Connected Fleets on a Collision Course

Connected Fleets on a Collision Course

Companies need to rethink their data security strategies carefully before connected trucks become autonomous vehicles and are let loose on the highway.

There is a lot of buzz around connected vehicles, and for a good reason. The size of the business opportunity is huge. Navigant estimates that pure revenue from connected vehicle systems is expected to grow from $96.3 million annually next year and to $36.6 billion by 2025.

In addition to improving road safety and fuel consumption, connected vehicles can improve productivity for fleet management. Trucking is a huge industry which is vital to the US economy, so anything that improves its efficiency has a big impact. Nearly 3 million heavy-duty vehicles move approximately 70% of the nation’s freight, about 9.2 billion tons annually, according to the American Trucking Associations.

 

Connected Trucks on a Roll

Trucking companies are already using real-time data collected from truck sensors to optimize operations. For example, Saia LTL Freight currently sends back live information from its fleet of more than 3,000 trucks, including the vehicle’s fuel economy, location, and engine diagnostics, to engineers in the company’s offices.

Recently, New World Van Lines of Chicago adopted the Rand McNally HD 100, a plug and play fleet technology solution that integrates fleet dispatch, routing and management systems while pairing with drivers’ iPhone or Android devices for complete track and trace. Drivers now have hands-free e-logging that will be compliant with new federal regulations and Rand McNally’s extensive array of driver information for routing, safety and compliance.  

Last May, Daimler revealed the world’s first officially recognized self-driving truck, which should be in commercial use within a decade.

Although there are many financial benefits to implementing connected vehicles, the excessive costs can stand in the way. Last month, Sandeep Kar, global director of research, automotive and transportation for global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, noted in a presentation that “connected vehicle” technology—a key stepping stone to “autonomous vehicle” operation—will add $18,000 to the base cost of Class 8 trucks by 2025.

In addition, in order for fleet managers to experience the full benefit of connected vehicles, there needs to be a clear method for protecting and sharing all of the data that is being generated. Nevertheless, federal logging mandates and other regulations may make the connected vehicle just another cost of doing business.

 

Safeguards for Data Sharing and Protection

The owner of all this vehicle data is still unclear and leaving data unprotected could present a security risk to trucking companies.

There are several different types of devices, sensors, controllers and applications that need to share data, creating the risk that operational data can be lost. Trucks consoles are used for dispatching, routing information, GPS systems, diagnostics and service records. Information about temperature, humidity and other environmental conditions is monitored in order to protect sensitive cargo. And security sensors send alerts when a back door is left open indicating possible theft.

In contrast, product, customer, and financial information is typically accessed and added using handheld devices. For example with direct store delivery, truck operators use mobile devices to check order status, perform credit checks, check inventories and order merchandise. All of these systems need to interface with CRM, ERP and financial systems at headquarters.  

To track activity for each vehicle, all this information from consoles, mobile devices, and back office systems needs to be integrated. If third party trucking companies are used, all these information flows become even more complicated as each vehicle could be used to transport goods for several different companies.

The best way to ensure that connected vehicles operate safely is to provide a mechanism that allows for secure and streamlined ways to share data between hand-held devices, consoles and back office systems. In addition, it is essential to include safeguards to prevent data loss and hackers from interfering and causing accidents, misdirection or other mischief.

Connected vehicles are here now and autonomous vehicles are the wave of the future. In addition to providing new efficiencies, sharing all the related data presents huge vulnerabilities. Besides the future scares of autonomous trucks going out of control with potentially disastrous results, the loss of financial and logistics information in today’s connected vehicles could lead to theft, fines and a loss of a company’s reputation. The key data security principles of encryption-at-rest and encryption-in-transit have taken on new meaning. With all the risks involved, organizations need to rethink their integration security and data ownership strategies carefully before connected trucks become autonomous vehicles and are let loose on the highway.

 

Glenn Johnson is senior vice president of Magic Software Americas, a provider of enterprise-grade application development and business process integration software solutions.

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