Long Haul Harmony Q&A with Mahbubul Alam, Movimento

Editor’s note:  Yes, some of us love our cars, but however passionate we are about them they don’t figure as largely in our lives as a truck does for a professional long-haul truck driver.  Pana-Pacific is a company which supplies infotainment and communications systems to the manufacturers of trucks. But it’s not only what the trucks are hauling that needs delivering—so do communications and infotainment system updates.

By partnering with Movimento, Pana-Pacific is now delivering updates to its Android OS-based SmartDisplay navigation and communications system Over-the-Air (OTA).

Mahbubul Alam is CTO/CMO of Movimento, acquired by Delphi in January 2017.

EECatalog: Are we embarking on the era of the software-defined truck?

movimiento-smMahbubul Alam, Movimento: Unlike a passenger car, a truck is a more finely tuned driving machine.  Drivers spend eight or even ten hours a day for many days a month driving cargo that’s worth hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars so, making sure we monitor the vehicle, and provide comfort, efficiency, safety and entertainment to the driver is critical.   Each truck needs to be customized to the business needs of a particular customer, say, Walmart, Safeway or any corporation with a large fleet of trucks.  It’s critical that we enable these vehicles with the latest technology to match the best in the transportation industry.

Pana-Pacific is one of the largest suppliers of entertainment and communications systems to commercial vehicle (CV) manufacturers. Their specialty is customization and they respond to very specific requests from customers.  One of the most critical needs for the trucking industry is an infotainment unit in the truck that at the same time does not cause any driver distraction.  In order to keep units current and allow for customization for an individual fleet, software updates are key just as they are for other electronic devices such as the latest software updates for our phones.  The fleet managers also need to be connected to a myriad of stats that give information about the status of the truck, fuel usage, and maintenance as well as monitoring load and temperature and certainly location for business operations such as dispatch and route and pickup planning.  Movimento is working with Pana-Pacific to provide the software updates over-the-air (OTA) to these systems.

EECatalog: Why pick an Android system?

Alam, Movimento: Android allows for customization and a great deal of control where drivers cannot just go to Google Play and download the apps themselves. As such, having the entire system running Android offers more control in terms of safety and the quality of applications.  Creating a walled garden which would have specific apps available to truckers is the goal. As you know, Android is getting into the car, but it also getting into truck systems and many other verticals as, with Android, you are taking advantage of scale, stability, and the developer community.  There is an impressive developer community on Android and if you look at cellphones, the diversity of the cellphones that you can get with Android is huge.

You also have to consider that there’s a strong relationship between the driver and the truck. We might think that they are always together, but that’s not always the case.  What you want to do is have a system that integrates not only the operating system, but also the applications. In the market, there’s a huge pool of developers who can develop Android applications very quickly, debug them, etc. That brings a lot of scale. That’s where the system is good. If you were not to use this kind of system, and have something else, then you would have to have a specific developer for your operating system, which is going to be a huge challenge for a company to find these employees and retain them. The other aspect is that the Android system has been tested on billions of phones.  Android is a very well-proven system in terms of what it can do, and they’re constantly innovating to bring out more and improving their SDK APIs.

The whole Android mobile platform has made it very easy to write applications, and take advantage of the underlying ecosystem and the capabilities of smart devices.

EECatalog: What kind of applications are critical for truck drivers and the parent company?

Alam, Movimento: Movimento works most often with basic fleet management applications such as those that lead to higher productivity, better route efficiency, governance and compliance in the back end.  Also, the system needs to monitor when and where goods have been transferred throughout the journey.   There’s another set of applications that deal with driver infotainment and safety.  We get all kinds of feedback from drivers about their driving experience.  Truck drivers spend half their lives in the trucks, so they need everything around them from charging to calling family and keeping in touch with the home office.   Right now, truck drivers have XM radio and, because they go all over the country; they want consistent infotainment anywhere and anytime.

The assets that trucks carry are worth a lot of money, and if you add this to the risk posed from getting distracted and losing or delaying cargo, you see that both financially and from a societal point of view, it’s important to get it right.

Smart displays are important to reduce driver distraction. That is the number one thing—how can they have the flexibility in displaying things smartly? And if it is not right, how can they modify it so the trucks don’t have to come to major repair centers to download or install new apps?

Trucks have multiple apps, and the driver’s smartphone ties back into the truck as well.  Some of the applications are on the smartphone.  When the driver takes a break, for example, it’s important for the system to communicate via the app (pushed onto the smartphone) where the driver is starting at a particular time and that the truck is in one location and the driver is somewhere else.  In this way, on the backend there is greater visibility into the driver’s behavior. The truck and driver don’t always have to be at the same place. But, because it’s long haul, there is a whole behavior that has to be established, maintained, managed and coordinated.

Harmonizing the platform from the smartphone to the vehicle and to the backend allows the company to get better visibility into data and provide the drivers with applications that they need.  Organizations can now start doing all kinds of contextual- and location-based applications.

EECatalog: What is Movimento’s role?

Alam, Movimento: We are doing OTA updates on an Android system but managed through our Movimento OTA cloud instead of Google Play.  That means that the fleet manager has control over how, when and what can be updated with the rigor that it must go through in order to make it more applicable to truckers and avoid driver distraction and ensure safety.   This is just the start of Movimento’s customizable fleet management solutions.

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