Comment: On-board cameras and the vital role of high-performance cellular connectivity

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Dr Mohsen Mohseninia, VP, market development, Europe, Aeris, on the importance of connectivity when it comes to fleet video telematics solutions.

Dr Mohsen Mohseninia, VP, market development, Europe, Aeris

The use of on-board cameras in fleet management has grown substantially over the last few years.  With video telematics solutions installed on more than two million vehicles worldwide, the safety, security, and cost control benefits they can deliver are well proven.

Inward- and outward-facing cameras are helping fleet operators and drivers tighten security and prevent accidents, through 360-degree external visibility, continuous monitoring of driver behaviour, and the ability to detect driver distractions or drowsiness.  When incidents do occur, immediate upload of relevant video footage is an invaluable resource for emergency response, timely first notification of loss, clear fault resolution, logistics operations recovery planning and coordination, and driver training.  In addition to the direct operational benefits, this growth has also been driven by new regional regulatory requirements now in force (such as Transport for London ‘Direct Vision Standard’, which will go live in October 2020.

These fleet video applications are supported by a thriving set of solution providers, offering a broad variety of well-evolved camera designs and software solutions, including reliable artificial intelligence/machine learning-driven continuous identification and analysis of driver behaviours, surrounding vehicles, and road features.

In addition to superb cameras and advanced application software, tapping the full potential of fleet video telematics requires one more very critical component: high-performance cellular connectivity and at an affordable cost. The market for camera telematics service providers is highly competitive. The successful players will be the ones who can provide a differentiated offer based on quality of service.

Fleet management companies, for the most part, view all cameras as the same and then find, to their cost, that they have to reinvest when the solution doesn’t scale up, deliver the data required or loses connectivity.

For fleet video telematics, cellular connectivity must meet a number of critical application-specific requirements:

  • Consistent, reliable coverage, to ensure operational benefits can be achieved throughout the driver’s journey;
  • Affordable high throughput, to support bandwidth requirements much higher than normal vehicle telematics without breaking the business case for the solution – in other words, high data rates at low cost;
  • Careful device configuration to ensure close coordination with the radio access network, to minimise latency in video upload — essential for time-critical insurance first notification of loss, emergency treatment, law enforcement response, and operational recovery;
  • Flexible, easily customisable core and data transport network configuration, to enable video-specific QoS treatment and media segregation in the cloud;
  • Redundant & load-balanced data paths between the cellular service provider and the customer’s data centres to provide reliability and reduce delay;
  • Secure end-to-end communication with cloud endpoint control (restricting the IP addresses with which on-board cameras and devices can communicate) and minimized additional bandwidth consumption for security overhead; and
  • Itemised billing where cost incurred per SIM can be accurately reported and, where necessary, charged back to the end user.

Aeris provides fleet management connectivity to over 2.1 million commercial vehicles and our approach to service in this segment is informed by two decades of experience and innovation.

As a business, we’ve learned lessons over the years that are critical to keep in mind as you design the connectivity element of your fleet video telematics solution:

  • Compared to simple mass-market consumer cellular devices and apps, complex enterprise IoT solutions are inherently more prone to issues, because of the greater number of software layers and sources involved in the end-to-end solution
  • Experience shows the issues that have the most frequent, high impact are rooted in the device at the edge and the application cloud
  • Having clear visibility and control all the way down to the end device, remotely, since on-site repair is prohibitively costly

Our experience highlights that full end-to-end visibility and control, along with application of deeply experienced resources that know how to put it all to proper use, can make a world of difference.

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