is changing that rapidly,” noted Don Woods, director of information technology at ARI. Woods made the statement during a Best In Fleet event organized by ARI Global Fleet Management Services in Florida last November. Woods, along with ARI director of development Mike Stallone, was among presenters during the event. The two focused on technology trends with a focus on applications for the fleet industry.

While it may sound cliché, technology is transforming the world and the way organizations do business, Woods said. Business leaders face the challenge of how to use technology in a way that creates value for their companies while also increasing efficiency. “How do we leverage that? How do we look ahead and see what are the trends that are out there? There are a lot of changing things that are coming along the pipe,” he told the audience.

The first trend Stallone introduced was virtual reality (VI) and augmented reality (AR). While augmented reality is familiar to many through mobile games like Pokemon Go, questions remain regarding how to use the technology in business, Stallone said. Ikea, for example, lets customers build living rooms online using AR on their smartphones before buying furniture. Some companies are also building “digital twins” of a process in the real world so employees can simulate, experiment and work with a digital device to see how that process will run when adopted in the real world. Car companies, for example, are using this technology to construct a virtual dashboard before manufacturing prototypes.

Machine learning
Machine learning is also gaining relevance in many industries, Stallone said. One pharmaceutical company, for example, has used machine learning to deal with customers fearful of vaccinations. Rather than a generic marketing campaign, the company used machine learning to buy millions of Twitter posts and other social media. From there, they were able to discover what was behind those fears and build a marketing campaign around that information.
A potential use for machine learning for ARI involves taking data connected to weather, the economy and other fields and combining it with marketing information the company could then use to predict when, where and what vehicles to buy. Machine learning may be able to uncover benefits of moving vehicles to another location based on the time of week or weather patterns, Stallone said. “There’s a lot of applicability for machine learning across the board,” he said.

Woods picked up the discussion by focusing on the Internet of Things (IoT) and its applications for fleet. Telematics represents the first stage in connecting vehicles, which will eventually communicate with stop signs, traffic lights and other elements. “It’s really about connecting everything to the Internet,” he said. “There are predictions that by 2020 there will be 30 million devices connected to the Internet.”

ARI plans to introduce the intelligent personal assistant Amazon Alexa app, said Stallone. That will allow fleet managers to ask questions or get information (out loud) about suspicious fuel events and other topics. ARI is also investing heavily in data security and privacy, Woods noted. The company employs a risk and security team that builds on existing processes, as well as a risk oversight committee. Whether it involves creation, storage, use or destruction, ARI focuses on keeping data safe, Woods said. Another concept the company is introducing is called ARI Everywhere, which lets customers engage with the company whenever, wherever and through whichever channel they prefer. The system uses AI and machine learning to provide service through conversation systems, text messages, Alexa and other channels, said Stallone.

Reducing email volume and the amount of data that fleet professionals experience is important, said Woods. Truly, the audience left with ideas of how their workday can be streamlined and some of the “noise” taken from their routines.