Are You Accessing Your Data in the Way You Should?

Gretchen ReeseAugust 17, 2021

We speak a lot, and I mean a lot, about data on this podcast. As we should – working with data is Utilimarc’s bread and butter, the core of what we do here. We’ve been working with one of our partners, GEOTAB, to be able to “unlock” so speak, a certain type of data that historically has been harder to access. 

I mean, you can access it, but it may not give you everything you need until you jump through a few hoops. If you’re familiar with OEM telematics – or original equipment manufacturer telematics – you’ll know what I mean.

Let’s dig in.


Are You Accessing Your Data in the Way You Should? with Scott Sutarik | Fleet FYIs: Season 2 Episode 17

Gretchen Reese (00:06):

Hey there. Welcome to Fleet FYIs, the weekly podcast by Utilimarc that reveals how you can make the most of your data for smarter fleet management. My name is Gretchen and every week you’ll hear from me and some of the industry’s finest in candid conversations that will shed some light on not only two decades worth of data insights, but some of the industry’s hottest talking points and key metric analysis with the, and to help you better understand your fleet from every angle.

Gretchen Reese (00:33):

But before we begin, this is the first time you’ve heard our show. Thanks for stopping by. I’m so glad you decided to come along for the ride with us, but I’ve got a quick favor to ask you, once you finished today’s episode, if you could take a few minutes to leave us a review on your favorite podcasting platform, we would really appreciate it. Give us a rating, five stars I hope or tell us what you liked or leave us a comment or a question about what you’ve heard in today’s episode. But if we haven’t yet covered a topic that you’re interested in hearing more about, let us know, we would be happy to go over it in detail in a later episode. If that sounds good to you, let’s get back to the show.

Gretchen Reese (01:17):

Hello everyone. And welcome back to another episode of the Fleet FYIs Podcast. I hope you’re all doing well and that you’re back, eager to listen to another show. Now we speak a lot and I mean (laughing) a lot about data on this podcast as we should. I mean, in a sense, working with data is Utilimarc’s bread and butter. It’s the core of what we do here, but there has been a bit of an instance where we’ve been working with one of our partners to be able to unlock, so to speak, a certain type of data that historically has been harder to access. So that begs the question. Can you really access your data in the way that you should be able to?

Gretchen Reese (01:53):

I mean, maybe with this particular type of software, you can access it, but it might not be giving you everything that you need until you jumped through a few hoops. So if you’re familiar with OEM telematics or original equipment manufacturer telematics, I’m sure you’ll probably know what I mean. To dig into this topic a little bit further, I’ve brought an exciting guest on for today’s show. So if you’re ready, sit back, buckle up and let’s dive into another episode of the Fleet FYIs Podcast. Today we have with us Scott Sutarik VP of commercial vehicle solutions at Geotab. Hi Scott, how are you?

Scott Sutarik (02:38):

I’m doing well, Gretchen, thank you for having me today.

Gretchen Reese (02:41):

I’m glad that you could join me on the podcast. So let’s get acquainted to start out with, because I mean, we’ve- we’ve spoken before, but can you tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself and what you do at Geotab?

Scott Sutarik (02:54):

Yeah, absolutely. So I’m the VP of commercial motor vehicles. I’m responsible for business development for the truck off-road and asset portion of Geotab and business, and that encompasses a little bit of everything from working with our marketing department, our sales group engineering partners, and then also our end customers.

Gretchen Reese (03:15):

So let’s delve into a big question straight away, because I think this falls somewhat under your wheelhouse at Geotab. And I’d love to chat with you about OEMs, especially on the front of OEM telematics. Why has this topic making, for lack of a better term, so many waves in the industry right now?

Scott Sutarik (03:33):

Yeah, no, absolutely. So, I mean, historically telematics has been an aftermarket, uh, solution, uh, for Fleets and what’s happening today is many OEMs are offering factory installed telematics solutions, um, as part of the standard build of their vehicles. Um, and so really well that why that’s appealing for end customers is really twofold. So one is, it’s a factory installed device, um, and then in addition, they have the manufacturer’s warranty. So you don’t have to deal with aftermarket, um, installation, and you don’t have to worry about, um, you know, possible failures where you have to go back to that third party, you can just go back to your OEM.

Scott Sutarik (04:15):

Uh, and traditionally what’s happening now is just that data coming from the OEM is now being pushed into a third party system by Geotab. And so you have fleets that have both aftermarket devices like Geotab, and then you have factory installed devices all coming into the same portal. So it’s really an operational, uh, efficiency for the fleets.

Gretchen Reese (04:35):

So can you tell me what the biggest difference then between, um, the aftermarket solutions and then something like an OEM telematics? What, why would one choose one versus the other?

Scott Sutarik (04:46):

Yeah. So that’s a great question. I mean, I think from my standpoint, it’s a little bit, uh, predicated on what the fleets are looking for. I mean, I think probably the biggest difference is that, um, like here on Geotab, for example, we have our go to bias as its own firmware, uh, we pull certain data sets, um where an OEM is going to have a different device, a different firmware, and they’re gonna pull different data. So when we talk to Fleets about it, you know, when they’re looking at OEM factory installed devices, you know, we talked to them about, you know, what type of data do they need, uh, in order to power their business and what the OEM has to offer, uh, hits the mark, fantastic, let’s work with that. And if not, you know, we always have the aftermarket advice as well, but it’s really up to the customer to make better decision if the OEM’s device, uh, hits the mark from their standpoint or if they wanna keep working with the aftermarket bus.

Scott Sutarik (05:37):

So that’s probably the biggest thing that people need to consider is there is a different functionality from the OEM device compared to what, uh, the OEMs might have to what a third party has. It’s just one example.

Gretchen Reese (05:50):

Okay. So if we take a look at this from, let’s say a global perspective then, um, do fleets in various countries, you know, around the world, do they use telematics in a similar way or does it vary from country to country? And this could be, I guess, targeted towards OEMs or it could be targeted towards your native devices.

Scott Sutarik (06:09):

Yeah. So, I mean, I think really at the end of the day, um, you know, telematics is used to solve a problem, right? And that’s gonna range pretty significantly country to country, or even within a given country depending on the application that specific customer has. Uh, typically what we talk a lot about is starting from a single idea, right? You know, what is your most significant pain point and then build from there. Right?

Scott Sutarik (06:36):

Uh, we don’t recommend people going into telematics and doing 10 things off the, you know, right off the bat, but, you know, start with something that’s exceptionally painful and then get that solved and then move on from there. Um, so, you know, just some basic examples could be anything from government compliance. It could be safety related, could be operational efficiency and the list goes on and on. But every fleet, you know, that we work with has a pain point and telematics is there to solve it, and then as you become more proficient, you add on additional pain points that you’re looking to solve.

Scott Sutarik (07:07):

Um, and then I think that it’s really across the board. It doesn’t matter what country you’re in, you know, I like to say that, uh, trucking is relatively simple in the sense that it’s one of two things, you get a load from point A to point B, or you’re get a vehicle to do a specific job at the job site. And it doesn’t really matter what country you’re in, um, that’s the, uh, the crux of, you know, what we’re looking at. Now, the other, you know, 20, 30% is where all the complexity comes in, but, um, generally speaking, it’s the same basic concepts.

Gretchen Reese (07:41):

Interesting. Okay. And, um, one other part of this conversation surrounding telematics, which I’m sure you’re aware of, um, would be big data management. And could you tell me a little bit about how big data management actually fits into that conversation?

Scott Sutarik (07:57):

Yeah, no, absolutely. So, I mean, if you think about it, um, I mean a telematics device, uh, such as a go device plugged into your vehicle generates tremendous amount of data, everything from, uh, how the driver’s driving the vehicle to, uh, various, uh, conditions such as weather, right? Uh, ambient temperature, um, also, uh, it gives you a pretty good idea of how the vehicles performing, right? Does it have engine faults? Is it having issues? uh, what’s the fuel economy of that vehicle? And the list goes on and on.

Scott Sutarik (08:28):

Um, and so all that data is exceptionally powerful, uh, either by itself, right? Various analysis can be done to determine, you know, things are out safety, scorecards around fuel economy and so on and so forth. And then in addition taking that data and pairing it up with additional data sets is exceptionally powerful as well. Um, just to give you an example of something that Geotab use big data for is, uh, battery voltage.

Scott Sutarik (08:57):

Um, and so we’ve been able to, uh, pull battery cranking voltage at a very high resolution and using that data, we can determine, or we can provide a rating for, uh, the electrical system of the vehicle and be able to tell you, “Hey, this vehicle probably needs to go through an electrical check. It could be the battery, the alternator starter, uh, et cetera, but there’s something wrong with that electrical system, and it needs to go through a test.” And we’ve done that with a high degree of accuracy, high 90 percentiles where we can tell you that a vehicle is having an electrical issue.

Scott Sutarik (09:32):

So, um, just as an example, and there’s so many other examples out there as well on this, but really at the end of the day, big data is a way of helping the fleets operate smarter, right? It’s not necessarily to say, hey, we’re gonna do away with this specific, uh, operational exercises. Hey, how do we do that better? How do we eliminate the waste? How do we eliminate time? Right? And that’s really what big data can do, um, and that’s what a Geotab is doing from our standpoint.

Gretchen Reese (10:02):

Okay. And, you know, I know this could probably be seen as a vague question, but, you know, sometimes I do love a bit of a vague question, um, but can you tell me, in your opinion, what are some of the challenges and maybe even some of the opportunities of OEM telematics?

Scott Sutarik (10:18):

I mean, I think that for all intensive purposes, it’s still in its, uh, early days. Um, I mean, can be some perspective. Geotab has been in the telematics business for 20 years, um, and, uh, has built up a platform, uh, over that- that timeframe. And, um, you know, one of the things that we focus on is telematics, right? That’s our core competency, and it requires a tremendous amount of, uh, focus, R and D, effort, specialization and so on and so forth.

Scott Sutarik (10:53):

And, I mean, I think at the end of the day, you know, the OEM integrations, like I said previously on the podcast, um, you know, the data’s different, right? How they pull the data’s a little different. And I think probably the biggest, um, opportunity or challenge for a fleet is to be able to say, okay, this is what I do with the go device, this is what I do with an OEM device. Am I okay with that?

Scott Sutarik (11:16):

Um, so I think that’s probably the biggest thing. And I mean, I think there’s no question that the fact that OEM devices are going to continue to, uh, become more and more popular and aftermarket devices will, uh, continue to decline, uh, comparatively, um, but at the end of the day, I think it’s really up to the fleet to determine if that device from the OEM and the data they can pull makes sense for them from an operational standpoint of their business. So I think that’s probably the biggest one. Probably that being said over time, uh, they’re gonna, you know, the OEMs are gonna continue to improve, Geotab’s gonna continue to improve and offer different feature set. I think it’s really gonna be up to that customer to determine which path makes the most sense, OEM factory installed or an aftermarket solution.

Gretchen Reese (12:02):

Okay. And just out of curiosity then, do you think that answer changes, um, depending on whether or not say for example, fleet A would be light duty and fleet B would be trucking industry?

Scott Sutarik (12:14):

Yeah, I think so. And, you know, getting back to or once you get into one of the other questions is that every fleet got different needs, different, uh, issues. And so it really is going to depend on that. Right? You know, if you’re looking for dots on a map, you know, that’s one use case, if you’re looking for exceptionally advanced, uh, fuel economy reporting along with, uh, uh, exceptionally robust data analytics program around a roadside breakdowns, right? Uh, maybe you need something else and the list goes on and on. It really just depends I- I do think it could change depending on the customer’s use case, and in many cases that’s light duty to heavy duty.

Gretchen Reese (12:57):

Okay. And you did mention that Geotab has worked with telematics data for roughly around 20 years, is that correct?

Scott Sutarik (13:02):

Mm-hmm (affirmative)- Correct.

Gretchen Reese (13:04):

Okay. So, um, we’ve spoken about how sometimes OEM devices, perhaps they can limit, um, the amount of data provided to fleets. Shawn, Kelin and I, in his episode, um, which if you haven’t listened to that already, you absolutely should. Um, we were speaking about how OEM te- devices can limit the amount of data that, um, is provided to fleets using, you know, an OEM telematics solution. How does Geotab overcome a block like this?

Scott Sutarik (13:30):

Well, so that’s a great question, Gretchen, and, uh, I’ll dive a little bit down a rabbit hole, so feel free to [inaudible 00:13:38] so I think there’s two different questions in here. So one is what data’s available by the OEM device itself. Right? And so that’s more of an engineering, uh, exercise, right? So just like Geotab has to say, okay, we’re gonna support these parameters and we’re gonna pull that data. And that’s really driven by the customer side. Right?

Scott Sutarik (13:59):

You know, what is the customer’s asking Geotab to pull? And then we include that in our feature set. Um, so that’s one side of it. And so the OEMs have to make the same choice. What data are they gonna pull. Um, now on the flip side of that, there’s this question around, uh, data access and what data access is, what data is available to the customer to be able to pull, uh, by a service tool or by a third party telematics device.

Scott Sutarik (14:25):

And that in itself would probably be a very long podcast by itself, but really that’s the question, right? You know, what data can be made available by those OEMs today. Uh, at least on the heavy duty truck side, it’s relatively open. If a customer comes to me and says, you know, “Hey, I wanna get this additional data point.” [inaudible 00:14:44] that I was able to add that onto their, uh, their firmware and be able to pull that data. Um, but that’s slowly changing as the OEMs are trying to, uh, gather or to make additional modifications to how data is pulled.

Scott Sutarik (14:59):

And there’s all types of activity on this, uh, at the federal government standpoint, at the state level, and then also within private fleets and, um, you know, we call this, uh, data access issues and, um, you know, that’s something which Geotab is very involved in and, uh, you know, we think is really important for our customers’ long-term.

Gretchen Reese (15:21):

Okay. Um, so then can you tell me, and this is probably gonna be the biggest question of the interview, and I say that with a grain of salt, but in your opinion, what’s the best way do you think to drive innovation when it comes to managing a fleet?

Scott Sutarik (15:35):

I mean, I think the biggest thing from an innovation standpoint is, uh, is habits, right? Um, and what I mean by that is which, you know, humans by nature are creatures of habit. And so we do the same basic thing, maybe unconsciously, but we do the same basic thing over and over. And so I think probably the biggest thing to drive innovation is really break through that habit loop and to really drive change within the innova- within a given organization.

Scott Sutarik (16:07):

And so that can be done through a number of ways, right? That could be, uh, you know, improving, uh, different operational, uh, processes using data, uh, that could be using data to maybe buy different types of equipment, and the list goes on and on. I think the one thing that telematics can do is, uh, we have a saying here at Geotab, and it’s a management by measurement, right? You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Scott Sutarik (16:31):

And being able to pull data, uh, through a telematics system, like Geotab allows people to, or allows our fleets to be able to take that data and embrace that change and that innovation, and really be able to say, hey, here’s where we’re at today, we can do so much better. Or here’s where we’re at, we’re doing a really good job, you know, as well. So it’s a great way to have a metric for you guys, for fleets to use as a baseline, uh, to either improve or to be able to say, “Hey, we’re doing a pretty dang good job.” Um, so I think that’s the biggest thing from my standpoint. So couple thoughts in that, that, uh, a little, uh, avert, or what do you call it? In my, uh, comment there, so.

Gretchen Reese (17:13):

(laughing) Well, you know what they say, data is king, and like you said, you know, you can’t manage what you can’t measure, that’s one thing that we absolutely stick true to here as well. Um, now Scott, before we wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to add along the lines of OEM telematics, big data innovation, anything like that?

Scott Sutarik (17:29):

I don’t think so. I mean, I think we have covered a lot of that direction and, um, you know, really appreciate you having me on the show today and, uh, look forward to hopefully doing it again in the future.

Gretchen Reese (17:41):

Absolutely. And you know, I’m sure that there’s gonna be a few folks listening today that are probably going to be interested in continuing the conversation, because, you know, like we mentioned earlier in the show, OEM telematics is a massive talking point, especially now. So outside of Fleet FYIs, where can people get in touch?

Scott Sutarik (17:57):

Um, so first and foremost, uh, you can learn more information on www.geotab.com or if you wanted to reach out to myself and my team, uh, you can email us at businessdevelopment@geotab.com.

Gretchen Reese (18:13):

All right. Sounds good. Well, again, Scott, I appreciate you taking the time to come on our show. We’ve really enjoyed having you, and I’m glad we could find time to record today.

Scott Sutarik (18:23):

Uh, absolutely Gretchen. Thank you.

Gretchen Reese (18:36):

So I don’t know about you, but it always seems like every single time I speak to somebody from Geotab, I always learn a million and one things, and then some, and I think that Scott was able to share a ton of insights on OEMs and the way that we’re accessing data right now. And personally, I think he was absolutely spot on when it comes to driving innovation, by basing your decisions and data. And I think if any of you that are listening to the show today are of similar mindset where you really need to delve into your data to make sure that that is the path that you should be taking, I hope you’ll agree with me.

Gretchen Reese (19:11):

But I’d love to hear your thoughts. Send me an email, my contact information is in the show description, that’s below every single episode, or it’s also in the show description on our show’s main page on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you download the show, or you can get in touch on LinkedIn by using the #UtilimarcFleetFYIs. I’d love to hear what you think, I’d love to have a chat and perhaps see what you think the future of OEM telematics will be, if that’s even something that we can decide in a five minute conversation, but we’ll see, you never know. On Big Bang theory, they solve string theory in less time.

Gretchen Reese (19:45):

So (laughing) until then, that’s it for me this week, so until I see you in your headphones next Thursday, have a little spinner on utilimarc.com for some more content in the meantime, Ciao.

Gretchen Reese (19:59):

Hey there, I think this is the time that I should cue the virtual high five because you’ve just finished listening to another episode of the Fleet FYIs Podcast. If you’re already wanting more content, head over to utilimarc.com, which is Utilimarc with a C, utilimarc.com for the show notes and extra insights coming straight from our analyst to you. That’s all for me this week, so until next time, I’ll catch you later.

If you or someone you know is interested in being a guest on Fleet FYIs, please email our content manager with your request.


Gretchen Reese

Content Manager

Gretchen Reese is the content manager at Utilimarc. She has experience in global and strategic marketing, previously working as a copywriter and content specialist for a London marketing agency and freelancing in multiple niches. See more from Gretchen


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