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IoT-Powered RAC Telematics Can Predict Vehicle Faults & Make Britain’s Roads Safer

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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IoT and Big Data is the future of RAC’s century old business – and they can save businesses money and make the roads safer

Despite being more than a century old, the RAC believes it is evidence than even the most historic of companies can adapt and thrive using new technologies.

Founded in 1897 as the Royal Automobile Club, the RAC is now a private business providing roadside assistance and car insurance.

With more than 9.5 million members, 3,700 employees and a turnover of £500 million, it believes its current businesses is sustainable for some time yet. But as Nick Walker, managing director for Telematics at RAC, explained at Future Decoded, that’s no reason for it to rest on its laurels.

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Advancing the business

The company acknowledges that attitudes towards car ownership and expectations of service are changing and that it needs to know more about its customers if it is to remain relevant.

“We still have a culture of calling our customers members even though were not really,” said Walker. “We’ve transition from a club to a business.

“Our brand is among the most recognised and trusted in the UK. It puts us in a good position and means we’re quite successful.”

“We could be comfortably complacent. We’d probably be fine for the next couple of years, but we cannot keep on doing that. We need to embrace technology so we can move ahead.”

Telematics

This means embracing cloud, big data and the internet of Things (IoT) in the form of Telematics – the business that Walker himself heads up. Telematics achieves the aims of providing a better service, increasing revenue through subscriptions and helping the RAC better understand its customer base.

At present, the RAC is a reactive business that sees it send out support when contacted by a customer. Although 85 percent of cars are fixed by the side of the road, this is hardly efficient. The hope is that telematics and mobile applications will turn it into a proactive business.

“We [only] have two touchpoints with our members each year,” explained Walker. “One is when we bill them and the other is if they break down and call us. Neither are very happy events. This restricts us in the digital age.

“Around two and a half years ago we invested in tech in the form of telematics. We’ve put together a very comprehensive capability where you plug a device into a vehicle.”

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Reactive to Proactive

This device can detect faults and perform a remote diagnosis by sending data back to the RAC. The platform is hosted on the Microsoft Azure public cloud and can send out service reminders. Eventually it will even be able to predict faults before they happen using the RAC’s historical database of models, manufacturers and performance.

For businesses, the RAC says telematics can reduce costs and improve safety by building up driver profiles, logging journeys and measuring fuel efficiency.

“This fundamentally for us changes the journey we have with our customers,” said Walker.

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Culture change

But technology is only part of the equation. Walker added that the culture of company needs to be changed too.

“This is quite a change for such a historic business. When you’ve been doing the same thing for the past 120 years it can be [difficult].

“Fortunately, we do have a very progressive workforce that’s embracing this, but it does take an awful lot of communication. It’s a cultural transformation as well as a digital transformation.”

“It’s paying dividends for our customer base. It’s a new RAC and the entire company is looking forward to it.”

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