The increased levels of electronics intervention in modern-day automobiles has led to higher reliance on such systems to provide various tracking and tracing mechanisms for telematics requirements
Auto Tech Review caught up with Pranshu Gupta, Founder & CEO, Bits n Bytes Soft, about Trak N Tell, which is a registered trademark of the company. We find out in this interaction what makes Trak N Tell different from other telematics offerings, the requirements for OEMs and aftermarket around such products and the future of vehicle tracing and monitoring. The main functions offered by telematics devices include tracking, immobilisation, geofencing, driver scoring and vehicle health monitoring.
There are three types of companies in the telematics sector – the trader that imports packaged solutions and offers them to customers; the service provider that buys a device, writes some serious software on that, makes the basic software and adds them to hardware that is imported. Then there is the third category that includes companies like Trak N Tell, who manufacture hardware as well as software, finally offering a complete solution. This enables the company to talk to OEMs and offer customised solutions, which is a major customer benefit. Additionally, due to the small size of the business, it is faster than a typical Tier I supplier to turn around projects with the ability to offer innovative solutions.
This strategy has provided the company with OEM business that is either for use of Trak N Tell devices in vehicles as OEM fitment or as authorised aftermarket accessories. Other types of customers for the company include truck fleet owners, logistics companies, large consumer goods manufacturing companies having contracts with truck owners, and finally retail customers.
The retail customers form the B2C category of the segment for Trak N Tell, which includes vehicle accessory shops that cater to both new and pre-owned vehicles. In terms of OEMs, Trak N Tell is doing business with all segments of the industry, from two wheelers, especially electric scooters, to passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles and off-highway equipment such as cranes and tractors, noted Gupta.
According to Gupta, it is easier to offer telematics services to electric vehicles over petrol in the two-wheeler space, since the cost of EVs is higher than internal combustion engine models. Additionally, the existing complex electronics in these EVs make it easier for the integration of Trak N Tell code bundles for requirements concerning various telematics functionalities. Therefore, when a user is interacting with the app, it is actually running the Trak N Tell code on their phone behind the scenes, explained Gupta.
Gupta began work on Trak N Tell in 2007-08 by purchasing basic telematics hardware and building customised software around it. The company built an SMS interface, where an SMS could be sent for enabling actions like getting vehicle location or remotely shutting off the engine. The advent of the smartphone brought about a revolution, following which the company started building apps.
The company realised that the hardware devices that it was using to base its software on was either not of desired standards, or very expensive. This led to Trak N Tell building its own hardware for which it received its first OEM purchase order in 2012. This component featured the company’s own hardware and software design, which enabled Trak N Tell to raise multiple rounds of funding till date, mentioned Gupta. However, the only round of funding that it has announced so far is the one it received in 2015, where Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp invested in the company. The company has received funding post that period as well. Trak N Tell offers two main types of products – OBD dongle and non-OBD device.
In terms of new development, the company has developed an infotainment system – IntelliPlay – that does not work on the typical form of connecting the user’s phone over Bluetooth. Traditional infotainment systems with phone connectivity drive content from the phone alone, which is then just amplified over the speakers of the car. Trak N Tell’s infotainment system features a built-in 4G SIM card, making it a fully connected system as soon as the car is turned on, noted Gupta. Additionally, since it has all the components of a telematics device, it makes this an Audio Video Navigation Telematics (AVNT system).
The Trak N Tell IntelliPlay system offers typical 4G LTE connectivity, but offers everything that top German and Japanese infotainment systems provide, with a few additional features, at a much lower price, said Gupta. The company had also demonstrated the IntelliPlay system at the Auto Expo with connection to Alexa Auto from Amazon. The feature of connectivity with Alexa Auto makes the system an AI-enabled unit that also offers telematics features, which eventually lead to convenience and safety due to the use of voice commands, explained Gupta.
With reference to the future of mobility, Gupta said a car will essentially be a computer on wheels in 20 years. When the vehicle changes from a mechanical device to an electronic device, telematics is the basic minimum that would be required for any connected or autonomous driving and sensors will collect a large amount of data, which needs to be put into silos for further analysis and usage, he signed off.
TEXT: Naveen Arul