Interview: Edward Kulperger, Geotab
With a growing global customer base, Canada-based telematics company, Geotab, reckons there’s untapped value for vehicle data that goes far beyond the traditional fleet-focused use case, as vice president of business development, Edward Kulperger, explains.
What was the thinking behind data.geotab.com?
It started around six years ago. We were accumulating a lot of data, and we only had 150,000 units in the field, so we collaborated with the University of Toronto and created a project internally, looking at the data, indexing it and storing it in a way we could retrieve in a quick manner.
We now have just under 1.2m vehicles providing approximately 2.5bn data points per day, and we recognised that this is adding a lot of value. So two years ago we started using that as a self-improvement tool, and every department has a data subject matter expert. Once we understood its value within our organisation, we realised it would be valuable externally.
We had been working with a couple of municipalities, as well as a number of different organisations, over the past 18 months to aggregate and anonymise that data and overlay it with their datasets. Then we provide it to smart cities that have a thirst for understanding what’s happening within their communities.
Which cities have you been working with?
It’s available globally. We have an office in Las Vegas, and we have started working with the City of Columbus, Ohio in North America, and Barcelona and Madrid. We provide [the data] free, because the socioeconomic benefit is greater than letting it sit there and accumulate. Down the road, if it will enable fleets to lower their costs because they are subsidised by municipalities using their data, we see that some kind of balance will happen in due course.
What can that data tell you?
Nine months ago we published a story looking at Barcelona’s accident blackspots, as we have a number of units travelling through those intersections and could look at the behaviour of those vehicles. We were able to extrapolate some interesting information and provide that to the city who can overlay that with whether to put ‘Slow Down’ signs near those intersections to curtail accidents.
We’re getting to unique and novel areas, such as understanding when vehicles are circling looking for parking. We can provide that information back to the city as well, suggesting where they need parking facilities. So we’re providing the tools necessary to go in and grab that data, overlay it with other subsets and provide that insight to cities.
We also understand every time a vehicle is being serviced, and when a diagnostic tool is being plugged in. So we showed an OEM the services that happen in a month, and said here are the areas where you should have a service centre because they aren’t going to your dealerships. We had no idea that would even be of value.
How does acquiring hybrid and EV telematics specialist FleetCarma fit into this?
It’s a unique proposition, because [FleetCarma] understands the data flowing from an EV; when it is getting charged and what that does to the grid, and they provide this information to utility companies. As more fleets and consumers start adopting EVs, utility providers will need to balance the loads so there are no issues with brownouts. We’re understanding not only how vehicles can be used and how fleets can transition to EVs, but helping utilities and fleets manage that current draw to charge their vehicles.
How could this change the role of telematics companies?
We are in the early stage of a transition, where you will still need hardware as a necessary component. But the data will go to a cloud environment, which will be non-monopolistic, and application providers such as a TSP, service centre or insurance company will access portions of that data in a unified way. We need to work as an ecosystem. Not just fleets, but OEMs and other telematics companies need to start understanding this, or the alternative is change will happen and if you don’t evolve you’re going to become a Xerox or Kodak.