An app store for connected vehicles

The connected vehicle is no longer simply an exciting concept. The fact is that they are here and they are set to change the way field technicians work forever.

And I see a lot of parallels between what the emergence of telematics has done for fleet management within the last ten years and what the connected vehicle will do for the field service engineer in the coming years.

While telematics has given us the opportunity to fully understand the vehicle, the connected vehicle allows us to essentially “plug” our field engineer into that network, giving them access to pretty much everything they could need from their office network while on the road.

For those that get the set-up right to streamline their working practices, this could lead to huge increases in both efficiency for the company and a better work-life balance for our engineers – which in turn leads to greater staff retention.

But, of course, the challenge now is how do we get it right? While the array of technology now available for our commercial vehicles is impressive, it can also be daunting, overwhelming and confusing.

This is perhaps where the app centre will come in.

We ran an article last year on fieldservicenews.com that referenced a report by Jupiter Research which predicted that the number of in-vehicle apps in use is expected to reach 269 million by 2018.

To put that into context that is a five-fold increase in the predictions of just a year earlier. The uptake for connected cars, and vehicle based apps is massive.

However, with such an increase in the sheer number of apps it is going to be important that developers can connect with end-users.

Two obvious markets for the consumer world will be the major phone platforms that dip into the auto market, namely Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto. It makes sense, they have established app stores, the framework OS and if they get it right, should be able to offer a seamless transition from mobile to car to mobile again to their customers.

With this in mind it was interesting to read George De Boer’s recent entry in this blog that outlined Webfleet Solutions evolution from ‘mere technology provider to Platform as a Service (PaaS) company’.

Field service companies want their engineer’s transition from vehicle to worksite to be as seamless as possible. They want their engineers to be able to take full advantage of the full functionality of a connected vehicle, but not every company will need every functionality.

Some companies operating in specific verticals, may need to provide a paper document to prove they have serviced a specific device. In that case a printer in the van makes perfect sense. However, another company may be completely free so a printer makes no sense.

While this is a rather obvious example, the fact is both of these companies need to build the functionality of their connected vehicle around their specific workflows. What works for one will not work for another.

Going back to the comparison with consumers, it is much like the fact that my phone is set up for me and my wife’s phone is set up for her.

I need to have access to Dropbox, Office and, of course, Angry Birds when I’m on the go. My wife needs Skype, an expenses app and a somewhat dubious music collection. We have the same phone but we have them set up to make our own individual lives easier by selecting the apps that suit us best.

Considering this, it seems like there is a gap in the market for the emergence of an ‘app store for the telematics industry’, which makes it similarly easy for field service operators to download apps and software that suits their specific needs. And while I’m sure Apple and Google are going to be around selling apps for a long time, they may not have any intention of establishing a platform dedicated to the professional fleet.

Therefore, the challenge has been laid for industry leaders in telematics to continue pushing the boundaries by working with developers and forging partnerships that enable the continued progress of technological solutions.

Change is coming quickly and we must be ready to adapt.

Visit the Webfleet Solutions App Center for more infomation on the applications already available to integrate with WEBFLEET.

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