Samsung Exec On New IoT Offerings For Transportation And The Big Opportunity For The Channel

Driving Toward IoT

Samsung is launching a big push in the Internet of Things for the transportation industry, and is looking to work with channel partners to reach transportation customers, such as trucking companies. Samsung said this week that it's partnering with fleet management technology company Magellan to create a new transportation offering consisting of Samsung devices -- Galaxy tablets and phones, outfitted with Samsung's Knox security software -- embedded with electronic logging and other technology from Magellan. The companies are working with Synnex as the distribution partner for the offering. Since many trucking companies are served by solution providers, this creates a major opportunity for the channel, said Ted Brodheim, vice president of Samsung Vertical Business, in an interview with CRN.

What follows is an excerpt of our conversation with Brodheim.

So this is the first big announcement in this space for Samsung?

That is the right way to think about it -- we'll be making other announcements in the transportation space in the coming weeks and months. There is a federal mandate that all trucks over a certain size have to have an electronic logging device, or ELD. We've partnered with Magellan, who is a leader in the fleet transportation management area. They have a tremendous presence in a sector within the fleet management arena. And we have released a product that's really targeted at the sector, which we think brings a huge amount of value to fleet management companies. Both because it meets the mandate in a way that's very significant, but equally as important is that it begins to address a lot of the issues these companies have around retention and employee satisfaction. [Issues such as] using technology that's newer, that's a lot more intuitive, particularly to younger drivers. But it also takes advantage of Samsung's strengths around the security that's in our devices.

What makes this solution appealing to drivers?

One of the key features that we have is the ability to have personas on devices. So you can be logged into the device, and it can be meeting all of the required mandates that are necessary. But then when the driver comes off of shift, they can turn the device into personal use. And they can use their personal email on it, they can watch Netflix. So we're trying to make the relationship between the driver and the device not just something that is there for regulatory purposes, but it's a device that is integrated within the normal live/work/play that anyone deals with during their regular work environment. And what you'll be hearing over the next couple of weeks are some announcements with some other companies, in different segments of the transportation market, also focusing on this ELD mandate. But this is really Samsung making a very big statement here -- that we're in this transportation area, that we're going to be here for a while, and we'll be looking at addressing fleets of all shapes and all sizes.

What technology is Samsung providing for this solution, and what is Magellan providing?

Samsung is providing two key elements to this. The first is that we're providing tablets and phones, so we can have different form factors, that meet the needs of different people. And we're providing our security software, Knox, and that's software that has the ability to have multiple personas and customization. That allows a company like Magellan to embed their software within the Knox environment, to ensure you've got absolute safety, absolute reliability. So you can have the right EMM around it, you can have the right device management around it, so fleets can manage the equipment. They can understand where the hardware is, they can make changes to it, they can do over-the-air updates. All of that infrastructure is very important to having a smooth management of these devices. Because these trucks can be all over a town, city, state -- or all over the country. We're providing all of those building blocks for it. And Magellan can then embed their software. They've got 30-plus years of experience, providing fleet management and GPS equipment. And the combination of these well-designed devices, fitting within the security software with all the management tools, with Magellan software on top of it, it's a nice out-of-the-box solution.

Is it ultimately right to think about this as an IoT opportunity?

Absolutely. We do plug this into the vehicle itself, so we get information on speed, miles driven, and the like. We purchased Harman, which is one of the largest makers of in-vehicle devices also. And we expect through the acquisition with Harman, as well as other makers of IoT, [that] you're going to see a very rapid expansion in terms of what we can collect about what's happening within the vehicles. That can be anything from the health of the vehicle, to the amount of fuel that it's burning, the amount of oil that it's burning, other issues like that. Right down -- and this is a little out in the future -- but right down to, what's the status of the driver? Is the driver's heart rate slowing down, is their breathing slowing down? Those are indications of people perhaps falling asleep. So I think the whole IoT side of it is really going to take off. At the moment, we're limited to maybe half a dozen data items that we're collecting. But this going to be a very different story six months and 12 months from now.

Can you talk about the opportunity for channel partners in this?

Part of the reason we partnered with Synnex on this is because of their broad reach out to these resellers. The nice thing about the ELD mandate is that it's a federal mandate. And we expect all of these resellers are going to see this as a great opportunity to say, 'Here's a product that's very easy for us to sell, very easy for us to understand.' And it doesn't matter whether it's a municipal fleet of hundreds of vehicles, or if it's a small beverage company in our neighborhood that may have 20 vehicles. We now have an ability to approach these different sizes of companies and say, 'Here's an out-of-the-box solution that you can put in your 20 beverage trucks, and you can collect a whole lot of data.' We think this is a great opportunity for resellers to go out and really provide some value add to their customers. Particularly for fleets under 100 [trucks], those are generally all served by resellers in their local area.

What sort of information is available for channel partners who are interested?

When we launch this with Synnex [late in second quarter], we're going to be launching this with a lot of collateral that is available to resellers. We will be doing webinars and various other pieces, to help educate resellers on how to sell this -- what the key talking points are. We're really looking forward to working closely with them, to help them be successful in moving this product out to their customers.