IoT Company Brings Analytics to Customers’ Data

Orbcomm's analytics service is intended to enable logistics companies, fleet managers and original equipment manufacturers to understand the intelligence behind real-time data capture so they can boost efficiency, reduce costs and improve product quality.
Published: September 4, 2018

Internet of Things (IoT) solutions company Orbcomm has released a cloud-based analytics service aimed at enabling users of its system to gain intelligence from IoT sensor-based data. The new functionality, the company reports, serves as a way to expand beyond operational awareness of goods in transit or vehicles in use. With the new service, says Thomas Robinson, Orbcomm’s senior VP of strategic business development, users can understand patterns, predict outcomes and trends, and thereby improve their efficiency and outcomes.

Orbcomm makes IoT-based solutions for the transportation, logistics, supply chain and heavy equipment markets. The company has 2.3 million broadband IoT-based units deployed to date, with customers that manage data from RFID, satellite, cellular or other services. Much of the information is being collected for the management of vehicle fleets, heavy equipment and the transportation of goods. For the most part, Robinson says, customers have been using the services to track transactions and events. If a shipment falls out of compliance for approved temperatures, for instance, a notification can be issued. In the event that a piece of heavy equipment is moved to a client site, that data could be collected and shared with authorized parties.

Thomas Robinson

However, Robinson notes, “customers have asked for deeper insights” throughout the past few years. Orbcomm’s customer base has been growing as the company has acquired other technology providers, most of which offer some level of analytics among their services. Therefore, the firm has released its analytics service, which can be customized for each use case and be provided as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) to existing customers, as well as to companies new to Orbcomm’s technology.

The solution is being piloted by a handful of companies that have asked to remain unnamed. One use case being trialed, however, is analytics for companies in the cold supply chain that are tracking the conditions of refrigerated trailers, Robinson says. By using analytics, these firms can do more than simply learn when a temperature breech has taken place.

The Orbcomm analytics service can analyze data collected from the temperature sensors to predict when a trailer’s chiller may fail, for instance, or when it may require maintenance. In that way, Robinson explains, the technology could not only identify an event like the shutdown of the chiller, but “it could prevent the shutdown experience from happening.” The solution could identify patterns in in the operation of specific machines, based on the sensor data captured—for example, changes in vibration, noise or temperature.

The solution results from the wealth of data being collected from hundreds of thousands of devices, Robinson says. “We have access to a great deal of data,” he states, “and we have a lot of customers with many different use cases.” The advantage for Orcomm, he adds, “is our ability to understand potential solutions and apply IoT data to solvespecific problems.”

The data could be of value to more stakeholders than just a vehicle’s or machine’s users, however. For instance, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) could use Orbcomm’s analytics service to understand how their equipment is being utilized by customers.

According to Robinson, RFID is being utilized, in some cases, to capture data regarding how heavy equipment is being operated. RFID tags linked to sensors forward data to receivers that then transmit the information to Orbcomm’s software for analysis. If a manufacturer had access to data indicating how its product was performing, he says, it could then make necessary adjustments to the manufacturing process, or better understand the warranty system it offers its customers.

For service personnel, data can be captured and analyzed so that they can know when they should send maintenance providers to a site where a piece of equipment might require servicing. That could reduce the number of visits made, as well as prevent malfunctions.

The data can also benefit fleet managers, Robinson says, by identifying driver behavior. Already, Orbcomm’s solutions can provide real-time feedback about where a driver is located, or data such as a vehicle’s speed, but with analytics a company could understand trends and driver habits throughout the course of a week, month or year. Those analytics could help a company to better understand when a particular driver may require further training to improve on his or her behavior, as well as how well equipment operates over time, based on how it is being used.

“We have customers we’re in active discussions with,” Robinson says, regarding how the analytics service will benefit them. “We have a lot of know-how to apply our tools to specific questions.” Thus far, he notes, those piloting the service are finding that they can be more efficient and utilize fewer resources.