A couple of years ago, Jay Coughlan, XRS chairman & CEO had declared that “An evolution of technology trends is converging on the critically important American trucking industry”.1 Mobile technology, social interaction, cloud computing and information (big data) represent this convergence zone.2
From my perspective, the “evolution” has clearly moved to “revolution” because the mobile technology portion, specifically smartphones, is now in a paradigm shift. When the iPhone was introduced on June 29, 2007 by Apple, it began to disrupt the “traditional” smartphone market. With the addition of Android smartphones soon after, it brought an interesting competition that has catalyzed numerous innovations. And all this happened in just a few years, not in a generation! So my claim that we are experiencing a paradigm shift needs to be explained.
Paradigm shift (a.k.a. “revolutionary science”) has become an essential concept that was introduced by Thomas Kuhn in his 1962 book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”. Kuhn asserted that a paradigm shift is the result of a synergistic “mélange of sociology, enthusiasm and scientific promise”.3
When we examine scientific promise, the usage of smartphones, phablets and tablets has taken over the desktop/laptop computers. In 2014, almost 1.25 billion smartphones were sold worldwide4. And the number of mobile software apps available is approaching 4 million5. Given this huge adoption, it is reshaping the focus of the entire software and hardware industries.
Enthusiasm is the next synergy component for this paradigm shift. Global statistics reveal that over 80% of internet access is now done through smartphones6. The main reasons for using smartphones are ease of use, affordability and time savings. Yet what makes this enthusiastic is this ability to connect with the world for information, communications, social networking, transferring files and entertainment7. When you observe the young generation, they are married to this technology. But ease of use is beginning to entice the older generations as well. Deloitte did a study in 2013 which revealed that 37% of the 55+ generation were already using smartphones and they were predicting 45% – 50% by year end8.
The final synergy component is due to sociology which has to do with the connections, structures and institutions that constitute a society. As mentioned earlier, social connections have become inherent to the usage of smartphones. Whereas the social institutions are the ones that will shape social structure since they are a distinctive, sub-system of society that regulates human conduct9. And in this mobile technology paradigm shift, government is now playing a major role because the law and politics impacts what is deemed ‘right’ and ‘moral’.10
When you examine the trucking industry, the Canadian and USA governments are introducing a number of regulation changes that will impact the role of mobile technology. The latest mandate will be The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulation to require interstate commercial truck and bus companies to use Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) in their vehicles scheduled for 2016. FMCSA released a survey report in November/2014 titled “Attitudes of Truck Drivers and Carriers on the Use of Electronic
1) “Convergence: Mobility in trucking is now anywhere, anything, anytime, anyone” whitepaper published by XHL
5) 3.73 Million apps alone are available for download in leading app stores as of May 2015 – Statista 2015
7) “Ten Reasons Why People Use Internet” published at http://www.blogtechnika.com/10-reasons-why-people-use-internet/
8) “The smartphone generation gap: over-55? there’s no app for that” article published by Deloitte at www2.deloitte.com
9) Berger, P. (1963) Invitation To Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective. New York: Anchor Books.
Logging Devices and Driver Harassment”.
The survey found drivers generally are positive about the way ELDs can cut their paperwork which lends credibility to a long-held industry opinion that the majority of drivers who have ELDs in their trucks are comfortable with the technology.12
This is further evidence of how mobile technology is in a paradigm shift because of government’s sociological role and their confirmation of enthusiasm in the FMCSA survey. I need to point out there will be a couple of different methods on how ELDs could be applied, but smartphones will be part of one of the two methods that will be used. Smartphones can link to the internal hardware via Bluetooth or WiFi, then send the data back to a central server via the cellular network.
A final major smartphone development that has the potential to affect trucking industry’s effectiveness is Near Field Communication (NFC). NFC is a particular type of Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) technology where you can read an NFC tag by passing the phone in close proximity to the tag. The general public has recently become aware that an NFC smartphone can act like a credit card to handle mobile payments which has become intrinsic to the financial industry. Apple’s introduction in October, 2014 of their iPhone 6 and their app Apple Pay has acknowledged they are finally getting on the NFC bandwagon along with all of the other smartphone manufacturers.
But there are many other industries besides Financial where NFC will be beneficial. In the trucking industry, we have developed an app called One-Touch Inspection that does vehicle inspections. Reading an NFC tag does all these tasks: instantly launches One-Touch; validates who the inspector is; identifies the specific truck location they are at; records the date/time of their transaction. The smartphone will then display instructions on how to proceed and an inspection checklist that must be answered. NFC tags placed around the vehicle ensures all inspection zones are visited and the inspection is completed. This will provide valid evidence to transportation authorities and timely information to a fleet’s maintenance department.
Over the next few months, we are participating at a couple of the Fleet Safety Council (FSC) events. On September 24th we will be presenting at the Niagara-Hamilton FSC chapter on how NFC adds to safety.13 And we will be an exhibitor at the 24th Annual Education Conference on October 2nd at the Centre for Health & Safety Innovation in Mississauga.14 If you can’t attend these events and want to learn more about mobile NFC technology and how One-Touch Inspection is getting on the paradigm shift bandwagon, drop me an email at George.Roberts@beacontree.net.
About the Author
In the world of innovation, George has evolved into a first class connector of people, technology and methods. With an aptitude for complex systems and over 30 years of industrial & business automation experience, he has successfully developed and promoted innovative technologies in a practical, profitable way on an international stage. He can be reached at 1.647.505.5634 or George.Roberts@beacontree.net.