As a result, much of the investment in telematics data offered by new machines was not being utilized. "A lot of your newer machines built in the last five years, particularly the higher value machines, are equipped from the factory with a telematics device," Crail comments. "Typically, they come with a complimentary data package where you are not billed the monthly service charge for some number of years. But nobody was able to use this great tool efficiently. The gist of it was very few people were doing anything with this information."
There were options, but none were very attractive. "At that time, the big frustration with fleet managers was there wasn't a convenient way to get all of this timely and accurate telematics information over to the fleet management system to help them use it to manage their fleets," says Crail.
Three options were available if you wanted to use the data to help drive your reports. "The first was to visit each website and manually enter that data into your system, which is a central fleet management software system," says Crail. The second was to develop software to import data from each website.
"Most providers did have provisions for importing data into an end user's software system or database," Crail notes. "But each provider had a different means of doing that, so each one required custom programming. It was very expensive if you wanted to automate the process. Then every time you brought a new make in, you would go through the process again."
The third option was to disregard the factory-installed boxes and install a third-party provider's box on all of your machines so you could receive data from one source.
A solution emerges
It was clear a better option was needed. The first step in developing a solution was to define the necessary data.
"There are hundreds of data points available to each system," notes Crail, who went on to chair the AEMP committee to develop a telematics standard. "After some conversation, we pretty quickly figured out that just a few data points could drive support on 80% of our reporting needs - current location, cumulative operating hours, the distance traveled if it had an odometer that tracks miles and the amount of fuel consumed. Those data points combined in different ways, along with our accounting information with the histories we already have in our databases, provide most of the information we need to run management reports. So we concentrated on a standardized approach to deliver the data."
The AEMP approached manufacturers and third-party providers about delivering this data in a standard format that would enable one application to be used to retrieve it from multiple providers and import it in databases. The data could then drive reports without the expense of requiring custom software development for each provider.
"To their credit, the OEM community, particularly Caterpillar, John Deere, Komatsu and Volvo, were very supportive of the idea from the very beginning," says Crail. These companies worked together to help develop the standard.
"This was a no-brainer for Caterpillar," says Redd. "We understood what the customer required and saw the AEMP Telematics Standard concept as a reasonable approach to satisfying the requirement."
Each manufacturer provided its IT experts to work through the complex details and help fleet managers adopt a common reporting format for the selected criteria. "We basically arrived at the conclusion that XML was an industry standard format that was probably best suited for this type of a project," says Crail. "It is widely used and virtually any IT personnel can work with it. Developers understand it. It is a universal format."
The AEMP began work on the standard in spring '09. By early 2010, it was ready. "At that point, we settled on October 1, 2010, as the date when all of the participating providers agreed to start supporting customers with the standard," says Crail.
"The major benefit [of the AEMP Telematics Standard] is that fleet managers can use one software product to retrieve telematics data and manage all of their repairs and preventive maintenance in one place," says McGough. "This is especially important in mixed fleet environments. But it also means that managers without mixed fleets now have the flexibility to use other software products beyond what their equipment vendor uses."