TU talks to Susan Heystee, executive vice president, worldwide sales, Telogis, about the data and services fleets are looking for and how telematics companies can meet their needs

Briefly, what does your department/company do?

Telogis provides a complete platform that allows enterprises to manage and optimize their mobile resources and assets and integrate them into their business.

Today, organizations have millions of dollars in vehicles and devices, and location-based intelligence is a critical component to their success. We drive more efficiency and productivity from those valuable assets, and at the same time integrate them into the overall business strategy to ensure that a company is meeting their objectives, not only in terms of top line revenue, but also from a bottom-line perspective.

Increasingly, customers are looking to Telogis to provide a fleet telematics platform—routing, scheduling, strategic planning—as it relates to how they serve their customers, plan versus actual reporting, the full geospatial platform, and mobile connectivity.

It’s not about one element, it’s about the whole platform. It’s the ability to extend that across and solve multiple different business problems in an integrated fashion, and with a platform that integrates content and location, alerts and dashboards into their business.

That is what Telogis excels at.

What challenges do you think the telematics industry still faces?

We’re seeing a lot of consolidation in this industry. In the U.S., there are still a couple hundred players in that market, although increasingly there are a few large providers and a number of smaller niche firms.

On the whole, the industry is shifting from a hardware device-centric focus into having devices that, like the Ford Crew Chief offering powered by Telogis, will simply be shipped with the vehicle.

The challenge in the industry is to make the shift from device-centric providers to truly enterprise software companies. That’s not an easy shift for the industry to make and there’s going to be a number of changes that occur in that process and companies that maybe don’t make that shift.

We’re in the fortunate position that we transitioned to being an enterprise software company seven or eight years ago, and as a result we have invested heavily in our platform. As the OEMs deliver a connected vehicle, those companies that can both work with companies like Ford Motor Company and provide a premium enterprise software platform are going to be the companies that continue to lead in this space.

With so much competition among automakers, can technical openness succeed? How do you see the industry addressing the challenges of open innovation?

What we’re finding is that OEMs are differentiating on the great commercial and consumer trucks and vehicles that they build, and that building telematics is not their core business.

We see OEMs increasingly looking to enterprise platform providers like Telogis to deliver the platform that allows them to separate the platform from the device in the vehicle, where they absolutely have the best expertise at properly fitting these devices, connecting them into the engine, having rich diagnostics.

Where an enterprise provider like Telogis comes into play is then providing the platform that consumes that data and renders it into rich information to be leveraged by their customers. Customers are increasingly looking to OEMs to enable that connected vehicle so that it can be connected into their enterprise, their business, and their overall optimization and management of their fleets.

What was the most challenging part of 2010/2011 for your company and how was it overcome?

We’ve been extremely fortunate to experience considerable growth globally, and with that comes the challenge of scaling to large enterprises, scaling to larger geographies, and the challenges of international expansion.

We’ve met those challenges by staying focused on executing well as a company, and by attracting some of the top talent in enterprise software development who are really on the front lines of serving, supporting and innovating this technology with our customers.

What key topics or issues you are looking at discussing with the industry at Telematics Munich 2011 and why are they important for moving the industry forward?

What we’re going to be interested in is understanding how enterprises are reflecting on what our customers are asking for, which is richer data and more content. It’s also the ability to leverage location in their businesses, to have the vehicle connected, to reduce the number of devices that are in the vehicle, and to provide a platform for innovation within their business.

I think the next set of challenges is how to streamline what’s being offered in the vehicle both from OEMs as well as aftermarket that ties in technology like smartphones and allows commercial fleets to connect all of the technology in the vehicle.

At the same time, it has to expose that data within a platform and allow them to optimize and drive towards their objectives with their business and with their fleet. So it’s about reducing redundancy, leveraging richer content, and then exposing that through a platform that allows you to truly act on that information.

The real take here is that you’ve got companies, and some like us, installing aftermarket hardware and then you’ve got three boxes in a vehicle, but none of them are connected. That’s where Telogis can help.

What developments/trends do you see impacting the industry over the next two to five years?

Generally, the market is still laying infrastructure—vehicles are just getting connected now. As more and more connected vehicles exist it lays the groundwork for another layer of value: connected apps.

In commercial telematics this ideally will make the quality of connected capabilities higher than aftermarket.

Enterprises will continue to gravitate towards telematics. It is quickly becoming a must have for large fleets. This will push consolidation further along but should also bring higher quality solutions to the market.

Another interesting trend is the rise of the autonomous car. Look to see a few experiments that are finally serious in this area.