By Wayne de Nobrega, CEO of Tracker South Africa
To most people, Tracker is a Stolen Vehicle Recovery (SVR) company. But while Tracker still has SVR at its core, the business has evolved significantly since its inception in 1996.
Today, Tracker is one of the many companies capitalising on the Internet of Things (IoT) and the data provided by connected devices.
Tracker’s entire business was essentially built on the connectedness of things.
While the company has not relied on the Internet as the primary data network, the principles are the same. Those principles being that a variety of objects – mainly cars in the case of Tracker – can be connected to a network in order to share information.
As such, the company relies heavily on a variety of network services, all of which combine to supply a mass of data that has seen Tracker change tack in recent years.
Tracker’s vehicle telematics have evolved from simple tracking devices to smart devices that supply the company with more than 40 million packets of data per day. The amount of data gathered is staggering, but raw data is worthless unless you are able to extrapolate meaning from it.
Therefore, developing and defining the algorithms that allow Tracker to understand and act on the incoming data has been a focus for the company in the last decade. As a result, Tracker has grown into one of the largest data companies in Southern Africa.
But how does Tracker’s data tie into the Internet of Things? The data provides Tracker access to information that enables an extensive knowledge of people’s lives and what they do. The key lies in closing the loop, back to consumers and clients, and using the data to deliver better products and services.
At its most basic level, Tracker’s traffic flow data is fed back to a number of global companies, who send real-time traffic updates to users through a personal navigation device (PND) or smartphone. As a result, users can avoid traffic congestion, thus save time and money.
Beyond simple traffic monitoring, Tracker believes there’s a vast number of items that can benefit from becoming connected – especially once data interpretation is applied. Traffic lights, for instance, would be able to report system faults over the Internet, automatically notifying the relevant roads agencies, and informing motorists to avoid the area.
But imagine being able to change the timing of lights at intersections, based on real-time traffic flow data. This is already happening in Nairobi where intelligent traffic lights are helping to ease traffic congestion. The smart traffic control systems are using real-time data and mimicking human reasoning to make effective traffic routing decisions.
Insurance companies are already using vehicle telematics to drive customer value through driver behaviour based policies. Eventually, as self-driving cars and commuter cars enter the market, insurers will need to adapt their cover accordingly, perhaps insuring per trip or even insuring the person themselves based on the data collected on driving behaviour as monitored through vehicle tracking units.
In fleet management, some businesses are already using telematics to track the location of their vehicles, and to monitor driver behaviour and route efficiency. In addition, they are also tracking maintenance data.
Logistics services could let customers know the delivery time for a parcel based on the real-time data from a vehicle tracker. This is already being used by some fast-food companies, letting you know when your pizza is due to arrive. Vehicle telematics can also be used to monitor traffic data to help reduce food wastage during transport.
These are just some examples, but with the rapid development of new sensors, faster Internet connectivity and lower data costs, the applications for the Internet of Things will continue to evolve rapidly. Tracker aims to be at the forefront of this trend.