The Rise of IoT Fleet Management Systems: Challenges and Solutions

Date: March 24, 2020

Author: Ipshita Biswas

Fleet Management - PathPartner

According to a report from MarketsandMarkets (2019), the market size for IoT fleet management solutions is expected to reach $8.28 billion by 2021.

The growth of the IoT Fleet Management market is driven by the following key factors:

  1. The rising demands of businesses to focus on their key operations by automating several ancillary tasks.
  2. The demand for real-time monitoring of the fleet.
  3. And most importantly, the rising number of government mandates focusing on fleet safety.

Supply and Logistics stakeholders and business owners rely heavily on the fleet managers for the successful maintenance of their fleet inventory drivers, while simultaneously considering the ways of cutting down the associated costs. A fleet manager is entitled to several responsibilities like fleet maintenance, vehicle fueling, staffing, the safety of the driver, etc. Transparency becomes the key here as the knowledge of the operation at every step is significant.

What are the various components of Fleet Management?

Driver Monitoring and Safety

Ensuring the on-road safety of the drivers is one of the prime concerns of the fleet managers. Information on safe conditions of the road, weather and other operating conditions can prevent several unfortunate encounters. IoT sensors can collect several critical weather data and transmit the same in real-time to the fleet managers, which would enable them to make informed decisions to ensure driver safety.

A robust driver monitoring system can ensure that the driver is efficiently and carefully driving by monitoring their activity in real-time. A driver operating at an unsafe speed can trigger an alarm for the fleet managers to take immediate action.

Vehicle Tracking and Diagnostics

Vehicle Tracking in Fleet Management - PathPartner

In general, telematics represents navigation, communications, safety, security, and more recently, infotainment. A vehicle telematics device is usually a robust, crash-resistant black box, capable of receiving advanced wireless information. It can either be a two-way or one-way communication device. Some of the common components of vehicle telematics devices are GPS chip, cellular data modem, battery, and connections to various sensors.

Most of the telematics devices are designed to send a vehicle diagnostic report once a month to the concerned email address. Such regular diagnostics reports prevent unexpected breakdowns of vehicles.

Environment Compliance

Fuel Consumption in Fleet Management - PathPartner

A fleet management system in place can reduce the carbon footprints of your fleets, helping you to stay environmentally compliant. IoT sensors can ensure that the vehicles are burning fuel only when necessary, thus, cutting down on the idle time of the vehicles. Route and fuel optimizations are other important functions. Further, by tire pressure monitoring and keeping them inflated at the right pressure, the gas mileage can be improved by up to 3.3%.

Which IoT concepts and technologies are streamlining the Fleet Management process?

LPWAN or Low-Power Wide-Area Network, covering a set of technologies that have the low-power and wide-area characteristics, are suited for many IoT applications. As the name suggests, alongside covering a wide area, LPWAN also finds a perfect fit for IoT devices limited by power. The LPWA networking technologies are further designed to handle low bit-rate at a low cost.

LPWAN came into the picture when the short-range radio technologies like Bluetooth and Zigbee couldn’t fulfill the long-range requirement and the cellular technologies consumed excessive energy.

LPWAN technologies and protocols are broadly classified into two types:

  1. LoRa, LoRaWAN, Sigfox, etc.
    • Non-cellular technologies
    • Use the unlicensed band like Wi-Fi
    • Beneficial in terms of battery life, capacity, and cost
  1. LTE-M, NB-IoT, EC-GSM-IoT, etc.
    • Standardized by 3GPP
    • Uses licensed spectrum
    • Beneficial in terms of latency and quality of service

The availability of several LPWAN technologies leaves us with the arduous task of selecting the right technology for a particular application. This article would familiarize you with all the LPWAN technologies.

One such LPWAN air interface that enables you to connect IoT and M2M devices with moderate data rate requirements is LTE Cat M1. In comparison to LTE Cat 1, it enables an extended battery life and superior range.

GNSS Positioning in Fleet Management - PathPartner

GNSS Positioning has gained prominence in several IoT applications and services with the growing demand for location-based intelligence and tracking information. Global Navigation Satellite System, as the name suggests, is a satellite-based navigation system, utilizing small satellites to geographically locate the user’s receiver on Earth’s surface.

In general, a GNSS receiver has two components – an antenna and a processing unit. The antenna is for receiving the signal and the processing unit is for decoding it. To be located, a receiver needs to collect a signal from at least three satellites.

Power Management or Battery Monitoring is of utmost importance for fleet management systems where the fleet can be anywhere from the center of a city to a remote area where immediate battery replacement isn’t an option. Moreover, battery chemistry is prone to frequent changes with time and surrounding temperatures. There can be significant losses in the overall capacity of the battery after a certain number of recharge cycles. The rate at which capacity loss happens is highly dependent on the surrounding temperature and the battery type. Hence, it is very important to correctly estimate the capability of the battery pack, which directly impacts the overall device’s lifetime. That makes it necessary to use a battery gas gauge such as BQ34110 to monitor the battery pack's health and avoid accidental shutdowns, as well as to assist in preventive maintenance, resulting in improved user experience.

Security of fleet cannot be ignored as a vehicle can be a repository of valuable company data and should be protected from getting into the wrong hands. Controlling vehicle access and vehicle data access becomes significant here. Vehicle access control can be handled with camera-based technologies like face recognition, or identity card-based technologies using NFC or UWB.

Conclusion

Technologies like OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) and GPS have been around for decades and have helped fleet managers to a great extent. With the ever-evolving uses of sensors and connectivity technologies, it has become possible for fleet managers to keep track of everything related to their fleet. Inside a vehicle, a sensor can be connected to anything to collect relevant data and process it to reach an intelligent conclusion.

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