Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the TU-Automotive Connected Fleets conference in Atlanta. This was my second time at the event and it was interesting to see how the industry is progressing in its adoption of connected vehicles and IoT.

I was pleased to see wider recognition of the term IoT and a better understanding of how it can help improve business outcomes. However, there is one thing I want to make extremely clear: telematics is not IoT.

Not everyone at the show was familiar with the difference, but I could tell that traditional Telematics Service Providers (TSPs) were beginning to see the light. Without doubt, telematics is a foundational component of IoT – data collected from vehicles fuels higher level functions. But, access to data by itself does not increase the uptime of fleets or improve its performance. It merely reports on what has happened.

TSPs are realizing that there is a lot of competition in the data collection business and it is becoming table stakes rather than a competitive advantage. To maintain that edge, fleets want capabilities like predictive failure, adaptive diagnostics and condition-based maintenance. That requires adding context to telematics data and integration with other data sources such as enterprise systems. Value from IoT does not appear overnight, but progressive companies in the industry are making investments and leading the way.

Whether it was speaker-led sessions, panel discussions or hallway conversations, a few hot topics emerged:

Security – No one wants to be in the headlines for a poorly defined security strategy. Whether the concern is the attack surface in the vehicle, data in transit or cloud security, there was agreement that a proper architecture needs to be designed into any IoT initiative.
Data ownership – While every OEM and TSP proclaimed that the data is owned by the customer, the wheels were turning on how to leverage the value of collected data for other purposes. In some cases, this could be insights derived from the data rather than the raw data itself.
Industry ecosystem – Who should be in the driver seat on vehicle data? The TSP? The OEM? As solutions become more complex and data sets richer, there is work to do in order to minimize duplication of efforts and ensuring that the needs of owners/operators are met.

All in all, it was great to see some old faces and meet new ones. In a broader context, transportation is ahead of other industrial sectors in deploying connected equipment solutions and discovering the higher benefits of IoT.

In the end, mission critical assets need to be available to generate revenue and run the business. I am excited to see this industry moving in the right direction to keep trucks rolling down the road.

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