The San Francisco-based venture capital firm 8VC and Schneider National have partnered with Platform Science on a new data platform that generates end-to-end insights for shippers, transportation providers, and customers. 8VC focuses on transforming industries through investment in new technology, and Schneider has always been a tech-oriented, innovative trucking company.
FreightWaves spoke to Shaleen Devgun, Schneider’s executive vice president and CIO, and Jack Kennedy, the CEO of Platform Science, by phone.
“We pride ourselves on pragmatic innovation,” said Devgun, “and it has to be real. If you look at 8VC and their investments, they really create a new vision for the future, and we’re impressed with their ability to listen to industry participants and then think about the space in a new way.”
“We have 100,000 digital assets,” continued Devgun, “various kinds of trackers, containers, and devices connected to engines generating an enormous amount of data. We’ve been working with Platform Science for two years and it’s all about bringing that information into our platform, and digest and create insight and push it to the right actor in our ecosystem.”
“The problem that we were trying to solve is one that we’ve been looking at a long time,” said Kennedy. “Platform Science looked at transport holistically before working on trucking, and we ran into very large companies in an industry that was changing dramatically, but it was one where they didn’t have the tools to innovate the way they wanted—they didn’t have the tools to connect all the dots. They had ambitions to do things they weren’t equipped to do with existing solutions. The opportunity for us was to create a palette for them to work on.”
Kennedy emphasized that Platform Science didn’t limit itself to building out-of-the-box products and then selling them to companies, but also sought to provide a platform that allowed companies to think for themselves, control their technology, and innovate at their own pace and in their own ways.
“While of course we have to provide access to world-class compliance, safety and productivity tools and applications, we’re also aggregating data from multiple sources on and off the vehicle, and our insight platform really becomes a discovery tool for companies,” said Kennedy. “They might go into it looking for a certain answer, but the value is that they actually learn to ask new questions.”
Devgun acknowledged that IoT-big data sector of transportation was already a crowded space. “My hypothesis is it’s crowded because the definitions are not valid… everyone is using buzzwords to define this space… as if as long as you have an app, you can solve the world’s problems. We’ve always looked at this thing as a platform—any sort of data you derive from IoT devices is only valuable if you can marry it to other data from across the value chain and create insight that’s valuable to your customers,” Devgun said, “otherwise, even though it appears crowded, there’s not a lot of maturity in the space.”
Schneider has a reputation for embracing technology and maintains an active corporate venturing operation that’s always looking for ways to leverage, and Schneider thinks that some of the biggest opportunities are in data and data services. “Historically, solutions in this space have been hardware-specific, but we think it’s going to be about content in the future—driving productivity, compliance, and new opportunities,” said Devgun.
Remarking on the partnership with 8VC and Schneider, Kennedy said, “I couldn’t have picked better partners to do this with. We wanted to pick people who had the longest view of this market and we’re very happy with the way it worked out. It’s a tremendously fun thing to work on right now, because there’s so much to do.”
"One of the emerging components being delivered across the platform," said Devgun, "is our enhanced ability to digitize and integrate tractor, trailer, container and driver data. The resulting insights help eliminate waste in customers’ supply chains. For our drivers, the platform has enabled better contextual understanding of their daily work which drives productivity and improves the driver’s in-cab experience."
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