Three Ireland tracking tool helps companies monitor and protect assets
3Locate combines tracking devices with a sophisticated management portal
Karl McDermott, Three Ireland’s head of connected solutions: “You can see instantly on the portal if any asset is where it shouldn’t be.” Photograph: Naoise Culhane
A new solution that enables companies to monitor and protect both stationary and mobile assets has been launched by Three Ireland. Called 3Locate, it offers a range of tracking devices combined with a sophisticated management portal that gives businesses the information they need to optimise asset utilisation.
“It’s an asset management and protection platform,” says Karl McDermott, head of connected solutions at Three. “It can be used for powered assets like trucks, cars, plant and machinery or non-powered assets like supermarket trolleys. Businesses can see where their assets are at all times, helping to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
“For example, a 3Locate device can be connected to the ODB2 connection in a car. That connects it to the onboard computer and it can monitor everything the car does. It connects into the cellular communications system and then into the 3Connect platform in the cloud. Each customer has their own portal on the platform to monitor their assets.”
Productivity doesn’t just apply to people, he says. “Many businesses have valuable assets like trailers, pallets, stillages and skips, or heavy machinery, delivery vans and company cars. At a time when demands on businesses are increasing, getting the most from those assets is more important than ever.”
Inventory tracking is one area which can be improved. “There’s a lot of value in being able to quickly locate an item,” says McDermott. “Businesses that don’t have a way of tracking assets can lose a lot of administration time in finding their location in a warehouse. Alternatively, a trailer that has extra unused capacity can be made more productive when the business knows where it is and if it’s carrying a full load.”
That has further applications for delivery services. “Another challenge for businesses this year is increased customer service expectations,” he says. “As consumers, most of us will have experienced the frustration when we expect a delivery or service call and the best we’re told is ‘They’ll be with you this week’ or ‘Sometime today’. Companies that don’t have visibility over where their service engineers or delivery trucks are will always struggle to keep customers informed about when to expect a visit.”
The best logistics providers, on the other hand, can text their customers to tell them when a driver will arrive, down to the exact hour. “Lots of companies have no choice but to do this manually,” McDermott says. “They assign staff to take calls from customers with delivery enquiries who then contact drivers to try to work out how long it will take the driver to get to the destination and call the customer back with a best-guess estimate. This is a drain on valuable staff time. It’s resource-intensive, error-prone and slow.”
Fitting the asset with a device that allows it to be tracked opens a range of possibilities to solve these problems. The business can track all of its vehicles in real time and calculate how long each one should take to reach a customer using a standard mapping service. It lets the business identify the closest and most appropriate vehicle, driver, location or point of interest for a job, whether that’s a service call for a plumber or collecting a parcel. “Using vehicles and fleets smarter can lead to typical savings of between 20 and 30 per cent in business mileage,” McDermott says.
Driver behaviour-based insurance is another application. “It can talk to other devices in the car like dashcams and so on,” he says. “If the car has been in an accident the insurance company has the visual record of what happened internally and externally. There is proof that the driver wasn’t on the phone and so on. Some insurance companies are already doing this with quite basic apps on customers’ phones. This would be a significant step up from that. Some car-rental companies are also doing it to lower their insurance costs.”
The system can also be used as an additional layer of security for valuable assets. “If a construction company has an expensive piece of plant that is meant to be on site at the National Children’s Hospital the device can send an alert if it moves out of that area. You can see instantly on the portal if any asset is where it shouldn’t be.”
“There are literally thousands of use cases for the technology,” McDermott says. “It has just been launched this week but we’ve already been talking to customers about designing solutions to meet their particular needs.”