InterviewsVehicle Telematics

New devices and hybrid smartphone tracking hold promise

Telematics Wire got into conversation with CEO of Modus group, Brandon Johnson. In a detailed interview he talks about almost every aspect of Telematics Industry.

Brandon Johnson

TW: Can you tell us about your company Modus

Brandon: Modus delivers intelligently designed and technologically innovative software solutions to insurers, wireless carriers and fleet operators worldwide. Modus is a pioneer in the wireless and vehicle telematics space with a DNA of mobile innovation, great customer experience, affordability and industry leading level of service, support and technological expertise. As one of the first vehicle telematics providers focused on the auto insurance market, Modus saw early success in this space and quickly surpassed its parent company’s revenue and growth. Now, four years later, Modus has broadened its offering to all aspects of telematics and leads the industry in providing the most technologically advanced, intuitive, and reliable vehicle telematics solution available.  Many of the world’s largest insurers, technology companies and fleet operators rely on Modus to improve their business performance.

TW: Which offering of yours, under the vehicle tracking segment, makes your company different from other service providers?

Brandon: Modus has a unique background in both fleet tracking and insurance telematics as well as a robust, cloud-based telematics platform. This combination serves multiple stakeholders in the value chain as well as providing benefits to other members of the ecosystem such as car dealers, automotive insurers, fleet owners and employees, and consumers. This flexibility allows for our customers and partners to adapt to the fast-paced changes introduced by technology and global trade.

TW: Would you like to tell us about  Zephyr fleet management solution?

Brandon: The Zephyr fleet management solution was built for speed and ease of use from a mobile app or the web. Focusing on the core needs of a vehicle owner and reducing the distractions of irrelevant information, Zephyr makes it easy to manage your business. Zephyr gives you the power to know where your vehicles are in real-time, how they are being used, control their operating costs and improve their customer service experience with real-time notifications.  Zephyr also features compliance solutions for our USA based customers.  Drivers can log their hours of service with our electronic logbook feature that is US Department of Transportation compliant.  Fleet managers can also produce reports that make filing multi-state fuel tax returns (International Fuel Tax Agreement) incredibly simple.

TW: What is your geographic spread in terms of operation? Can you share your views on how the market in one country is different from another market and how do you deal with it?

Brandon: Modus operates on nearly every continent today with the fastest growing segments being N. America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. While every market has different regulatory and logistical challenges, they have more in common than not when it comes to telematics. Fleet owners want to make sure their vehicles are being used efficiently and they want to control costs. Insurers want more detailed information on the vehicles and drivers they insure. Everyone wants safer drivers on the road. The key to accomplishing these goals is to have strong, local partnerships and a sound business plan that starts small and profitable in the short term while simultaneously driving adoption that will support the longer term strategic goals of our customers.

TW: What is the future of vehicle tracking services?

Brandon: There are lots of exciting opportunities ahead. As more vehicles come from the factory with connectivity installed, the cost of basic vehicle tracking will fall and its use will become ubiquitous, enabling new technologies and services for vehicle owners that currently are not available today.

TW: What is your view about the usage of big data analytics in telematics industry?

Brandon: Data analytics is the toolset required to deliver on long term strategic value of telematics. Simply put, the companies who collect telematics data and learn how to use it, will have an insurmountable competitive advantage in the near future as well as creating for themselves the ability to pivot as needed when autonomous vehicles enter the market. Telematics data is the valuable asset and data analytics is the tool that unlocks its power.

TW: Do you see any hurdle for this industry from issues like data privacy?

Brandon: No, customers today are relatively technology savvy. They are familiar with sharing of their data and, if the value proposition benefits them, overwhelmingly agree to share. In a recent study by Willis Towers Watson, over 85% of respondents would share data given the right incentive. We see empirical evidence of this every day when consumers use services like Google Maps, Facebook, Uber, all major credit cards, etc.

TW: Will there be a conflict on ownership of data in future amongst the telematics service provider, OEMs, and user?

Brandon: Yes, that conflict is already happening and will likely be decided by local legislative and/or judicial bodies.  Our view is that the users will ultimately own their own data.  Modus users provide consent through our terms of service that allow us to use their data to provide the services they are employing.

TW: What are your views about vehicle telematics market in India?

Brandon: The Indian market presents many challenges; no fault insurance policies, regionally unique vehicles, low annual insurance premiums, and a low price expectation. There are new technologies; smartphone-based tracking, which can mitigate some of these issues. Despite these challenges, new devices (OBDII after-market trackers) and hybrid smartphone tracking (smartphone plus Bluetooth beacons) hold much promise. They may help bridge the gap so that telematics can begin to build a solid base of users in India.

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