How the Internet of Things is used every day in some portion of your fleet

May 29, 2015 By and    
Photo credit: jpockele/Foter/CC BY

The Internet of Things refers to the network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors or connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service. Photo: jpockele/Foter/CC BY

Do you remember having to get up off the couch, walk to the TV, bend down at a 75-degree angle and rotate your wrist slightly to change the channel?

The fights that would ensue between siblings about whose turn it was to change the channel were epic. Thankfully there were only four channels to choose from, so fights about content hadn’t really been invented yet. Everyone was just happy to be watching something, just as long as they didn’t have to change the channel. Then along came the remote control and we thought our heads would burst into flames.

“You mean to tell me with this one gadget I can not only change the channel but also adjust the volume from the couch?”

As if overnight, the battlefield in the sibling war had shifted from no one wanting to change the channel to everyone wanting to change the channel.

We didn’t know it at the time, but this common occurrence was probably our first foray into what today we call the Internet of Things. You’ve probably heard about the Internet of Things and how it’s going to revolutionize our lives, personally and professionally.

As a quick refresher, the Internet of Things – “IoT” for short – refers to the network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors or connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service by exchanging data with the manufacturer, operator and other connected devices.

I’ve been reading about this concept for a while now, and there are some incredibly simple, yet effective functions, such as the baby binky that will monitor your infant’s temperature and alert parents when and if a reading is outside the norm. When I park at the airport, I love not wasting time searching for a parking spot because there’s a sign at the beginning of each aisle telling me how many spots are available.

Yes, there are some crazy and seemingly silly applications, which include the fork that will help you monitor and track eating habits – it lights up and vibrates when it detects the user eating too fast.

However, for every idiosyncratic application, there are 12 that provide real value to our everyday lives. Since this is a column about the propane industry, I will say that IoT is currently and vigorously used every day in some portion of your fleet.

Tank telemetry is the most obvious example and one that has saved fleets millions of dollars. Consider the average driver visits each customer five times per year. They typically make the delivery runs when the tanks are filled at 50 percent, and the cost of each delivery is roughly $75. Now deliveries can be made at close to the 20 percent range, dropping the number of visits to each account to two or three per year.

IoT doesn’t stop there.

The ability for the office to receive live data on each delivery as it’s happening allows dispatchers to make the most of every load while allowing for quick and easy adjustments to a customer’s usage predictions.

Vehicle maintenance information is a huge benefit to fleets in identifying things such as hard braking, excess idle time, predictive maintenance and assisting with Department of Transportation reporting. Fleets like AmeriGas have benefited greatly from in-cab monitors to aid in driver safety.

In an effort to optimize traffic flow on congested routes, vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity will become much more ubiquitous than they are today. Streets will be equipped with compact, low-power, wireless sensors that can be embedded into the roadway to measure variables such as temperature, humidity and traffic volume. The sensor data is sent over a wireless network to a server for processing and analysis. The system then provides real-time information on road conditions.

That pothole problem plaguing 75 percent of the country during the spring thawing period every year can be less of an issue for fleet operators who are checking real-time information on road conditions.

It’s also no stretch to say that over the next five years, IoT will be much more a part of our lives than it already is today. There’s really no end to the ways smart technology will improve our industry. 

John Rosen is the vice president of sales for Vertrax Inc. Contact him at jrosen@vertrax.com or 203-401-6071.

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