Building smart cities – Canadian firm brings high tech to fleet management

- Mississauga, Ontario

PinPoint GPS Solutions scores success with its integrated smart systems for tracking and improving the performance of commercial trucking and transportation fleets.

Is your city a "smart" city? Picture the world of WALL-E, TRON: Legacy, or Tomorrowland. Like the futuristic cities of Hollywood, today’s smart cities harness advances in telecommunications, sensors, data collection and integration, and automation.

While flying cars are not here yet, we are well on our way towards creating the green infrastructure, intelligent transportation, and other data-driven technologies that will make our urban areas healthier and more sustainable.

PinPoint GPS Solutions of Mississauga, Ontario is at the forefront of this transition. With help from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), PinPoint GPS is creating integrated smart systems for tracking and improving the performance of commercial transportation fleets.

The tech company’s plug-and-play computer module fits into a vehicle and can seamlessly monitor and analyze engine performance, route efficiency, and driver behaviour. Combining artificial intelligence, GPS, and cloud computing, this technology enables clients to "follow" their fleet anywhere and obtain real-time data for business and environmental optimization.

"We started PinPoint GPS to help businesses become greener and improve their bottom line," recalled Vince Arone, General Manager and Co-Founder of the company. "Where are their vehicles on the road? How fast are they going? How often is the engine idling? We can wirelessly transmit these details back to the client."

Arone, and his partners at the time, Brian Barry and Bob Farrell, came out of executive positions in the telecommunications industry ten years ago to start PinPoint GPS in Arone’s basement. "The world of autonomous cars, and the telematics that could wirelessly connect them, was on the horizon," said Arone.

"We wanted to be part of that technology wave – improving business productivity in the transportation and construction sectors while tackling challenges such as urban congestion, air quality, and climate change."

"With NRC IRAP we always know we can bounce ideas off our ITA. This spells partnership to me."

Vince Arone, General Manager and Co-Founder, PinPoint GPS Solutions

New technology leads to new clients

The technology was a hit, and the company landed several flagship service companies as clients. However, success brought new challenges, especially for their business processes.

In 2014, PinPoint GPS turned to NRC IRAP for advice and support to enhance their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to handle the complexities of managing trackers for thousands of vehicles on the road at the same time. With NRC IRAP on board, the company launched an R&D program to develop a cloud-based system tailored to their needs, hiring several recent computing and engineering graduates to kickstart the work.

Clients can "follow" their fleets and receive comprehensive real-time data on engine performance, route efficiency, and driver behaviour.

"What NRC IRAP did for us was critical and timely," emphasized Arone. "They helped us conduct a review of our ERP system and develop the software we needed. Now we can handle the majority of our data flow automatically. Our people can focus on analytics and other more complex tasks to advance the business."

The company now has another NRC IRAP project underway – this time to build new features and compatibilities into their ERP so the software can work with a wider range of clients’ business programs. With data collected by this enhanced solution, PinPoint GPS will be able to provide more comprehensive reporting, including detailed information from individual trackers. A new service ticket system will enable staff to efficiently track client service requests. These additions will help clients gain even greater value from working with PinPoint GPS.

"It's all part of the business and R&D strategies that we’ve been working on with the company," explained Baraa El-Kadri, the NRC IRAP Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA) who works with the firm. "The goal is to enhance the company’s core competencies – strengthening its value proposition, and making the product offering more compelling for larger clients. We hope to build long-lasting loyalty to the brand."

"I have to give kudos to Baraa," said Arone. "He has a wealth of knowledge, and gives so much time to us. He has connected us with businesses, other government agencies, and universities so we can grow."

Ready for the smart cities market with NRC IRAP

A lot has changed since the days when Arone and his partners foresaw the potential of wireless communications.

The company has grown by 30 per cent each year since starting to work with NRC IRAP, hiring more employees, and expanding into new markets in Canada and the United States.

"Our vision now is to move further into the tracking of assets and people," said Arone. "Clients will be able to monitor the productivity of their fleets as well as the location of the materials transported. Tracking employee movements will improve worker safety."

"With smart cities on the rise, the potential applications are endless," added Arone. "With NRC IRAP, we always know we can bounce ideas off our ITA. This spells partnership to me."

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