Vecima Networks, a 23-year-old veteran vendor to the cable industry best known for products heavy on DOCSIS and quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM), has surprised the industry by launching a product line that has nothing to do with cable or broadband. Rather, it is designed to help vehicle fleet operators meet the 21st century’s newfangled green initiatives. For the cable industry, it holds out the enticing possibility of a 20-percent boost in the number of installs that can be done daily with the same-sized fleet.
The new offering has been christened “FleetLynx,” but the main feature it shares with Vecima’s other products is use of the Lynx moniker, which has appeared on various other Vecima products.
Still, the new offering should be of major interest to MSOs, be they from the cable side of the industry or the telco side. That’s because the industry runs some of the biggest vehicle fleets in the United States and, therefore, could see massive savings from the use of green technology. In addition, large fleet operators are coming under significantly increasing government reporting requirements, and FleetLynx is designed to meet those reporting needs, says Vecima President Sumit Kumar.
Just how big the industry’s fleets are is in the numbers: AT&T, with 66,977 vehicles; Verizon with 64,688; and Comcast, with 38,240; are Numbers Two, Three and Four in fleet size domestically, according to www.fleet-central.com. Only United Parcel Service, with its 72,633 delivery vehicles, has more. Other MSOs dot the Top 300 list, including Cox at Number 10, with 12,098 vehicles; and a clutch of others operating fewer than 10,000 vehicles.
The communications industry is not Vecima’s first target market – although it certainly does intend to begin chasing after business from cablecos and telcos soon. The first market was the long-haul trucking industry. The potential green market in that industry is obvious, but the reason is Vecima’s premiere green fleet product initially developed as a custom project it was hired to do by a truck manufacturer, in part leveraging its wireless data know-how. Kumar won’t identify that company, at least not yet, but he says the product that eventually emerged is entirely owned by Vecima, which publicly unveiled it Sept. 14. The truck company, meanwhile, means Vecima comes to market with a major customer already in its pocket.
A second initial class of customers, note Kumar and Neil Wheeler, FleetLynx’s senior sales executive, has turned out to be government agencies of all sorts. It is, of course, the government that is pushing private enterprise into the green revolution.
As for the MSO market, Kumar explains, “Fleet management and operations are different units.” That means Vecima’s long history selling into the cable industry should be enough to get it key introductions, but it doesn’t already know the folks on the fleet management side. “Our brand within cable helps us to a certain extent,” Kumar says. Vecima is “working to get the right contacts…to get exposure for our solution.”
More About FleetLynx
As for exactly what Vecima is offering, the company has set up a completely separate FleetLynx Web site for those looking for technical details. In a nutshell, the system consists of an in-vehicle unit that monitors everything from the vehicle’s location to its idle times. That information is sent, via a wireless network, to a central location for input into an extensive software backoffice that lets fleet management monitor virtually every aspect of fleet operation and prepare the reports needed to meet emerging green fleet compliance standards.
Among other things, it lets operators know precisely where every one of their vehicles is, and it even can alert fleet managers to vehicles sitting and idling for extended periods. Idling is a real fuel-wasting villain in the green-fleet ecosystem, so much so that “there are actually fleets that have asked us how to invoke a shutdown of an idle exceeding five minutes,” says Wieler.
For the cable industry, Kumar says, a key selling point is the use of the system for intelligent routing: “On the product side of the cable business, the need to reduce truck rolls is a key factor.”
Using FleetLynx, he explains, the company “demonstrated you could increase the number of installs you do in one day by 20 percent just by having intelligent routing.”
In addition to monitoring idling and routing, the FleetLynx offering promises functions ranging from monitoring of engine maintenance, geofencing, recording of sudden braking and turning events, and key fuel economy reports.
The price tag, Kumar says, is roughly $550 per vehicle for the in-vehicle electronics, and typically about $30 per month per vehicle in operating expenses for a small-to-medium-sized fleet to cover data transmission, the portal and support. Given the 1.2 million vehicles in just the 300 largest U.S. fleets, it’s not hard to calculate the size of the potential market Vecima hopes it’s tapping into with an offering that Kumar says will “leapfrog” the competition.
— Stuart Zipper