Protrack Solutions is a Gloucestershire-based business that designs and builds a range of tracking systems and devices primarily for the logistics sector. With its roots in vehicle telematics, the company has quickly expanded beyond fleet tracking and into other industries, such as logistics and even smart locks.
With its core fleet tracking solution operating on inflexible, single network SIMs that could not deliver universal coverage nationwide, Protrack sought an ICT partner that could bring greater predictability and scale to its core business while helping it to expand into new growth areas.
Protrack's core business offering is its fleet tracking service, Protracker Pluss, which allows businesses to track all of their vehicles in real-time, providing GPS location data and information on driving performance such as acceleration, braking, cornering and speed, in addition to providing two-way communication with drivers via SMS messaging. Naturally all of these features require reliable network connectivity to operate.
In order to bring its new service to market quickly, Protracker Pluss initially used single network SIMs to provide the necessary connectivity. However, since each SIM only operated on one network, coverage blackspots soon became a problem. No carrier could offer universal cross-network coverage, so the best solution for Protrack was to purchase SIMs from those carriers where coverage was generally strongest for each of their customers. This was far from an ideal solution for a 'mobile' service, and could never entirely eliminate blackspots. Additionally, having multiple carriers and tariffs also made it very difficult for Protrack to manage its expanding network of devices and to control its operational costs.
"A telematics solution is only as good as the connectivity that powers it. Poor connectivity was hampering the quality of our products. It was undermining our entire business so we needed a solution fast," remarks Tracey Pope, Operations and Support Director, Protrack Solutions.
In addition to the challenges of managing multiple carriers, Protrack's existing supplier could take up to two months to deliver a bill. This meant that if a device was malfunctioning and using far more data than it should, they would be unaware until the bill landed on their desk two months later. In one instance this resulted in Protrack receiving a bill that exceeded £15,000 for a single device that had inadvertently been sending over 1,000 text messages a day.
Bamboo was able to solve all of Protrack's challenges by designing a bespoke M2M tariff with Telefónica which provides 4Mb of inclusive data per SIM per month. Directly addressing their connectivity challenges, all SIMs would deliver connectivity across multiple networks globally (due to 600 network roaming agreements worldwide). This would mean that Protrack's devices could switch to the network with the strongest signal at any given time, with no roaming charges to worry about if the device is taken out of the UK.
To further address Protrack's need for predictable pricing, the 4Mb per month allowance for each SIM would be pooled across all their SIMs. This meant that if one device used more than the allotted 4Mb in a month, it could be offset against a device which used less. Since most of Protrack's devices use less than 4Mb per month (on average 2Mb a month), they would have a healthy buffer to counterbalance its more data-intensive devices. As a result of the pooled tariff, Protrack has never exceeded its data allowance or received an unexpected data bill from Bamboo.
"Bamboo designed an M2M tariff specifically for our needs. They took the time to understand our business and proposed a solution that is completely tailored to our requirements," comments Pope.
Bamboo's M2M service also includes extensive monitoring and control features via the Cisco Jasper IoT services platform. This provides Protrack with an unrivalled level of real-time reporting and customisable usage alerts, including an alert that is automatically triggered if an individual device exceeds 20Mb in a single month, indicating that the device is malfunctioning. Such alerts enable them to proactively arrange for faulty devices to be replaced before the customer even discovers an issue. A far cry from waiting two months to hear of a fault.
The benefits for Protrack can be summarised in two words; predictability and partnership.
Firstly, the pooled data tariff gives them the peace of mind to develop new telematics solutions with complete confidence in what the connectivity costs will be, no matter where in the world the device will be used, while the automated alerts and central management features enable them to deliver the highest quality of service.
Secondly, the partnership between the two companies extends beyond the traditional buyer/seller relationship. Whereas Protrack's previous telecoms supplier would simply process orders on demand, Bamboo is actively engaged in their business and product roadmap. It is a true business partnership.
"We specifically wanted a supplier that could work with us to grow our business," comments Pope. "Our Bamboo account team knows our business intimately, and I know I can pop into their offices at any time to brief them on our latest product plans and have a productive conversation about how best to deliver the connectivity for it."
Since partnering with Bamboo, Protrack has been able to accelerate the development of its product pipeline safe in the knowledge that it has a reliable communications partner behind it, and is currently in discussions with Bamboo to develop connectivity for an upcoming smart padlock that could revolutionise security in the construction industry (among many other sectors). It is also actively engaged in the process of migrating all of the legacy single network SIMs over to the Bamboo M2M solution.