Innovations in telematics and autonomous technology are continuously shaping the world for the better. We had the privilege of speaking with Mr. Eitan Kirshenboim, CMO of ERM Advanced Telematics about the present status as well as the future of the fast-changing and ever-evolving industry.
Good day to you, Mr Kirshenboim! Thank you very much for meeting with us today. To start with, would you share with us how you start a busy day? What are some of your favorite routines for improving productivity for a day’s work?
Good day and thank you for the opportunity for this interview! I believe, just like any other parent, the day starts with waking the kids and getting them ready for school…
But I guess the first thing I’ll do is check messages and emails on my phone. ERM is a global player. We have a team in India and partners across five continents, so while I’ve been sleeping, people are working elsewhere and might have needed my attention. Once I get into the office, I usually already have some work to do for partners or for the Indian team, so, usually, the day starts immediately, I’m afraid.
Once I have some time, I read a little, and look for interesting news in our domain and beyond.
We see that you have had a very successful career journey, working in fields across business development, marketing and technology. Would you tell us what the important highlights of your professional career have been so far?
Well, as a hi-tech guy, the main highlight I can think of is doing a variety of roles. I took on different types of work during the first fifteen or so years, once I entered the technology world. I started as a programmer, project management, product management, tech team management, then shifted into presales, sales, business development, marketing, and then channel sales, which combines basically everything I have done in the past.
I believe that having a variety of views, having enough time in each role, especially in large companies, builds a solid understanding of how the company works, how business is evolving and how to grow business with total strangers.
Another highlight is not being afraid to take responsibility. Managers are always looking for someone they can trust with larger tasks, helping them grow the business. It can start with small gestures, helping your colleagues prepare a presentation, fixing an Excel sheet, editing a document, giving from your knowledge and experience, then offering yourself to take responsibility for a small project, to manage a team evening, for example, or an internal event.
Once you start helping others and preparing activities not only for you, you get awareness from your surroundings, you get grateful remarks and you start developing a passion for it. Projects and interesting roles will follow.
The last one is putting things in perspective. There is a slogan I use: “A man has to choose his wars.” I always think about it when I’m in an ongoing rough situation – am I taking this event in perspective? Is there a purpose in continuing in this way?
Albert Einstein once said that “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”.
It doesn’t matter in which type of situation, in professional life or private life, you will always be in situations where things go badly. It’s very important to step aside for a minute and try to look at the situation as if you were someone else. It’s always good to take a break when you are under stress, even five minutes to yourself, go outside, to the porch, to a closed room, wherever you can be alone, and try to look at things differently and mostly put them in perspective.
ERM Advanced Telematics has been in the business of developing new technologies and products for the automotive market since 1985. Would you tell us about the company’s secret of success?
ERM has always looked at things differently. The main idea behind almost everything we do is to find a way to “walk an extra mile”. ERM always tries to find flaws in existing technologies, to find the difficulties in customers’ and partners’ fields of activities and try to solve them in a creative way, while turning them into valuable advantage.
The solving of a difficult situation is not enough. We will always think about what else can be done to make the best out of this solution and maximise the value for our customer or partner in the process.
If we have an idea for a new solution to overcome an obstacle or a limitation in technology, or after receiving a request from a customer for a specific solution, we never take it as it is. We will try to think what else can this solution be suited for and we will always try to expand it with a wider view. This way, we managed to build up a very dynamic and flexible portfolio of solutions that allows our partners to do almost anything they want, and gives them new ideas to expand the markets they do business in.
The transportation industry is highly competitive and many new and innovative businesses enter the market every day. How does ERM Advanced Telematics make sure that it stands out among its competitors?
You can think of ERM as a boutique technology solutions vendor. We never stop inventing, innovating, learning. We are like both start-up and mature technology companies. While most of the players out there offer off-the-shelf products – a “this is what it is, take it or leave it” approach, we are always available for our service-provider partners. They know they can count on us to always come up with the right solution for everything they need, helping them to cover more ground, win more projects, while reusing the same technology they’ve already purchased from us, and just grow it along the way. We are marathon runners with our partners. The relationship is long and prosperous for both sides.
ERM Advanced Telematics continues to improve the quality of driving and make vehicle management more convenient for service providers and end customers. How do you see the company in five to ten years’ time? What are the short-term and long-term plans for the company?
We see a very exciting era coming up. Telematics is so widely spread, covering lots of applications for so many years, but these days, it’s growing even larger.
IoT and connected car are expanding telematics into even wider areas.
Connected car is basically an extension of telematics. It allows you to be in constant contact with your vehicle, understand what is happening with it, have all the relevant information that you need to operate it at the tip of your fingers, control it remotely and enjoy media like you are at home with your favorite genres. It’s a cool way to see the future. Actually, it’s here and now…
Another extension of ERM’s telematics approach that’s blooming these days is the shift in focus from driver and vehicle to what’s on the vehicle, improvement of handling goods and assets in transit, monitoring them all the way throughout the delivery chain and at the final destination during the day-to-day activities.
Manufacturers have become service providers. They are not satisfied with just selling products. They want to continue and sell maintenance services to their customers and sell more parts and accessories.
They want to be able to monitor the product on the way to the customer, see that nothing has happened to it on the way, that it arrives safely, that it’s installed or fitted the right way, that it’s working perfectly and then, if something is wrong, fix it while growing their own PNL, rather than having another middleman service provider.
This means that ERM is now expanding its business into IoT asset monitoring. It doesn’t matter whether it’s mobile or stationary, it’s enough that it was mobile for some time. We want to monitor it, and we can continue to monitor it after it’s fitted or in use.
There are many applications that are related to IoT and asset monitoring, and ERM is merging them into telematics.
In the next five to ten years, we will see more and more electric vehicles, and many of them will become more and more autonomous. This is a totally new ball game for the automotive industry since it began at the end of the 19th century. Every electric vehicle will come connected – the vehicle is transformed into an application, basically. It will be upgraded over the air, it will be monitored every second and new services will become part of our new lives. Everything that ERM has done until now has prepared us for these new aspects. We are expanding our reach into more aspects of vehicle and driver safety, offering ADAS solutions, moving into cyber protection. We recently came up with a patented solution for aftermarket vehicles. It’s very exciting to see how things are moving in this world and we are taking a firm part in it.
Your products and services have been implemented in over 1.5 million vehicles in 65 countries across the globe. What are your strategies for further expanding the reach of the company?
Actually, if we count telematics solutions, we have globally more than 2 million implementations. But in terms of overall components installed, we’re looking at more than 5 million vehicles that have ERM’s technology installed in them.
Until recently, our main focus was service providers, the companies that offer services for fleets and individuals, managing fleets, protecting them, offering usage-based insurance and so on.
This made ERM mostly a hardware technology vendor.
During the last few years, we have moved into offering services ourselves. We have developed software products, cloud-based, mobile apps, and are trying to make the owner-to-vehicle approach more personal. While most of our service-provider partners use their own cloud platform to serve their customers, some of them use a commercial one that doesn’t always focus on those customers and their specific market requirements. For this, today we offer these partners a cloud-based platform that brings all our unique approach and way of thinking even closer to them, giving them a simple way to do things and helping them get to market much faster than before.
The fact that ERM technology is so flexible and so dynamic that it can cover so many applications often confuses our partners, makes them sometimes miss opportunities due to a misunderstanding or a lack of knowledge of the technology options and features.
In order to help them with this, we found that the direct approach to end customers is the way.
This new approach is part of our strategy to become a one-stop shop for our partners and the first choice they think of when they have a need or a new project.
We push even more these days, getting more involved in the field alongside our partners. We make introductions, support them during meetings with customers and learn a lot more about the field than ever before.
What excites you most about the future of transportation? How do you think vehicle autonomy and connectivity influence other sectors in the business world?
Transportation is shifting from being focused on the vehicle itself, to what the vehicle carries. With any type of cargo, whether it’s passengers, parcels or any other assets, fleets are spending more money and investment on making sure the cargo is delivered to the right place, and on time. All of that is being done while OEMs are striving to take control out of human hands.
The future is all connected in automotive, but artificial intelligence (AI) also needs to be much more powerful in order to enable decision-making by the vehicle in a fraction of a second.
In order to be able to manage all the traffic and pedestrians, and at the same time keep everybody and everything safe, everything needs to be connected and interfaced. There will have to be standards to allow all technologies talk in the same language. Rules will have a different perspective. If, today, road traffic is managed by one standard of rules, in the future, these rules will have to change dynamically.
For example, today you can find yourself waiting for a green light at a junction at 4 a.m., while no vehicle is visible for miles, but the traffic lights are operating as if it’s noon and a lot of vehicles are using this junction. It’s the same for pedestrians who want to cross to the other side: it’s a red light, although there is no vehicle in the vicinity.
There are solutions today that try to solve this, creating new standards in traffic management, pushing for the smart city, but I believe it’s only one small portion of what’s coming. Besides, it will only be relevant where pedestrians are in the neighborhood, and these solutions will also have to be connected to the main grid, interfacing and operating dynamically with the vehicles crossing the junction.
In places where there are only vehicles, the vehicles themselves will be able to communicate between themselves and decide who needs to give priority to whom.
Next, and just around the corner, is the flying-vehicle era. Think about back in the seventies, eighties. Movies and series like Star Trek, Blade Runner, they all presented the exact future we are going to have in a very few decades. Every time I think about these movies, I get excited just from imagining these guys talking about these ideas, brainstorming about things that will begin only 30 years later. Who dreamed about anything mobile or internet in those days? Amazing.
So, anyways, we are talking three dimensions of traffic management. No rules are able to manage this today, and it’s coming, fast.
Autonomous vehicles will have to decide their own rules, but still follow guidelines that will have to be set by municipals, governments or even world central governance that will have a mandate to decide for everyone.
We are talking about huge changes coming. It’s very exciting and mind-blowing.
Technology is going to play a huge part in this future. Vehicles are going to be just another application in a terrific world of technology, connectivity, huge-data mining, big-data analysis, faster data stream, faster and much cheaper electronic components, huge capacity of power production, and on and on. This is going to impact everyone, everywhere. The Earth will be smaller than ever. I really hope it will be still in my time.
ERM Advanced Telematics’ products and services cater to various customer demands for innovative automotive technology. How does the company plan to keep up with the changing technological landscape in the transportation industry?
ERM always tries to find limitations in technologies, things that make life hard for our partners and their customers. Once we find a limitation like this, it’s so satisfying to find a way to overcome it.
This is the type of thing we do at ERM. We have many solutions as such already patented, and many still in the pipeline.
Life in the future will become harder for hardware manufacturers. It’s also hard today if you think about it, but we at ERM focus on technology. We are always moving forward to find the next challenge and beat it. This is what makes us unique today and in the future.
ERM Advanced Telematics’ latest innovation, Starlink EV, is a telematics product for the EV market that can be used in cars, buses, trucks and two-wheeled vehicles, such as motorcycles and scooters. Would you tell us more about it, as well as the products and services you plan to develop in the future?
Electrical vehicles and the future, we already see them today, filling up the streets in many western countries. This market will grow rapidly for sure, and we are ready for it.
ERM’s EV device was designed mainly for scooters and small vehicles, but it can also support any vehicle, small or large, in the same way. The question really is whether a high voltage is required in a vehicle. If it is, we can supply the solution; if it isn’t, we can supply it too.
Like all ERM’s solutions, the EV solution is also designed in several variants and will grow as much as required in the field. Today we already have a requirement for CANBUS integration with this device – it’s already in motion. So basically, just as always, we will continue supplying whatever the field is asking for.
The future for ERM is in IoT, as mentioned previously. We consider IoT to be a natural expansion of the telematics industry, one that can make a difference to all service providers and help them to create new business and enter related markets or just enlarge their offering to currently served customers. It will be seamless to go from mobile to stationary, to monitor assets as well as vehicles and people, and support the many new applications to come.
Giving back to society and becoming more environmentally conscious is an important business responsibility to comply with nowadays. Would you share with us how ERM Advanced Telematics practices corporate responsibility?
Recently we launched a solution for people who might need help in finding their way back home. It’s relevant for elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease, or even for kids. The idea is to give each person a tag, attached to their keys, or their belt.
ERM’s “Good Samaritan” solution allows everyone that downloads the app to be part of a network of searchers, looking for a missing person together. Once the searcher is near the person, their phone will alert them, showing them the person’s picture, and ask them to approach and assist the person until someone comes to pick them up. This solution is going to be offered free of charge, including ERM tags, to any social organisation in Israel very soon.
On a lighter note, we are interested to know what the top things or activities are that a high-caliber business leader does to recharge on their day off from work?
That’s a tough question. These days, when the phone follows you wherever you go, and applications like email, WhatsApp, and Skype are always on, it’s almost impossible to have a day off. But as a religious guy, I maintain Saturdays as the absolute day off – no phones, laptop, TV, car, or even electricity are used during these 24 hours, starting on Friday evening until Saturday night. I’m completely disconnected from the world, with only family and rest.
Lastly, could you share with us your favorite motivational quote? What does success mean to you?
Success for me is doing something you love, and watching how it grows, thanks to your actions.
It’s a pleasure speaking with you Mr. Kirshenboim. We’ve learned a lot.
About the Interviewee
Eitan Kirshenboim is the CMO, Business Development at ERM Advanced Telematics. He is responsible for planning and execution of the company’s marketing strategic plan, including development and construction of the marketing, selling and customer support infrastructure, in order to bounce the company to the next phase in becoming the leader of AVL and Telematics manufacturer in the world.