Du-ing Wonders: John Lincoln, VP of enterprise at du
Telecoms operator du is already known for its innovative SME offerings, but what many logistics firms may not realise is that a lot of these solutions are specially designed to cater to their needs. John Lincoln, VP of enterprise at du, says that the logistics industry is an important one to the company and, as a result, a lot of effort has been put into providing comprehensive solutions to attract this particular market.
The solutions on offer range from the basic – the mobile and broadband connectivity services standard to all telecom firms – to more advanced offerings such as managed data centre services and video solutions.
It also includes the popular machine-to-machine (M2M) services. “In the Middle East many of the logistics companies, especially the trucking companies, transport goods across the GCC states and so they need a way to manage the vehicles that traverse the Gulf region,” says Lincoln. “And what we have is M2M services that we can offer to logistics companies.”
“In the past, logistics firms would have taken a sim card from us to do their vehicle tracking, and then we would charge them X amount for data services,” he says. “But today we offer this as a comprehensive management services solution.
“Just imagine: if you have a truck, you cannot just put in a sim card and expect the truck to be tracked. What we do, is to provide equipment that goes under the truck. We work with partners, because we don’t manufacture that equipment; we work with OEM, then we help to install the sim card onto the equipment, and then we sell this as a package, along with the applications required.”
du’s M2M solution is scalable to any size of company and doesn’t require a huge investment either, says Lincoln. “What we have is an OPEX model, so they don’t have to invest a lot of money in buying the machinery and then worry about getting a software vendor to integrate it, then come to the carrier to get the data rates – what we offer is a very comprehensive solution,” he says.
“Our solution is on a per truck, per month basis, and at a flat rate for data charge, so they don’t have to worry about paying exorbitant data charges: it is a very transparent predictable pricing.That’s the beauty of this, it’s scalable to anyone. The solution is in the cloud, the sim sits in the truck, and it is sending information all the time, and it can be scaled.
“If you had to deploy something like this, as a medium-sized company, you normally would have to invest a minimum amount before you can break even. But what we offer is a smaller step function on a per unit basis, so you can have one or two trucks, or more, ….up to thousands of trucks, and we can still offer these solutions,” adds Lincoln.
While bearing in mind that logistics firms may not have sophisticated IT capabilities, du enables its clients to manage, monitor and administer the tracking through the applications and systems that it provides. du has also recently signed a deal with global interconnection and data centre company Equinix, to provide managed data centre services.
“Most logistics companies don’t have the IT sophistication, and secondly, if you look at the market, the logistics industry is very fragmented. You don’t really have a monopoly situation, so most of them are not that scalable, with the exception of the airlines carriers.
“Any trucking or logistics company has information systems today, and they have information that needs to be stored somewhere. We can offer those managed data centre services.
“Most CIOs spend about 60% of the money on hardware and only 50-60% of that is utilised. So it is very sub-optimum. And that is a huge part of their IT budget.
“What we can offer is on-demand computing, so you tell us what memory you require, what CPU you require, and we will do it. It is very cost-effective, because you’re not wasting time. In this part of the world it usually takes 6-8 weeks to get a server delivered and implemented.
“And it is also secure; with most logistics companies not being IT-aware. Imagine losing your customer database or confidential pricing information. We provide intrusion detection and intrusion prevention. We do web security or email security. And we can offer it on the cloud, on a per user basis. And, if you decide to put your own servers in, we can manage this too,” he adds.
Another exciting service du has to offer is managed video. Lincoln says: “If you have people who need to be in constant communication with someone, whether the guy is on an oil rig or has an emergency on the road, you need to send information. We have a service which enables you actually to transfer images. So if the logistics guy actually needs to see what is happening, we have a solution: the driver can actually wear a device and transfer the images to the operations centre.”
du also has a mobile service solution to replace the walkie talkie in warehouse situations and for communication between drivers. “If the firm has 100 employers, we enable the calls between that group at a very discounted rate,” says Lincoln. “Most companies in this part of the world don’t give mobiles to the employees, they give an allowance for the possible business calls that they make because they can’t write it off as tax, as in other countries. So what du has is an option for companies to give a limit upfront, which the company pays, and then enables free calls across them – the employee can use these as and when he/she wants.”
Lincoln says that although other firms may offer some of these solutions in one form or the other, the fact that du are such a reputable brand should definitely influence logistics companies to go with them. “We are UAE-based and our share holders are formidable: i.e. the government of the UAE. And unlike many systems integrators that operate outside, the liability and risk that this might incorporate, risks on you as a company may not be fulfilled, but we are here. We won’t be going anywhere.
“We believe in the smaller guys, we are very young and innovative, and that’s how we view our offerings. So rather than say ‘We cannot [do it], it’s policy’, we always offer bespoke tailored solutions to meet any industry, or company – irrespective of the size.”