Schneider National (NYSE: SNDR), the publicly-traded, Green Bay, Wisconsin-based trucking carrier, has cemented a strategic partnership with Platform Science, an Internet of Things platform for enterprise fleets. Schneider will use Platform Science as the electronic logging device (ELD) solution across its entire fleet and integrate its own applications and third-party tools with Platform Science.
Platform Science is a venture capital-backed startup founded in 2014 and based in San Diego, California. One of Platform Science’s investors, the venture capital firm 8VC, has also invested in FreightWaves.
FreightWaves spoke to Platform Science’s chief executive officer, Jack Kennedy, and to Schneider’s executive vice president and chief information officer, Shaleen Devgun, by phone about the partnership.
Devgun explained that after a long-running trial where Platform Science was used as the ELD solution on Schneider’s West Coast fleet — approximately 800 trucks — the carrier had integrated the technology sufficiently into its operations to roll it out across the entire fleet.
What differentiates Platform Science’s technology from legacy telematics providers is that it is a software-centric solution that is truly a platform, not just an application, Devgun said. It encourages the development of additional tools by enterprise carriers and third parties and provides the infrastructure for cross-application data flows.
“That’s where the industry has started to head as well, with a lot of new players who are software focused,” Devgun said. “The hardware is getting commoditized all the time.”
“We’re at a critical stage where we see that the technology works,” Devgun said. “The platform has promise in terms of the future software, web-based marketplace where we can bring our own content to bear and also leverage content built by third parties to bring them together and create value for our ecosystem.”
“Through extensive driver and back office interviews as well as interviews with developers, we were able to better refine [the product for] our customer’s needs,” Kennedy said. “The real driver for Schneider was they had their own applications and services they wanted to deploy and wanted to bring them together in one place.”
Both Kennedy and Devgun said that the transportation and logistics industry was moving beyond app-centric solutions that siloed data and could only be integrated with difficulty.
“You can just ‘add another app’,” Kennedy explained, “but we allow the info from one app to be integrated, displayed, and used as a computational input across applications.”
Devgun gave a specific example of how Schneider was building its own technology to use on the Platform Science product. He said that different customer locations might have different requirements or a different series of steps that a driver making a pick up or drop off might need to go through. Schneider built a workflow management tool to make driver decision-making easier and less stressful and, with Platform Science, can easily push the relevant information to the driver without asking the driver a series of questions or requiring much input.
“The beauty of the platform is we’re seeing more opportunities every day to create content that is contextual or that creates more functionality that helps improve driver productivity,” Devgun said, “and you’re going to see us leverage that functionality as time goes on.”
The ability of the platform to gather information from a variety of sources, apply specific rules generated by Schneider’s developers based on customer requirements, and guide the driver through the workflow seamlessly allows Schneider to take stress off the driver, Devgun said.
“Now we’re able to present information to the driver that is very pertinent to what the driver is doing at that point,” Devgun said. “We want the driver to be able to focus on driving–they already have a ton of things going on.”
Reflecting on the years-long strategic partnership with Schneider that culminated in this deal, Kennedy said that “the singular theme beyond all the IT demand was that the driver experience was fundamental in their decision to choose us–Schneider is hyper-focused on the driver experience.”
“When we had the opportunity, we chose to partner with Schneider because we wanted to build a product suite that captured the ideas of the people who lead innovation, rather than guessing from the outside,” Kennedy continued. “We tested with Schneider so that we knew we were barking up the right trees–everyone has their own ideas and pet projects but Schneider spends a considerable amount of effort thinking things through.”
Kennedy said that throughout the partnership, he was most proud of the progress Platform Science had made on the holistic user experience. He said that in a post-ELD world, it’s not a question of doing without or going backwards, but he wanted to build technology that would make the post-ELD world better than the world before ELDs.
“We wanted to make the ‘after’ of ELD better than the ‘before’, so that drivers could feel better about the outcome,” Kennedy said.