5G on the move: How next-gen networks will transform logistics and fleet management.

From AR dashboards coaching drivers to comprehensive insights to calibrate fleet operations in real time, 5G will empower organizations to do more with their fleets in expected—and unexpected—ways.

When one of T-Mobile for Business’ city government clients installed the company’s fleet telematics service to better manage its fleet of 1,000 vehicles, city managers were looking mainly to address fuel and repair costs and ensure driver safety. They had no idea they’d stumble on a better solution to a vexing civil infrastructure problem: potholes.

As they crunched the data, system administrators found that the onboard tracking device’s accelerometers were generating a pattern — eventually realizing it was produced by the vehicles running over potholes. The city was then able to use this data to create a near-real-time map of problematic roads, enabling them to direct and dispatch repair workers more quickly than ever, and without having to commit additional resources to go out and search for road issues.

It’s this kind of emergent solution coming out of aggregate data that excites T-Mobile for Business Executive Vice President Mike Katz most about the future of vehicle telematics — and the future of wireless communications in general. “I don’t think that 10 years ago we ever could have envisioned the things 4G eventually supported,” says Katz, referring to such developments as on-demand ride sharing services. “We’re at that same point with 5G.”

Next-generation wireless networks are expected to transform mobile communications for all of us, with radically increased capacity. In a 5G network, each node can support many more devices, with significantly faster average download speeds and far lower latency than current 4G wireless. That means an advanced network that connects significantly more Internet of Things devices, which will be able to share far more data in real time. That has the potential to transform everything, and fleet management is no exception.

Much of the buzz around 5G has had to do with the bigger data pipeline enabling a massive expansion of the Internet of Things and the higher speeds and low latency making transformative tech like autonomous vehicles much more attainable. But the availability of more data — and the ability to interpret and act on it in real time — has the potential to transform the logistics industry, too.

T-Mobile for Business launched its fleet telematics service in 2017. The solution combines a physical device plugged into each vehicle’s on-board diagnostics (OBD) port, coupled with an application that gives managers easy access to vehicle data and enables a host of administrator/driver interactions, from near-real-time vehicle data to in-vehicle driver coaching — interactions that are already powerful in the current 4G iteration and will become more powerful with the advent of next-generation networks.

Businesses who’ve adopted the telematics service to comply with the Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) mandate have already been able to build on insights gleaned through data collection. T-Mobile for Business’ latest release provides access to richer data they can use to optimize the performance of their fleet including active tracking, which provides live vehicle position data to fleet managers. This enables fleet operators to reach drivers on the road in real time, whether it is to reroute them based on up-to-the-minute data on shipment and weather conditions or to provide live coaching and training. They also get engine diagnostic data and access to expanded capabilities through input/output (IOX) expanders. This new solution gives fleet operators the tools they need to develop better productivity strategies, then implement and optimize them at speed.

“I don’t think that 10 years ago we ever could have envisioned the things 4G eventually supported. We’re at that same point with 5G.”

Mike Katz T-Mobile for Business

“A lot of these things you can already do in a 4G world,” says Katz, “but they’ll be a lot better in a 5G world.” Near-real-time services will become real-time, more and more information will be available, and voice coaching may well be replaced by AR dashboards. “The challenge,” Katz continues, “is how will organizations collect and process all of that data. How do you connect all these disparate streams of data as they come together?”

Katz shares the example of a municipal customer who has already used T-Mobile for Business’ telematics service to gather hyperlocal weather data: “Because the devices are plugged into the OBD-III port, they can see all of the vehicle’s functions, including when the windshield wipers come on, and collect that data — and an interesting insight that comes out of this is that they’re then able to see specifically where it’s raining in their city.”

In a 5G world — with a multitude of sensors and a much richer variety of data added to the mix — Katz has us imagine a hypothetical expansion: one where that city leverages their weather data even further, installing “sensors sitting in their storm drains, and they take the information they have on rainfall based on windshield wiper use, and then look at the water levels sitting in those drains, so they can immediately understand if there’s a flooding risk and act accordingly.”

Much of what businesses and governments will do with all of that data remains to be invented. Fleet analytics and reporting is already the fastest-growing segment of the fleet management market (itself expected to grow to more than $30 billion globally by 2023). Increasingly, it will be 5G networks — and the new possibilities they enable — driving the expansion and transformation of the industry.

Created by CNBC Brand Studio for T-Mobile for Business.

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