Omnitracs' Road Ahead blog

Reliable connectivity is the secret ingredient to efficient fleet operations

Christian Beatty
Senior Product Marketing Manager

You can’t bake chocolate chip cookies without chocolate chips, and you can’t successfully manage a fleet operation without connectivity you can depend on. When baking, different ingredients all serve an essential purpose in the final product. How and when those ingredients are used can leave you with a sheet full of great cookies or a mess. Similarly, the implementation of connection types can result in chaos or success for commercial drivers and other teams. 

Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cellular, and satellite connections are vitally important to connecting in-cab devices and supporting data sharing between vehicles, platforms, and apps. Read on to learn more about how choosing the best connection options can help you avoid pain in the back seat — and the back office.  

How our world — and industry — have come to rely on connectivity    

In 1962, five years after Sputnik’s satellite launch rocketed the world, Telstar sent their telecommunications satellite to space, effectively creating an advanced communication medium between Earth and the galaxy above. In 1979, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone launched the first commercially automated cellular network when they introduced 1G — or first Generation — to Japan's population.   

Around two decades later, Wi-Fi, or Wireless Fidelity, was introduced as wireless networking technology that would enable devices, like mobile phones and computers, to connect over a wireless signal. Bluetooth, a wireless technology used to connect devices over short distances, followed suit with its introduction to the world at the start of the new millennium. Then, WiFi Direct was introduced as another way to connect devices over short distances.  

These technologies have significantly changed how we connect to each other. However, no two technologies are created alike, and each serves a purpose in our industry. Fleet managers and operations professionals who understand when and how to best use these connections are realizing faster ROIs and less downtime. Let's see how these connections work together to get data from the vehicle to the driver and on to the back office.  

Innovation and dependability go hand in hand in the cab  

While the most reliable connection comes from plugging a tablet or driver interface directly into the truck ECM or telematics device, you can find a reliable connection via Bluetooth or WiFi Direct. Both connections typically remain steady, allowing the vehicle data to be sent to the tablet before being passed on to the data platform. This in-cab connection is crucial because no network — cellular or satellite — has true 100% uptime. Utilizing ELD solutions that transfer data directly to the data platform without backing up to a tablet can result in lost data, extra work resyncing data for the driver and back office, and noncompliance when the network connection fails.  

Some ELD providers employ WiFi Direct to connect the telematics device to the tablet in the cab. Wifi Direct is great for handling large amounts of data, but it does so while using up to 40 percent more power than Bluetooth. A power-hungry connection will needlessly burden batteries — leading to more frequent, and costly, device replacements. Due to the sensitive data types typically transferred via WiFi, and the larger range (more range equals more access), it tends to be a greater target for hackers. In interviews, WiFi Direct users have reported unreliable connections between their telematics device and the tablet, resulting in non-compliance.

Satellite and cellular connections offer unique benefits when connecting to the back office  

Just as Bluetooth helps ensure compliance in the cab, fleets that need uncompromised connection at all times can utilize satellite connectivity to streamline communications and share data. Most fleets who use satellite do so when transporting high-priority or high-sensitivity cargo in remote or dangerous areas, like oil refineries or mining fields. Without a satellite connection, drivers operating in areas that are disconnected from cellular networks can go extended periods without communicating with the back office. Choppy communication can delay urgent updates drivers may need regarding their trip and negatively impact your ability to deliver timely service to your customers.   

This by no means is meant to imply that cellular connectivity can’t be both robust and reliable. When not traveling outside of cell-service areas, cellular capabilities are highly beneficial. Cellular networks are known for having fast bandwidth and data transmission speeds, and that is most evident in the latest in cellular technology — 5G. Developers anticipate the fastest 5G networks will be at least ten times faster than 4G LTE, which already touts impressive network speeds. While it will take a bit of time for our industry to begin rolling out 5G ELDs, look to providers who prioritize reliable 4G and 4G LTE connection options, as that means they will also likely prioritize 5G technology when the time comes.   

The most robust ELD solution is one that incorporates both cellular and satellite capabilities, ensuring the connections work in conjunction with one another. The device can utilize a cell signal when it has it and then revert to satellite if the cellular signal is lost. Furthermore, seek out a provider that customizes the ELD to change the type and amount of data transmitted via satellite, as limiting unnecessary data transfer can reduce costs.  

With the right connections, your teams can win  

Your teams rely on communication, and communication relies on connectivity. Depending on their job tasks, your teams may sometimes only be as effective as the solutions they use. If they often struggle with the fallout from lost data when trying to complete their day-to-day responsibilities, they may quickly become frustrated and less likely to stay in their roles long term.   

When you utilize the right connectivity options in the right circumstances, you can better serve your customers and help your teams fulfill their job tasks quickly and efficiently. From secure data transmission to streamlined communication to guaranteed compliance, reliable connectivity paves the way for your teams to build efficiencies in your operation and is the secret ingredient that gives your operation that special kick.   

Learn more about how you can gain the right connectivity options with Omnitracs ELDs and HOS solutions built for your business.