According to ABI Research, one of the faster-growing areas in the commercial telematics market is the use of GPS-enabled mobile handsets for mobile resource management. Basic driver and load status information is actively sent via mobile phone to a centralized server, so fleet managers may better organize their field workers and make their operations more efficient. “Just a couple of years ago, handset-based commercial telematics services were a niche application offered in North America by only one major carrier, but they are now becoming an increasingly popular and lucrative business for wireless carriers and ASPs alike,” says Frank Viquez, ABI Research’s director of transportation research. Many of these services are offered as an add-on component to an existing voice and data plan through such carriers as Rogers Wireless, Spring Nextel, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. GPS-enabled handsets are ideal for small to mid-sized fleets looking for a simple and lower-cost means of communicating with drivers and to determine their status for dispatching, time sheet reporting, navigation and exception-based alerts. However, Viquez cautions, “Fleet management services delivered by way of the handset are by no means a comprehensive solution and can never replace embedded hardware.” Integrated in-cab hardware offers a deeper level of functionality for fleets, partially including remote diagnostics, driver hours-of-service report, cargo monitoring and additional choices in wireless communications links.

The handset-based market for commercial telematics is not as well-established in Europe as it is in North America; this should not be a surprise, since only a handful of GPS-enabled GSM phones are currently available in Europe. Instead, many commercial fleet services in the region, from vendors such as TomTom, GPS-Buddy (Garmin) and Navman Wireless, focus on a dashtop navigation device as the main user interface, with an integrated wireless modem and black box for wireless connectivity and some major integration. For local fleets centered around a major geographic center and offering local delivery, utilities and field services, this is an optimum solution and capitalizes on the popularity of portable navigation devices in the region. ABI Research’s Commercial Telematics Research Service examines these issues, surveys the entire commercial telematics industry and provides insight into other major market developments.