Big Data Offers Real-Time Solutions and Predicts Vehicle Trends: Part 1

Optimizing Performance in the Transportation Industry


The practice of collecting and analyzing information began long before the digital age. But today’s culture of 24/7 connectedness combined with more sophisticated, less expensive technology has allowed big data to infiltrate nearly every industry. Your refrigerator can send an alert to your smartphone when it’s time to buy more milk and banks can monitor your every financial move to gauge your spending habits and detect fraud in real-time. If you thought big data was a passing buzzword, consider its role in improving safety, convenience, and efficiency across many industries.

In fact, big data’s reach is so wide, it can be said that nearly every company is now a technology company. Industries that predate the rise of the networked economy are changing their business models to keep up with evolving customer habits. For example, broadcast TV viewing has decreased sharply as more and more people watch their favorite programs digitally. As a result, broadcasters are forced to embrace new online platforms to adapt.

To keep up with competition, companies must figure out how to incorporate the latest technology in order to improve products and customers’ experiences. When used correctly, big data can function as a means to optimize any industry and determine what technology may be useful. Through data analysis, companies can sort through intended buyers versus real ones, and consumer needs can be determined to convert interest into sales.

Within a large and complex data stream, telematics takes data to the next level by weeding through to find the most useful information. In the transportation industry, telematics has been adopted to monitor a variety of factors, from fluid levels to vehicle suspension. Rather than sitting in storage, collecting digital dust, the data can be used to instantaneously help drivers with an immediate need, for instance, sending a hazardous road condition alert. It can also be collected and averaged over time to detect trends and determine if the vehicle is operating properly. Stemming from GPS and traffic monitoring origins, telematics can now measure almost every aspect of vehicle operation in light-vehicle, commercial-vehicle, and select off-highway applications, including construction and agriculture.

Big Data Fleet Management Tools

Finding Patterns to Detect Critical Insights
Extracting a large sum of data isn’t particularly useful without the ability to filter through it all to draw helpful conclusions. With an overwhelming amount of information flying back and forth, what should we do with it all? Dana engineers place a high value on customization. Our customers’ range of needs vary across product groups, so simplification is key to finding answers. By breaking down data into different dimensions, customized solutions can be determined.

Simplification can also help detect patterns and connect seemingly unrelated events. With growing pressure to increase efficiency on a global level, engineers are faced with a complex challenge, having exhausted other efforts to meet continually rising government-issued standards. Critical insights on how to take efficiency to the next level are continually being discovered through data mining.

Drivers can be alerted to dangers in real time, and fleet owners can study patterns to discover new paths to increase productivity and profitability. By carefully analyzing data from a fleet’s operation, not only can the fleet manager see which drivers use the least fuel, but they can also determine what those drivers did to achieve that level of efficiency. The information can then be used to set standard operational processes with measurable goals and determine best practices for training for other drivers.

The U.S. Department of Energy states that operator behavior is a major factor affecting fuel economy. Quick acceleration followed by heavy braking, excessive idling, and driving at high speeds all reduce mpg. In addition, keeping up with maintenance contributes toward a more efficient vehicle. Big data monitors these countless parameters while scrutinizing aspects of vehicle operation that might be just slightly awry. These data points are then monitored more closely and additional data is collected on them to determine whether a somewhat off-normal status is an anomaly or an actual cause for concern. Future trouble spots can be detected ten steps earlier, before they become major problems. Once the malfunction indicator lamp (MIL) turns on, it’s too late – something is already amiss. Our goal is to identify potential problems early and rectify them before downtime occurs.

The key to quality data is to keep your objectives in mind. At Dana, the end goal is not to just collect data or even to analyze it, but to use it as a tool to help fleets run a better operation, improve safety, and save money. The fact that big data is that underlying tool is interesting, but it’s not the real story. Proven results for the end user are what drive our quest for continuous innovation. In our next post, we will discuss perceived risks that fleet managers may associate with employing a telematics system, along with the many benefits of using big data to achieve total systems integration.

We’d like to hear your thoughts.

  • How has your company adapted to successfully compete in a digital world?
  • What do you need to know that can be discovered through the use of data?
  •  What new sources of data provide the greatest insight?

Published by Don Remboski


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