Fleet management is not just about where vehicles are. Thanks to the electronic smarts embedded in today’s vehicles, it can also be about how a vehicle is being driven and how well it’s working.
Netistix Technologies Corp., a Kanata, Ont.-based startup, has a fleet management system called FleetPulse
that doesn’t track vehicle location. Instead, it uses Wi-Fi access points to collect information to help maintain and manage vehicles.
FleetPulse can report on how fast a vehicle is driven, how sharply it brakes and accelerates, how much it idles and how much fuel it uses, says John Woronczuk, the company’s vice-president of marketing and sales. It can also measure emissions, and it ties into the vehicle’s on-board diagnostic system, which is the thing that activates warning lights.
Behind those lights is a long list of diagnostic codes, which mechanics read with a computerized sensor to find out what’s wrong when the warning light comes on. Netistix’s device plugs into the connector for this system and reports those codes to a central system, which makes them accessible through a Web browser.
Not only does FleetPulse report the error code if the warning light comes on, Woronczuk says, but it also reports “”pending codes,”” or problems not yet severe enough to trigger the warning light.
The devices report when they pass a Wi-Fi hotspot provided by Netistix. These would usually be installed at a point the vehicles visit regularly, such as the entrance to a garage or parking lot. In future, Woronczuk says, Netistix hopes to adapt the system to work through public hotspots. He says data can typically be uploaded in about seven seconds, which is usually well within the time it takes a vehicle to pass through a hotspot’s range, but if the system loses a connection before transferring all data, it will pick up where it left off the next time it connects.
NETISTIX DOES NOT TRACK LOCATION
Netistix is currently piloting its system with four customers — a federal fleet in Ottawa, a national parcel delivery firm, a municipal law enforcement fleet and a service and repair chain. Woronczuk says the company aims for commercial availability by the end of this year.
Though Netistix is focusing entirely on vehicle data rather than location, some fleet management systems designed mainly to track location also capture this kind of data. Dulles, Va.-based SkyBitz Inc., for instance, has an option for its system that can record engine hours so fleet operators can plan maintenance more effectively. Netistix meanwhile is looking at connecting its hardware to that of location-tracking systems, even using their satellite or cellular connections to report FleetPulse’s data.