Established in 1985, ERM Advanced Telematics focuses on the design, development and manufacture of innovative vehicle security and GPS tracking solutions. In a tete-a-tete with DQ Channels, Etian Kirshenboim, CMO, ERM delineates key metrics, priorities and Pan India ambitions as a time tested telematics solutions provider.
What are the key priorities for ERM Advanced Telematics today?
We have developed a great telematics solution for fleet management that is supported by a proven go-to-market strategy. The current priority for our company is expanding the availability of our fleet management solutions in markets around the world and make fleet management easy to manage for our partners and their end customers. We work with providers of telematics and fleet management services to bring our solutions to market. These service providers are our sales channel partners. Our service provider partners install our devices on the vehicle fleets of their customers and use the telematics intelligence that our solutions create and gather as the base for the fleet management services that they provide.
We are currently expanding in North America, Asia Pacific, Africa, and of course India. We are also looking at some partnership opportunities in West Europe.
What are some of the big opportunities you see in the telematics solutions space? How are you planning to realize these opportunities?
For providers of telematics services, the fleet management is growing rapidly and this space holds significant potential. New technologies and capacities, especially in the area of IoT and Connected Car, are creating attractive opportunities for telematics service providers to expand into these spaces and offer a range of entry level through advanced services. With the correct technology partners, a telematics service provider can build a profitable business offering fleet management, Connected Car, logistics and even infotainment services.
We are well-positioned to help our telematics service provider partners capitalize on these market opportunities.
On a product level, our solutions are highly flexible and configurable to support the business logic of nearly any vehicle-related IoT and Connected Car workflow requirement. Accessories supporting new functionality and services, such as monitoring vehicle diagnostics and driver behavior, can be added to our base location tracking devices at any time and fully integrated into fleet management and telematics processes.
Vehicle and passengers security is another area for which there is increasing demand. We have had some interesting requests in this area recently, including sending videos and photos from the vehicle to a central control center.
Who are your main competitors in the market today and how are you as an organization different?
We see two main types of competitors. The first type are local vendors of low-end telematics hardware. These types of vendors provide hardware with only entry level functionality and give limited post-sales support. We come across these types of vendors in many emerging and developing markets.
On the other end of the scale, we face competition from many providers of advanced telematics devices with much better quality. Many of these vendors are based in the United States and Europe, and are selling their devices around the world. The feedback that we hear from the market is that despite the higher quality and advanced functionality, these devices are expensive to configure and upgrade after initial installation. At the same time, we see that some of these vendors are also trying to provide services along with selling their hardware directly to the end-users.
For these reasons, we see that the modularity of our solutions is one of our competitive strengths.
In comparison to many of our competitors, we have high manufacturing and assembly standards. The RMA (return merchandise authorization) is less than 1% whereas across the industry the percentages range from 5% to 15%. The high quality of our devices enables our service provider partners to focus on growing their businesses without having to worry about technical issues of their hardware.
How do you look at the Indian market? What is your go to market strategy for this geography?
We have been increasingly active in India over the past few years and the market for fleet management services in the country holds tremendous potential for us. In India, there is a strong demand for advanced telematics functionality at the same level as the United States and other advanced markets For instance, we have a partner in India that is using our solutions to integrate on-vehicle video streaming directly over a 3G cellular network. Most have fully integrated fleet management processes. What this means, for example, is that an alert regarding low tire pressure is not just sent to the truck driver, but rather the alert is sent in real-time, the operation center for the fleet manager to take immediate follow up action.
The Indian market is well known for being price sensitive. To cope with this, we provide local manufacturing and assembly for our Indian partners. This allows us to maintain high quality and at the same time match local price expectation.
We are currently working with most of the leading telematics service providers in India. We have also partnered with some interesting service providers that are offering services to niche markets. Across India, our devices can be found in all vehicle types from individual cars to trucks and buses as well as cold chain delivery vehicles, taxis, motorcycles, tankers heavy machinery and even rickshaws.
We have a local staff of sales and support personal based in Pune as well as an operations management and assembly team in Delhi.
We are pleased with our progress in India and have high expectations for continued growth in the country.
What are some of the innovations that you are bringing to the market?
We constantly developing new telematics innovation for our service provider partners to offer new services and better serve their customers. Many of our new innovations involve IoT and Connected Cars.
For example, one of our telematics service provider partners engaged a local car importer to offer a full board multimedia (infotainment), diagnostic, navigation, security and safety services based on our telematics technology. Another telematics service provider partner is using our technology to provide its customers with a road side assistance service. Based on the telematics information gathered by our solutions, this service provider knows in real-time when a driver has been in accident or there is about to be a problem with customer’s vehicle, such as a mechanical breakdown or flat tire.
In the IoT space, we are currently extending logistics into fleet management and have developed a solution for monitoring moving objects. This solution improves on the drawbacks of RFID-based monitoring devices and can monitor nearly any moving object as part of a fleet management process. For instance, we have a telematics service provider partner in India that is using this solution to offer a service to parents to monitor their children on their way to school as they get on and off school buses. This solution has many applications, such as tracking packages. In Singapore, we have a partner that is using the same solution to monitor the location of waste bins handled by municipal waste collection trucks.
We also recently developed an innovative anti-theft solution that leverages vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications. This anti-theft solution can identify when a car thief has activated a jamming device to interfere with the location signal or cellular communication of the car’s location tracking device. If this happens, the anti-theft solution sends alerts over a private V2V network to similar devices installed on other vehicles in the area of up to a 0.50 mile/750 meter radius. These additional devices act as repeaters and retransmit alerts, which include location and time stamps. These alerts are trackable by a stolen vehicle recovery service provider and give an improved indication of the whereabouts and route the stolen vehicle travels. These anti-theft devices can also be installed in public locations, such as intersections in areas with high crime rates, or on patrol cars, which further improves the likelihood that a stolen vehicle can be recovered.
One of our partners in South America recently implemented our anti-theft solution and within just a few months experienced a significant increase in its stolen vehicle recovery rates.
How can solution providers in India benefit by associating with your solutions?
System integrators are regularly involved in our business. Their role generally involves integration of our hardware devices during initiation phase of the project. They also develop software applications to support the fleet management services and offer the local customer services and support.
What kind of growth are you looking to achieve? What kind of market segments will drive this growth?
ERM today is one of the leading vendors for telematics and fleet management solutions in the world. We have sold more than 1.3m tracking devices and a greater number of accessories to date.
We believe that telematics and fleet management is slowly evolving due to the positive influence of IoT and Connected Car technologies and capabilities. Also, vehicle manufacturers are getting more involved with telematics.
Fleet management has traditionally serviced commercial vehicles, although there is an increasing need coming from the personal vehicle market. We are making a strong push in both segments and are ready to meet any new requirement in both fields.
While ERM has traditionally worked in the aftermarket, we are currently looking at a number of strategic OEM opportunities and see this area as a potential growth engine.
As for India, we are creating a good name for ourselves in the market and plan to reach 300% to 400% growth this year.