PeopleNet showcases new ‘connected fleet’ platform

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Updated Aug 25, 2014

Macro-level trends in connectivity and data have changed the transportation industry and how PeopleNet will deliver new products and services, said Brian McLaughlin, the company’s president at PeopleNet’s 12th annual user conference, Aug. 18-19, in Hollywood, Fla.

Brian McLaughlin, president of PeopleNet. Photo courtesy of Jim LowellBrian McLaughlin, president of PeopleNet. Photo courtesy of Jim Lowell

One of those trends is that devices with Internet connectivity have outnumbered the human population. By 2015 there will be 3.5 devices per person and 7 devices per person by 2020.

“We are seeing an explosion of things needing to talk to each other,” he said. “We need to enable that.”

McLaughlin and PeopleNet executives showcased a new “ConnectedFleet” platform they say will meet the challenges and opportunities ahead. The new platform consists of four parts, all of which are on schedule to be available by this time next year.

Mobile Software that will work on multiple operating systems including Android. With PeopleNet’s new Android option, fleets will be able to make certain apps available to drivers for personal use like Netflix and Skype. As part of this development, PeopleNet will require that fleets use separate billing accounts for data usage — one for corporate and one for drivers.

Mobile Gateway, a new onboard computer to enable what PeopleNet has termed the “Internet of Transportation Things.” This small, compact device will connect a truck to PeopleNet’s data center and the Internet using 4G LTE cellular networks and Wi-Fi when available. It will also use 3G and 2G cellular networks as failover to maintain wide-area coverage. Satellite will also be an option.

The Mobile Gateway will connect to PeopleNet displays and third-party devices in and around the vehicle using Wi-Fi and short-range Bluetooth communications.

M2M Cloud, a new software “gateway” that will allow fleets to “publish” the data communications taking place onboard vehicles between various devices and systems. It also will allow fleets and their trusted vendors and devices to subscribe to the data they want to receive through a secure feed.

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Overall, the new gateway in the cloud will make it easier for fleets and their vendors to receive data from the vehicle by moving the data off PeopleNet’s data center and into a public cloud environment.

Surround Vision, a new video-based system from PeopleNet that captures video around the vehicle. Small cameras are installed in various locations to feed video to a separate DVR to transmit video to an online portal for fleet managers to review critical event data.

The system connects to the Mobile Gateway to stream live video to PeopleNet’s in-cab driver displays. Drivers can see blind spots on the tractor’s left or right side when using the turn signal and behind the tractor or trailer when in reverse.

CLICK here to see a photo gallery of PeopleNet’s 12th user conference


Experiencing the ConnectedFleet

Click on the image to see a photo gallery of PeopleNet’s user conferenceClick on the image to see a photo gallery of PeopleNet’s user conference

Attendees had a chance to see the ConnectedFleet installed on a vehicle. PeopleNet brought a semi-truck and trailer equipped with the technology to the conference center, the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa in Hollywood, Fla.

Inside the truck, three PeopleNet driver displays are mounted to the dash — the Tablet, the PD.4 and an Android tablet. Each of these display options is connected to the Mobile Gateway onboard computer.

Mike Kelley, director of information technology for Mesilla Valley Transportation (MVT), spoke with CCJ about what ConnectedFleet means to the Las Cruces, N.M.-based truckload carrier. The company recently ordered PeopleNet’s color, touchscreen PD4 device to replace an LCD-display, PeopleNet’s Driver Terminal, which MVT has been using for the past 12 years.

MVT will install the PD4 display on all new vehicles and when replacement units are needed for its 1,200-truck fleet. MVT plans to do the same for its onboard computers from PeopleNet. The fleet currently uses the G3 computer but will be converting over to the Mobile Gateway.

With the PD4, MVT plans to add a turn-by-turn navigation application and the graphical display will make it easier for drivers to use electronic logs, he said. MVT will also be able to leverage the Apple and Android devices that drivers already own. Drivers will be able to use smartphones and tablet devices to receive dispatches outside the vehicle as PeopleNet is making its applications, like messaging, available for use on any device. PeopleNet has moved messaging and other applications off its data center and into a public cloud.

With the Mobile Gateway and M2M Cloud, PeopleNet executives say drivers could also change duty status on their logbooks while outside the vehicle from personal devices, amid other possibilities.

MVT wants to enable drivers’ personal devices to capture images of delivery documents and retrieve payroll information.

“Since we are already providing this on our website, we can provide it quicker to an app that drivers can download on any of their devices,” he says. Overall, Kelley is satisfied with PeopleNet’s efforts to extend connectivity to more devices and have data reside in a public cloud “so that everyone pulls from that or views into that.”

With the Mobile Gateway, drivers could connect their personal devices to a single Wi-Fi hotspot. MVT could get Wi-Fi agreements with truckstops and other locations, for instance. As soon as trucks are within range, MVT could access company data from vehicles, including video, and drivers could have Wi-Fi for their personal devices through the Mobile Gateway rather than having to connect with multiple public hotspots, Kelley says.

Kelley is interested in PeopleNet’s Android display when it becomes available.

“Android devices are a lot cheaper than the PD4,” he says. “Now we can do signature capture and come out of the cab. It would also be awesome for drivers to hand their logs to a DOT officer outside the vehicle.”

Kelley mentioned the possibility of drivers using Android tablets to take pictures during vehicle inspections. The downside to this approach, he says, is breaking or losing devices that leave the cab. For now, the fleet is going to play it safe with the PD4 display and Mobile Gateway.

“We’ve got time to go,” he said.

For a more detailed explanation of PeopleNet’s “Internet of Transportation Things,” see this previous article in CCJ.