Transport Canada’s 2020 annual report
Finding the most innovative, quickest and cost-efficient way to move people and cargo from A to B continues to be a challenge that so many companies are on a mission to fix. Transport Canada’s 2020 annual report (“Transportation in Canada 2020,” released in June 2021) talks about the importance of the sector to the country’s economy, the need for safer vehicles and road infrastructure and advances in information, communication and other technologies. Hop In, Kevares and Geotab are three companies on a mission to be at the top of their game.
There’s a universal truth when it comes to horror stories about work: Many of them have to do with the commute. Getting to and from work is a hassle for so many folks.
It’s the impetus behind Hop In, a logistics software company that addresses mobility challenges and allows people to get to work more efficiently and easily using different types of shuttle services. Boyd Reid, the co-founder and COO, has known Erich Ko, his co-founder and the company’s CEO, since high school. “He phoned me at three o’clock early one morning and said he had an idea. Since we entered the workforce, something we consistently complained about was our commutes to and from work, so it started with us trying to figure out our own problem,” says Reid. “Back then, I had a 45-minute trip, but I was fortunate to have my own car to get to work. There were times when I didn’t have my vehicle and it took nearly two hours one way using three public transit authorities, which ate up time and cost a lot,” he says. “My co-founder had to take three buses from Markham to downtown Toronto. He once developed minor frostbite waiting for a bus that never showed up. These are the stories and situations that prompted us to solve this problem.”
The company has evolved in the three years since its inception — the first idea was a hitchhiker app. Today, Reid says Hop In’s logistics software is the bridge that designs routes to help people get to where they need to be. “We’re a business-to-business service, so our clients are companies and organizations that want to make commuting a better experience for their employees.” The service starts with a needs-assessment survey and information collection process — they look at where the company is located, what kind of commuting employees are doing, shift times they’re working, etc. “Once we analyze the data, we come up with routes that are designed to fill the gaps left by public transit, and we work with public transit to help people get to work,” says Reid.
Hop In has serviced 13 companies and organizations. “We have helped with retention by cutting down on the cost and time of employees’ commutes. It’s a company perk that makes employees feel cared for. We’ve also helped companies expand their hiring pools — they’re able to hire from a more diverse pool of talent outside of their local area. We have one client in Brampton, for example, and we’ve provided a shuttle service running from Scarborough. That gives the company access to workers in the east end. It would be impossible for these employees to get to and from work efficiently using regular public transit.”
Next year, the company hopes to expand into the U.S., as well as other markets that have been identified as a good candidate for their services —Mexico, Spain and the Netherlands. They also aim to work with more local transit authorities and local government organizations. “We pride ourselves on being problem solvers. Commuting isn’t a one-size-fits-all problem. You could have the greatest job, but your day could be ruined even before you step inside your workplace. Commuting is part of the workday and needs to be considered.”
We want to create a culture of originality. We want to make being authentic, original and having integrity a trend in a world of fake news and information.
Kevares uses autonomous mobile robots for clients, including municipalities like the City of Oshawa, for a variety of services such as sidewalk inspection, litter collection, lawn mowing, surveillance and parking enforcement. The idea, says CEO and founder Joel Nascimento, is to use “life electrification” and to reduce the carbon footprints of municipalities and private companies and help them deliver more services while spending less. “Kevares helps its clients better allocate human talents where they generate the biggest result for those organizations. We also forget that whatever the human hand touches, you have the accrued carbon footprint of both the person running the operation and the machine that he or she is using,” says Nascimento, who arrived in Canada three years ago and has a background of more than 20 years of working with project and operations management.
“We can do this by using electric robots to augment the capacity of humans.”
“Today, most of human operations are still with internal combustion engine vehicles, so sidewalk inspections in the City of Oshawa, for example, was operated by four pickup trucks and eight guys spotting things and taking notes on a notepad. That was until last year,” says Nascimento. A scooter is used now, but with Kevares, an autonomous robot could easily and efficiently get all the necessary data and feed it back to the city to implement change. “Driving a small scooter to do sidewalk inspections is like mopping a floor with a toothbrush. This is where we’re trying to help,” Nascimento says. “Or consider a guy mowing a lawn at X square metres per hour. With a wing man, or, in this case, a wing bot, now he’s going to do 20 to 40 percent more and faster. This is the business that Kevares is in. It’s not about one robot or robotics of a single machine, it’s more about how to make sure that 100 robots are operating in an orchestrated fashion with human controllers and task leaders getting more things done with a less expensive cost.” With that, it will help municipalities and corporate clients save money and reduce their carbon footprints, and at the same time, they can better allocate their workforce. This is important especially today because, as Nascimento says, cities and towns in the Greater Toronto Area are growing quickly and budgets aren’t increasing at the same rate. “Municipalities need to deliver more services to more citizens, with better service levels every year, with a budget that isn’t growing at the pace of demand. With autonomous services, the real game-changer we’re trying to offer is the capacity for them to use humans for something better so we’re not destroying jobs, we’re helping them reshape their workforce for tomorrow while meeting today’s targets.”
With a team of nine (currently four in Ontario and five in Brazil), Kevares is able to affect real change next year. Sidewalk inspection work with the City of Oshawa has been a success. “We have discussed the opportunity with the city and Durham Region to inspect other assets such as transit assets, as well as utility assets with utility companies within the region. The same thing you do to inspect a sidewalk or a bus stop, you can do to inspect a job site. We have more demand than we have arms to carry everything out. For that reason, staff and R&D projects are booming. In partnership with Queen’s University, five interns from all over the world will come to Canada by next spring/summer to work on simulated and real-world tests of the autonomous services that we are developing and researching together.” By next year, we will have a variety of services and pilots running with municipalities and post-secondary schools putting different types of robots doing meaningful things for different people. The future is really exciting.”
From Transportation in Canada 2020
the transportation and warehousing sector’s gross domestic product declined more (-20.4%) than all other industries in Canada (-5.2%) due to a significant reduction in passenger services during the pandemic.
Canadian households spent $164.7 billion on transportation (including insurance). This is the second-largest expense, second only to shelter.
950,200 employees (including self-employed people) worked in the transportation and warehousing sector, down 8.4% from 2019.
Fleet tracking is important when it comes to managing a business’s vehicles — tracking location, condition of cars and habits of drivers ensures vehicles are being operated safely and efficiently, and it can help keep costs low.
Geotab is the world’s leading commercial telematics (also known as fleet tracking or GPS vehicle tracking) company. “Telematics is now an essential management tool for many commercial and government fleets. It started out as a niche market because it used expensive satellite communications to relay data. Back then, customers were hindered by the high cost of data, obtaining only a limited amount of information,” says Mike Branch, Geotab’s vice-president of data and analytics. “Geotab solved that problem through design. Rather than using satellites to relay information, the initial Geotab GO module stored vehicle data in its memory, which could be transferred to a computer via a memory key. This architecture eliminated the cost penalty associated with fleet tracking. With access to affordable, accurate information, customers could gather much greater insight on their fleet.”
Today, Geotab telematics devices are in more than 2.4 million vehicles across more than 40,000 customers around the world, including more than 2,000 government agencies. The company’s open platform and marketplace “allow both small and large businesses to automate operations by integrating vehicle data with other data assets,” says Branch, adding the company processes billions of data points each day.
“Telematics and connected vehicle data have been key in helping to keep our trucking industry and the supply chain moving efficiently — tracking and managing the ever-important flow of goods across the country and North America,” Branch says. What’s more, as driver demand increases, safety on roadways is becoming more important to organizations. “By utilizing telematics, which can enable breakdown alerts, maintenance reminders, insights on driving behaviours (harsh braking, harsh cornering, acceleration, etc.), fleet managers can monitor the safety of their drivers and encourage safe habits.”
Geotab is currently working on the new Geotab Intelligent Transportation Systems analytics platform, called Altitude, which helps governments improve their transportation networks. Altitude provides real-world insights, and it can be used by local and provincial levels of government to identify areas for traffic improvements and monitor street-level transportation. The company has also made it a priority to fight climate change by recently announcing its ambitious target of net-zero by 2040, 10 years
earlier than what’s stipulated in the Paris Agreement. “Geotab plans to use its industry reach, influence and technology to help our customers and partners understand how they can take action against climate change — from helping organizations transition their fleets to electric vehicles, and helping utilities manage their electric grids in order to promote and handle electric vehicle use.”