If you were worried that big data was another term for Skynet, soon to replace the human decision-making process with its own massive cybernetic ‘brain,’ then relax – it’s not.

However big data’s importance in modern-day business is growing and the resulting impact should not be underestimated. According to the McKinsey Global Institute the use of big data “will become a key basis of competition and growth for individual firms. [It] will underpin new waves of productivity growth and consumer surplus”.

But don’t panic. In fact, the growth of big data is good news for fleet managers. It can turn ordinary people into superheros. It gives managers decision-making super powers.

To illustrate the point let’s consider Watson, police departments’ own big data system. Law enforcement generates a massive amount of data and stacks of paperwork. Officers working a case need to sort through the haystack of data to uncover the needle that can lead to a conviction.

As a fleet manager you can probably empathize. The mountain of telematics data you have access to can be daunting and connecting the dots is not always obvious. In 2013 alone, Telogis fleet management software processed more than 13 billion data points for fleets around the globe.

See also: Why big data is giving fleets the competitive advantage

Police departments have learned how to harness big data with the aid of Watson and rather than replacing the human input, it complements it. Quoted in an article on Mashable, Roberto Villaseñor, chief of police in Tuscon, Ariz. made the point that big data is assisting with investigations by connecting abstract information that, when put side by side, makes sense and is highly relevant. “There may be something in lead no. 25 that doesn’t make sense until you get to lead no. 2,050,” Villaseñor said. “How is a human going to tie those things together? Cognitive computing can. But we still have to look at it. It cannot be a computer or a human analysis. It has to be and. We say, ‘Watson said this — let’s go check it out.”

In a way it’s about making the machines do the heavy lifting. But that’s not enough. The machines need to be trained to lift smarter. Where to dig, what to dig and what to red flag for a human’s attention. That’s the cognitive part of cognitive computing, an essential piece of making big data work effectively.

Superheroes need to move with the times

Batman’s enemies have gotten smarter and more determined over time. A biff to the face just doesn’t cut it anymore. The challenges fleet managers deal with have also grown more complex over time.

Budgets are tighter, compliance is more regulated and customer service expectations have become more arduous. What worked even five years ago is not enough to beat the ‘bad guys’. It’s time fleet managers return to the batcave to see what new toys Alfred has for them to meet new challenges.

Developments in technology, the growth of Big Data and the ongoing advancement of the Internet of Things is rapidly changing what’s available. The connected fleet manager is quickly becoming the gold standard and telematics is making it happen.

See also: What is telematics?

For it to work effectively you need a telematics solution that takes advantage of the most recent advances. Some fleet managers are struggling with solutions stuck in a pre-internet era, some of which have been ‘hacked’ to adapt. Ideally you want a solution that has been designed from the ground up to be connected. Fortunately, right from the start we saw web, or cloud-based, solutions (also referred to as SaaS) were the future for the modern business. The Telogis platform is built on secure, open web standards that makes it fully compatible with other systems and the new generation of connected devices and vehicles.

So what sort of super powers does this incredible technology give fleet managers?

Tackle the ‘bad guys’ of fleet problems with superpowers

Big data and telematics might sound great but how do you make the connection to the problems you face managing your fleet on a daily basis? While the number of different ways that big data can be used is only limited by the imagination (a Telogis sales consultant can discuss any specific concerns you have based on their experience working with similar fleets) here are some examples to get you started.

Dispatch the most efficient vehicle – It’s obvious but difficult to do without the power of telematics data – choose the most cost-effective option when dispatching a vehicle to a new job. With telematics you can see in real time available vehicles, specific attributes (e.g. a job requires a specific tow rating) and distance to the job site. You can also factor the existing job schedule and shuffle work orders to minimize any inconvenience to customer or driver.

Route around changing conditions – It’s one thing to plan a route before you start but Big Data allows you to go one step further. Telogis Navigation can layer data from a variety of Big Data sources including real-time traffic, natural disasters, incoming weather and even feedback from more than 140,000 other commercial drivers. It means drivers and dispatchers can get smart about taking the best route for the conditions, time of day or vehicle and load type.

Collaborate with other fleets – It wasn’t that long ago that working with another company on a common project was an administrative nightmare. Lots of phone calls and emails to coordinate each other’s teams, and plenty of wasted time due to communication breakdowns and overlapping duties. Telogis is giving fleets who commonly work together, such as mutual aids and third-party contractors, the ability to ‘share’ the real time view (and selected data points) on a single screen.

Unused vehicles are wasted dollars – As a fleet grows, deciding where assets are best utilized can be challenging. Frequently, trucks and equipment can end up sitting idle in a yard, and nobody knows about it. That’s a massive hit to a fleet’s ROI. With all assets tracked and monitored, usage reports can scan fleets of thousands and pinpoint unused vehicles for redeploying or liquidating, and the funds reinvested elsewhere.

Maintenance scheduling – The old method of maintaining equipment was arbitrary servicing at specific intervals. However that didn’t allow for differences in usage or the actual condition of the machine. One utility changed the servicing of truck booms on actual usage and saved over $300,000 in maintenance costs in a single year.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas around the practical application of big data. As more devices join the Internet of Things and the amount of data they can share increases, we will see new and exciting ways for fleet managers to flex their super powers and leverage the potential of Big Data.

If you want to see what’s waiting for you in the telematics batcave, why not schedule a free demo?