South African success story!
It was heart-warming to come across a South African company at the IAA… and a company that is growing in leaps and bounds too. CHARLEEN CLARKE chats to Charles Tasker, managing director (international) of MiX Telematics, and discovers that the world of fleet management is evolving rapidly.
It’s IAA time so we are, of course, in Germany. But this does not stop Tasker from keeping an eye on his wife. “Ah, I see she is in an industrial area of Cape Town, and her car is stationary at the moment. I wonder what she is doing there…” he ponders.
A metre away, a colleague is fiddling with his iPad. “I see that my son is at a dirt bike track and his car is parked there,” he notes. “He exceeded the speed limit by 3 km/h en route to the track.”
Does this all sound a little macabre, or like Big Brother? Well, in a way, it is. But this live tracking of vehicles, made possible thanks to MiX Telematics’ technology, is not designed to spy or invade anyone’s privacy. It’s an enormously valuable fleet management tool, one that has been adopted by numerous blue-chip companies – Parmalat, Schlumberger, Chevron, Greyhound, Spar and Scania, to name but a few.
The big news at the show is the launch of MiX DriveTime. “Using this system, fleet managers can easily download DTCO data remotely to ensure legal compliance whilst also benefiting from world-class driver and vehicle management functionality, including track and trace, event monitoring and reporting,” Tasker explains.
“In order to fulfil EU legal obligations for the downloading and archiving of digital tachograph information, DTCO and driver card data have to be downloaded periodically. When conducted manually, this process can be time consuming and require a lot of co-ordination and monitoring at the office. Now with the new generation VDO DTCO combined with a VDO DLD Wide Range, fleet managers have an automated, hands-free solution; saving them time, money and effort,” he notes.
Subscribing to MiX DriveTime allows fleet managers to unlock the potential hidden inside their existing Wide Range VDO DLD units. No additional software is required as the intuitive web-based interface uses Microsoft’s Silverlight technology, supported by most web browsers. “Fleet managers have access to real-time information including vehicle movements, current driver status and remaining working hours. For more detailed analytical information, the fleet manager can access driver activity and event reports,” Tasker explains.
“With the ability to know where your vehicles and drivers are in real-time, fleet efficiency and customer service can be significantly improved. Monitoring working hours of drivers in real-time allows fleet managers to easily see how many hours each driver has left for a specific period, thereby improving planning whilst ensuring legal compliance,” he adds.
It is possible that the system will come to South Africa in the future… but not right now. “The MiX3000 is the emphasis in South Africa right now,” Tasker notes.
The MiX3000 is an affordable self-managed fleet management solution incorporating Stolen Vehicle Recovery. “The MiX3000 is an entry-level fleet management solution for customers who want to self-manage and track their vehicles online. This easy-to-use track and trace system offers a lot of features, including a driver identification option,” he explains.
The MiX3000 utilises the extensive GSM network, making it possible to communicate with the unit anywhere in South Africa. “It is the ideal product for busy entrepreneurs and fleet managers looking for greater fleet control and improved productivity from their fleets, but are restricted by tighter budgets on managerial or operational costs,” says Tasker.
Other products on display at the IAA stand include the company’s flagship product, the FM Communicator. “This product offers comprehensive fleet management functionality and can be used in conjunction with MiX Telematics’ web interface, FM-Web. This solution empowers fleet managers to monitor their drivers and vehicles around the world in real-time,” Tasker says.
Then there is MiX Telematics’ mobile platform, MiX Mobile, which provides fleet managers with the technology to manage their fleets via their mobile devices when a computer is not available. MiX Mobile is currently available for smart phones such as BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad or devices making use of the open source operating system, Android. “We were the first company to come up with a telematics application for the iPad,” Tasker notes.
He says that this is in keeping with the fact that “the world is moving to ‘mobility of information’. Some people think it’s a bit creepy to be able to keep an eye on vehicles on the road; such as my ability to watch my wife in South Africa from here in Germany. But, of course, this is a powerful fleet management tool. And this is the way the world is moving. In five years’ time every vehicle will be positioned 24 hours a day, and every individual too,” he predicts.
Smart phones and handheld devices will play an increasingly important role in the future, he believes. “We believe that young people in markets such as India will skip the PC completely and migrate to smart phones and handheld devices,” he says.
The other trend is that of connectivity. “For the telematics world, this is a great accelerator. A few years ago, people questioned telematics. Now people have a good understanding of the concept – and that is partially thanks to connectivity. We all want access to information and we want it now,” Tasker comments.
While the focus will obviously remain on fleets, he says that telematics can be applied to the youth too. “Another market where we will see this taking off is teenage drivers – young kids learning to drive. It’s phenomenal to have the vehicle tracking device in the vehicle; it monitors the teenager’s speed, excessive braking, and harsh acceleration… all those things. I have the device in my son’s car and, as a result, he is so much more aware of these issues – and he has become a much better driver,” Tasker reveals.
Of course, there is the issue of safety and security too. “You can sms your car to find out where it is,” he explains.
According to Tasker, MiX’s systems are unique. “None of our competitors provide the access to information that we do. It is web-based and you can go online but you don’t have to – because the information can be accessed via your mobile phone or iPad,” he reveals.
As we conclude our chat, I ask Tasker about the decision to invest in a stand at the IAA – it is, after all, a costly exercise. “Certainly,” he agrees. “But it is well worth it. We operate in 111 countries and this gives us a chance to interact with customers from all over the world. At this point in time, for instance, we have customers from Lebanon, Brazil, South Africa, Germany, France and Italy at our stand! We are forming some very good relationships as a result of our participation in the show.”
The visitors are indicative of the growth and expansion of the company. “We have a very specific mission to globalise the business,” Tasker tells me. Well, with customers in 111 countries and on six continents, I reckon it’s a case of “mission achieved”!