PeopleNet to Roll Out New Platform, Adding Android Devices, Driver Apps

Seth Clevenger/Transport Topics
This story appears in the Aug. 31 print edition of Transport Topics.

PHOENIX — PeopleNet will launch the next evolution of its fleet-management platform next month, incorporating its latest mobile technology and adding Android-based devices to its product line, the company said here at its annual user conference.

The new ConnectedFleet Platform, which will aggregate data from the truck, driver devices and a variety of onboard devices and transmit it through a cloud-based network, is designed to help fleets further enhance the efficiency of their operations.

PeopleNet, which is part of Trimble, will release that system and its main components, including its Mobile Gateway hardware and a new proprietary Android tablet, by the end of September, company executives told Transport Topics.

PeopleNet also launched a new set of mobile applications for drivers’ personal devices and is exploring software for wearables such as the Apple Watch as well.

President Brian McLaughlin told attendees that transportation technology will need to focus on alleviating “friction points” in the years ahead.

While the basic task of moving goods from point A to point B is quite simple, he said, there are various complications that slow things down — such as capacity constraints, the driver shortage, traffic congestion and regulations.

“These are the barriers, the friction points, that we work hard to remove,” McLaughlin said. “Now the question is: How do we take it to the next level?”

Mark Kessler, general manager of trucking for PeopleNet, said the ConnectedFleet Platform provides “more flexibility and functionality than we’ve ever seen before,” enabling the company to provide customers with better access to data and more analytics at a much more rapid pace.

That information will equip fleets to “take on any challenge that’s coming over the next couple years,” he said.

The ConnectedFleet Platform relies on PeopleNet’s Mobile Gateway, which serves as a “hub” providing connectivity to a variety of devices in and around the truck, such as in-cab displays, mobile devices and the company’s new video-intelligence product, also set to launch later this year.

The Mobile Gateway, which replaces the company’s previous-generation onboard computers, provides 4G wireless speeds and can connect all devices in the vehicle to a single Wi-Fi hotspot.

PeopleNet soon will begin offering the Mobile Gateway as an aftermarket product, but that system also is available factory-installed on new Kenworth and Peterbilt Class 8 trucks equipped with Paccar engines.

The technology enables Kenworth’s new TruckTech+ and Peterbilt’s new SmartLinq onboard diagnostic systems, which the OEMs launched earlier this year at the Mid-America Trucking Show.

The ConnectedFleet Platform also will give PeopleNet customers the option of using Android-based devices as the system’s in-cab display.

The first such option will be PeopleNet’s own ConnectedTablet, a new commercial-grade Android device that joins the company’s existing Windows-based Tablet. The technology supplier also plans to certify a variety of third-party Android mobile devices to expand customer choice.

PeopleNet’s recently launched PD4, a Windows-based fixed-mount display, also will remain an option for fleets.

McLaughlin said PeopleNet will remain open to working with a variety of operating systems but envisions Android becoming its most prominent platform.

Kessler said PeopleNet already is integrating with more than 125 other technology providers, but the move toward Android will open up even more potential for connecting services.

Meanwhile, PeopleNet announced the launch of its ConnectedDriver mobile application suite, a set of apps that enables drivers to stay connected with their work-related information while away from the truck.

The apps, which run on drivers’ personal Apple or Android devices, are optional companions to the PeopleNet system designed to improve driver productivity and satisfaction by helping them better manage their time.

The first version of ConnectedDriver will provide dispatch alerts, track available hours of service and deliver read-only messaging, but the company intends to expand its capabilities.

“Our initial launch is the tip of the iceberg,” said Randy Boyles, senior vice president of mobile strategy at PeopleNet.

The company is looking at adding functionality such as the ability to respond to work messages on the personal device and scorecards for drivers to track their performance metrics, including idle time and safety events such as hard braking.

Boyles said PeopleNet also is planning to offer software for wearable technology, starting with the Apple Watch’s next operating system.

That technology could transmit data such as heart rate and movement, if drivers are willing to share that information.

The app also could enable drivers to embed a counter showing their remaining hours of service on the face of the watch, displayed simultaneously with the time. The watch also could “tap” drivers on the wrist to alert them to important information, such as when they are running out of available hours or the vehicle experiences a serious engine fault.