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Cloudy with a Chance of Profits

At the Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) trade show for trucking, and again at the National Transportation Equipment Associations (NTEA) Green Truck and Working Truck shows this last month, I was struck by the invasion of the Internet of Things to this world, where most people have their feet on the ground and transportation is where the rubber meets the road.  15 years ago I was working with the industry to develop the truck radio into a multi-purpose radio/computer/GPS/USB/whatever device that would be the end-all of infotainment devices.  (That’s information and entertainment combined).  We called it the Truck Productivity Computer.  At that time, the world was making the transition from satellite based positioning systems controlled mostly by Qualcomm with its geostationary orbit satellite access for positioning.  It was not long before that, that President Clinton provided for increased performance for the Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system for commercial applications.  Something called analog cell phone communications were vying with mobile radio solutions.  Since then we’ve gone from analog to 2G, to 3G to 4G to 4G LTE and beyond with much higher data rates and lower costs.  GPS positioning has improved to where I always use it for determining my distance to the pin in golf.
What strikes me is that Michelin announced Tire Care™ a cloud based system for tracking tires at TMC and AutoMeter announced AMPNET  a cloud based system for tracking batteries at the Work Truck Show.  I’m sure there are skeptics out there that don’t like all this big data talk.  In fact, it was only 4 years ago that I was working on a potential product for smaller fleets that would help them move from using white boards and index cards for their fleet management to something a bit more computer oriented.  It was often their college kid working at the fleet during the summer that brought in the new technology.  10 years from now, it will be very different.  By then we’ll have everyone using computers for tracking drivers and vehicles; they will all have cell phones or watches with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, near field communications, cameras, bio-identification and more.  Pre-trip and Post-Trip inspections will be a casual walk around the truck with the phone or watch, taking a few pictures and having diagnostics automatically done.
I’m sure there are some that don’t believe it.  But, technology solves some problems and improves operations.  For instance, I prefer paying with Apple Pay, since it is more secure than the magnetic stripe card that had to be replaced after both Target and Home Depot had problems.  I use my phone for my boarding pass at the airport and my iPad for all my magazines and books.  More and more stores and small businesses are using their iPad’s and iPhones as point of sale terminals.  A new wave of products is coming out for home and health control.  Car manufacturers are about to get on board with better integration of the phone to the car.  I still can’t believe that over 80% of passenger cars sold last year still had CD mechanisms.
To close, I don’t really understand why they call it a cloud.  My wife and I visited a “cloud” in Bend, OR 18 months ago, and it looked an awful lot like a bank of computers and air conditioning and backup diesel generators for power.  Besides, I tend to think of cloudy as predicting problems, where-as blue sky is the dream of every entrepreneur trying to make it big.  For those of us grounded in transportation or manufacturing, with our feet on the ground, where the rubber meets the road, we don’t always look kindly on those who are starry-eyed or have their heads in the clouds.  But, that IS the future.  Your profits will be sky high up in the clouds.