An initiative to prevent fuel theft by monitoring vehicles with the help of various technical aids such as additional sensors or cameras, installed directly on the truck has gone from the initial idea to the prototype in just four weeks.
One of the greatest challenges faced when devising digital solutions is to bring new products quickly up to market maturity and make them available to customers – and this is true for the logistics sector, too. This challenge is met by Fleetboard with the so-called Innovation Funnel, a process that new digital ideas have been put through since the middle of 2016. Suggestions for future digital solutions can be put forward to the Innovation Funnel by employees, partners or customers.
At the “Media Workshop Fleetboard – Driving logistics forward”, held on 8 May 2017 in Munich, a group of international journalists took on the role of Fleetboard’s Digital Product Team as the jury for an “Elevator Pitch”. Faced with three ideas, the largest number of journalists voted for “Fleetboard Truck Guard”, so paving the way for the idea to advance to the “Shark Tank”.
The aim of the Fleetboard Truck Guard aid is to connect digitally with both the vehicle and an app. As soon as a theft is detected, an alarm and a message are automatically sent to the fleet manager’s ‘dashboard’ and the mobile end device of the driver.
The team around Steven Quaak spent the last few weeks holding numerous discussions with the development department and sales and marketing department of Mercedes-Benz Trucks and with more than 20 customers in five different countries. Although the discussions identified a series of technical hurdles, specifically in relation to the retrofitting of sensors and cameras and to ensuring an adequate power supply when the vehicle’s engine is switched off, the team continued to pursue the idea.
From the customers’ perspective, there is considerable demand for a solution of this nature as a means of preventing fuel theft, but the clear requirement is not to have to invest in any additional hardware. The discussions furthermore identified that, as a first step, customers would like to have some sort of oversight system that quite simply shows up any irregularities relating to the fuel.
First step: a fuel report
The first specific step to be undertaken by the project team is a “Fuel Report”: this involves an evaluation of data to reveal and highlight anomalies, for instance a fuel level that is too low when consumption has also been low. To cope with this, Fleetboard is developing a big data solution that is already capable of comparing existing data relating to fill levels, consumption, or the average speed of the trucks, with anomalies that may arise with respect to the tank fill level or fuel consumption.
The customer receives an intelligent comparison of the results, allowing them to draw conclusions about fuel losses. This solution relieves the customers of the currently still very time-consuming task of comparing fuel receipts and telematics data with dates and times in order to identify such irregularities. It should be possible to produce the report on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Customers are therefore able to draw conclusions about the places and times where fuel is being stolen most often and to introduce corresponding countermeasures. Drivers may, for example, be instructed to ensure that the fuel level of any vehicle parked in vulnerable places or at vulnerable times is only ever low, or even to leave the filler cap unlocked, in order to minimise the financial losses and damage. The project team has already prepared an initial mock-up of the Fuel Report and will shortly be testing the solution with the first few customers.
Further development: possible active intervention if fuel-related anomalies are discovered
A further development might, for example, see the big data solution very quickly identifying even minor fuel-related discrepancies, even during vehicle downtimes, and enabling a real-time alert to be sent to the transport company. The driver or the police could then be immediately alerted via text message or email. The next step after that would be the connection with the vehicle itself, whereby the truck would switch its lights on or sound the horn of its own accord in the event of a real-time alert being received.