Vehicle-management solution provider I.D. Systems has been contracted by the National Center for Manufacturing Services (NCMS) to deploy its PowerFleet vehicle-management system at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, as a pilot program that can expand more broadly in the military, the company recently announced.

“It’s a pilot test of the system to prove out the benefits in the defense-logistics-agency environment,” I.D. Systems Vice President Greg Smith said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “They’re looking at location tracking, impact management, access control, safety checklists, and so forth.

“The high-level areas of benefit are safety management, maintenance management and cost reduction, and utilization optimization and the associated costs reductions that come with that.”

Smith said the I.D. Systems’ solution provides wireless connectivity, tracking and management of enterprise vehicles—from forklifts to maintenance trucks—that operate inside of warehouses, and maintenance and distribution facilities, so they cannot be reached by GPS-based automated-vehicle-location (AVL) solutions. I.D. Systems communicates with these vehicles via indoor wireless systems that can range from secure Wi-Fi—meeting the FIPS 140-2 encryption standard—to a proprietary connectivity alternative, he said.

While this connectivity via the 4x5x2-inch device supports text messaging to vehicles in the facility and tracking capabilities, the I.D. Systems solution also provides several higher-level capabilities that are valuable to enterprises, Smith said. From a safety perspective, for example, PowerFleet helps ensure that the operator is qualified to use the vehicle, he said.

“We have a proprietary method of grouping vehicles with operators, by virtue of what training they have and what the expiration date for that training is,” Smith said. “We can wirelessly send that information to the vehicle, and then the devices on the vehicle store that information on board—an important point, in the event that a vehicle is out of wireless-connectivity range, because the device still knows who is authorized and isn’t authorized.

“Every person who wants to use a piece of equipment has to present an electronic-identification token—usually their existing facility-access-control card—and they present it to the vehicle hardware, which reads it and, based on [the potential user’s] credentials, it will let them access to use the equipment, or it will prevent them from starting the equipment.”

The I.D. Systems solution also helps ensure that the vehicle is working properly, Smith said.

“Our system will launch an electronic checklist that the driver answers, and the system—because it’s wired into access control—can do things like, if there is an unsafe condition noted by the operator as part of this checklist, the system can automatically lock out the vehicle and notify maintenance that it needs attention. ... It’s going to shut down the vehicle and prevent the operator from using it in an unsafe way,” he said.

When the vehicle is in operation, sensing and management capabilities alert the enterprise when a vehicle has an unusual impact—the kind of accidents that can cause hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to materials annually in a facility, depending on the enterprise, according to Smith.

“Having that [impact-sensing] system in place, as you might expect, will rather miraculously change people’s driving habits and lead to a rather significant reduction in the amount of damage that takes place through these vehicles,” Smith said. “In most places, people just drive carelessly, because it’s not really their equipment.”

Other key features of the I.D. Systems solution—used by companies like Wal-Mart, Proctor & Gamble, Ford and Walgreens—include maintenance planning, fleet right-sizing, utilization information, and peak-usage analysis, Smith said. The cost of the solution is between $2,000 and $5,000 per vehicle, depending on the options included, he said.

“If you look at the combination of damage-cost savings, maintenance-cost savings, capital-cost savings and productivity increases, typically the system pays for itself inside of a year,” Smith said. “A lot of top-notch Fortune 100 and Fortune 50 companies use this technology, because it gives them a good return on investment.”