Analytics To Go? Sure, Right Under Your Hood

August 26, 2010
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thumbnailCAFOLB3J 150x120 photo (business analytics)

thumbnailCAFOLB3J 150x120 photo (business analytics)

What does your car know about you?  More than you’d imagine.  Data recording chips keep track of engine performance, miles-per-gallon, hard braking or when your engine RPM exceeds a historic average or safe limits.  Analytics tools  and software charting that once let only mechanics review those details are bringing intelligence out of the engine and onto any fleet manager’s desktop or handheld device via the Web. 

Ford Work Solutions is just one example of analytics and data visualization on the road with networked trucks that can monitor driver performance, vehicle maintenance or even location.  A feature called “Crew Chief” lets authorized users wirelessly capture details that once lived only in the Onboard Diagnostics device.  Ford officials have said clients using the system can cut their idling time (which wastes gas), improve their overall fuel economy and reduce the effects of severe braking.

Trucks, buses and other commercial vehicles are being equipped with event recorders – some collect data from the computer and others use digital security cameras to record what happens inside and out.  “What makes sense for a fleet for 100 trucks is getting easier to manage for just a dozen,” says Tim Duffy, a Ford sales manager outside Boston.  “In a connected world, everyone wants better information, delivered easily and quickly.”

And real-time data makes a difference, he said.  Instead of waiting for a bus or truck to deliver its “How was your day?” report at the end of a shift, dispatchers can spot trouble remotely when a vehicle alert announces that it has been idled longer than usual or traveled outside a usual route.  One company, Fresh Direct in NYC, has trucks that will report the temperatures of refrigerated delivery fleet and send a signal if the temperatures reach unsafe levels.

We’ve said it before but knowing about a problem BEFORE it becomes a major problem is one area where analytics excels.  Visualization – dashboards if you’ll pardon the automotive pun – helps you see precisely where and when unusual patterns or activities are happening.  Selt-belt monitoring will even report to headquarters when passengers are not properly buckled-up.

So whether you’ve been listening to that “easy jazz” station or speeding – it’s getting harder to keep a secret from your car or truck.  And the trend will only accelerate when you consider that electric and hybrid cars have even more computer controllers and onboard software compared with gasoline -powered vehicles.

David Wallace
Spotfire Blogging Team

Image Credit: Microsoft Office Clip Art