Embracing an open-platform tech world

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Anyone dropping $1,000 on a new iPhone expects it to perform many tasks. When the iPhone first launched, just a few apps were available. Today, there are tens of thousands, if not millions, of apps an iPhone user can download. And the vast majority of them are not produced by Apple. Spending that kind of money and only gaining access to a few apps is not what the consumer expects — or pays for.

That same philosophy is now permeating the world of business, and for truck owners and manufacturers, it means adjusting their approach. If it isn’t happening yet, the time is near when the truck will no longer be just a truck, but a means by which to derive greater productivity from the driver and the technician, as well as higher profits for the fleet and even the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). 

Much of this change is rooted in the democratization of technology. Years ago, a truck buyer had the choice of accepting the hardware preinstalled on the truck to run telematics and other technologies or, if the buyer required more functionality, acquiring the necessary hardware in the aftermarket. 

That is no longer the case. Providers such as Platform Science are making it easy for truck owners and technology providers to deliver the right functionality for the vehicle’s specific application. 

Opening doors to advanced tech

“The open platform concept seems to be getting quite a bit of traction,” Clem Driscoll, founder and principal of C.J. Driscoll & Associates, a technology consulting firm, told FreightWaves. “[Providers] talk about making integration easier than before.”

The Platform Science connected vehicle platform technology does just that, allowing for the development, download and inclusion of custom-built apps or third-party-built apps on a single platform. The system is designed to  allow users to manage, track and configure in one place all the smart devices in their vehicles, including tablets, telematics, and even individual technology from third-party vendors. Having this platform on the truck allows the truck user to install the technology solutions that best match the driver’s job or the truck’s application.

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It is also exactly what Platform Science co-founder and CEO Jack Kennedy said is the company’s goal with the product — to open up the world to innovation and productivity tools without the added costs of hardware and wiring installation associated with adding new technologies to vehicles. Kennedy said the uniqueness of the platform allows it to help fleets avoid “switching costs” required when they convert from one technology platform to another, now they can simply move from one app to another app as needs or tastes dictate. It also allows fleets to turn on only the apps that one or more drivers need without cluttering their systems with apps not related to their jobs.

“We’ve all been trained through our smartphones to connect and disconnect [apps],” he said. “Imagine you are an [executive] of a large truck fleet and you now can do for the drivers what you can do with the phone in your pocket. Our goal was to make it that easy.”

Fleets maintain control

The Platform Science software also includes a “rule-set” engine to ensure apps that would interfere with safe driving, such as those requiring hand-held phone use, are disabled during that time. This is controlled through the Remote Platform Management feature that would be controlled by the fleet’s back office administrators. Kennedy added that having the technology installed at the factory level will also open doors for the OEM to drive more value for their products. In addition to making it easy to include Platform Science’s and third-party developer apps on the vehicles, DTNA will host the platform using its own built-in telematics hardware and onboard telematics system.

“OEMs haven’t historically had a lot of ways to deliver incremental driver-facing value post-sale.” Kennedy said.“I expect the OEMs to be incredibly empowered by this,“How many times have you gotten in your car and thought, ‘I wish I had more information than this vehicle is giving me.’ Now the OEM has a place to play where they can provide innovations that only an OEM has the capability to deliver whatever those solutions may be.

For an open technology provider like Platform Science, the goal is to be the base for these solutions, making it as easy as possible for developers to innovate.

“At some point in the future, there will be many great apps, we can’t even imagine yet. Our goal is to be here as the platform that makes it easy for those developers to be successful,” Kennedy said.