Telematics is nothing new to the construction industry.
It has long been vital for providing visibility into the activities of mobile workers and fleet vehicles, delivering data on everything from time on site and job completion to driving performance.
But connectivity and the open platform is transforming its use, opening up new opportunities for companies to improve their business workflow and benefit from an increased number of automated, paperless processes.
Data from a range of sources can be brought together on one platform to improve efficiency and increase the sharing of intelligence across different departments.
Across the construction industry supply chain, these opportunities are helping businesses become more flexible and keep a lid on costs.
Unleashing the power of connected technology
An open platform approach to telematics that allows businesses to overcome the physical distance between mobile workers and the back office is made possible by application programming interfaces (APIs).
APIs are providing software developers with unhindered access to the technology platform, enabling them to create integrated solutions that pull data together from different sources.
The result? Technology applications for construction sector firms that add extra functionality to their core systems to streamline and improve operational efficiency.
Office software, such as routing and scheduling optimisation, ERP, supply chain planning and asset management, for example, can be integrated with a telematics fleet management platform through open APIs.
In the field, mobile hardware - such as lone worker alert devices, vehicle sensors or printers - can integrate with in-vehicle telematics devices via wireless technology, while mobile apps can be created for use by mobile workers on the tablet-style driver terminals.
Once created, these applications are being made available to customers ‘out of the box’ rather than requiring significant investment in IT consultancy and development projects being undertaken on a case-by-case basis.
Applications in action: more efficient construction sector processes
The practical outcome for the construction industry is greater efficiency in workflow management, greater control and visibility over mobile workers and less reliance on paper for recording important data.
For materials handling vehicles, for example, on-board weighing systems can be integrated with telematics software to enable real time weight information to be sent to back office software, alongside vehicle location and journey data.
This can significantly improve productivity, enabling customer invoices to be swiftly raised based on load weight, without vehicles having to journey to weighing bridges after materials have been collected.
This application can also help to ensure legal compliance for loaded trucks leaving depots or construction sites.
For concrete transportation, industry planning software can be augmented with accurate ETA information from the telematics system, drawing upon live traffic and historic journey time information.
Data from vehicle mixer drum sensors can add further transparency to crucial delivery times, helping to ensure quality control and preventing fraudulent activity.
These sensors will relay live data, via the telematics platform, on the rotation direction of the drum - keeping management informed of when a concrete ready-mix is in transit and when it is being offloaded.
For individuals working in high-risk or remote environments, location data can be integrated with ‘man down’ panic alarm devices.
The devices, worn or carried by construction workers, can be connected to in-vehicle telematics boxes wirelessly, helping management protect the safety and wellbeing of their employees at all times.
Workers can also be given access to a single app on a centrally-controlled, tablet-style device that allows them to complete a number of daily tasks.
At the start of each day or week, vehicle checks can be made via the device, with the results instantly updated in the back office to ensure maintenance schedules are up to date and Duty of Care responsibilities are enforced.
Once checks have been completed, daily workflow can be loaded onto the device and navigation provided to the workers’ site destinations. Automatic alerts can simultaneously be sent to customers via text or email to advise them of arrival time.
On arrival, workers can submit proof of delivery of materials using the app’s signature capture functionality or by scanning with the device’s in-built camera or NFC chip. Once jobs are completed, status is updated in the back-office system, along with daily mileage records and worker hours, eliminating the need for separate, laborious record-keeping processes.
With events such as the TomTom Telematics .connect Developer Conference driving ongoing innovation in the creation of new business apps, the advancement of the telematics platform will continue to cement its role as the technology of choice for better management of workflow and mobile operations.
George de Boer is international alliance manager at TomTom Telematics