Sawatch Group Seeks Fleet-Manager Partners, After Business Model Pivot

Sawatch Group redirected its mobile app business model to help fleet managers gather data to acquire electric vehicles, after realizing there was too much competition for its consumer-facing telematics app, redirected its mobile app business model to help fleet managers gather data to acquire electric vehicles, after realizing there was too much competition for its consumer-facing telematics app, Mobility Buzz has learned.

The telematics developer and consulting firm flipped the switch in August 2016, three years after developing its consumer-facing app, dubbed Petrolr.

“The core of our [telematic] tech is the same, so it’s not quite a pivot but a redirect,” and chasing the fleet market was more viable than chasing consumers, Ryan Daley, consultant and founder, told Mobility Buzz.

Now, the Denver, Co.-based company has secured two partnerships under this redirection, including one with an undisclosed energy lab. Sawatch Group is also looking to expand its customer base and potentially hire more full-time employees, Daley said.

Telematics is the branch of information technology that deals with the long-distance transmission of computerized information. Gathering telematics is the first step for fleet managers looking to acquire electric vehicles; the companies need to know where charging infrastructure should go, Matthew Helm, an engineer and co-founder of Sawatch Group, told Mobility Buzz.

Sawatch Group is currently working on a project called ezEV with its two partnerships, which is a program wherein organizations looking to convert all or a portion of their existing fleets to electric vehicles can evaluate the suitability of their drive cycles to EVs, added Helm.

Through its app, Sawatch Group helps fleet managers gather route data, driver performance (including speeding and hard braking), engine performance, and parking locations, Daley explained, in an effort to gain a full footprint of the driver, vehicle, and geography.

As telematics devices have become a necessity in fleet management, manufacturers like Volvo and Caterpillar have responded by offering vehicles with the devices already installed.

But Sawatch Group works differently than traditional telematics, as traditional telematics are not offered via an app. Since a phone does not connect to a vehicle’s onboard diagnostic port, Sawatch Group’s telematics is more secure and even less expensive. It does not connect to the vehicle — instead, the information is transmitted wirelessly.

How telematics can appear on a phone. (Photo: Sawatch Group)

Sawatch group eliminated the need for the physical connection by modeling car performance through the app, thereby eliminating the need for a third-party device because GPS and cellular connection already exist on a phone. Traditional telematics requires a connection to a car’s onboard diagnostic port.

In turn, Sawatch’s app is more secure, due to the fact that traditional telematics devices can be potentially hacked via the car’s onboard diagnostic port.

And considering the recent Wikileaks document dump that included excerpts about the government agencies ability to hack into a car, it makes Daley’s point is all the more salient.

June 2017 will prove a critical period for Sawatch Group’s growth, as its current partnership contracts are secured until that time. Daley seemed positive that those contacts may be extended, but in the meantime, the firm is looking to work directly with other fleets as well as seek federal grant funding from the Department of Energy.

“June is a critical turning point for us,” Daley said. “We are developing partnerships and have projects in the pipeline.”

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