Ontario-based telematics leader Geotab thrives because of 'cream of the crop' talent

When software engineer Neil Cawse decided to move to Ontario, Canada, he wasn't thinking about the safety of the 550,000 drivers worldwide who would come to use his software, or the tens of millions of data points that software would collect daily. He was focused on the security of a much smaller group: his family.

From South Africa to Southern Ontario

“I had just gotten married and we wanted to move somewhere safe to raise kids,” recalls the South African entrepreneur during a recent telephone interview from the headquarters of Geotab, the fast-growing telematics company he founded in Oakville, Ontario, just west of Toronto. “In South Africa during the late 1990's, security was a big issue.”

Naturally, as an engineer, Cawse researched his worldwide options thoroughly.

Head shot of Neil Cawse, CEO, Geotab.
Neil Cawse, CEO, Geotab.

Cawse read UN reports, market studies, and economic forecasts. To make the transition of moving easier for his family, he narrowed his options to English-speaking countries. He went so far as to make site visits to every one of them, eventually ending up in Toronto in the middle of a brutal February snow storm, which was a bit of a shock to his South African sensibilities. Despite that inclement introduction, Cawse chose Ontario.

“Toronto is a major economic hub that offers easy access to markets in Canada, the northeastern United States and Europe,” he explains. His decision paid off big-time.

Telematics for large corporations including Pepsico

A computer monitor showing Geotab's software
Geotab's fleet management software

Since 2000, when Geotab was launched, it has become a global industry leader in telematics, the software systems at the heart of connected car technology. Geotab's roster of end-users includes some of the largest corporations in North America, among them many household names. Pepsico's entire North American fleet of 35,000 vehicles is fitted with Geotab GO7 telematics devices. The company is now looking at rolling out the Geotab solution to 100,000+ vehicles worldwide. Geotab provides open platform fleet management solutions to a diverse range of fleets, from construction and oil and gas, on down to municipal fleets and local lawn care services.

Geotab's fleet management software does far more than simply track delivery vehicles to improve route efficiencies.

Geotab's GPS tracking device plugs into a vehicle's on-board diagnostic computer and monitors a data stream that includes fuel consumption, acceleration rates, braking patterns, and dozens of other factors that can affect driver safety and security. Because the data monitoring is transmitted in real-time, fleet managers can interact with drivers immediately if they spot a problem.

“Improved safety is the single biggest benefit clients derive from Geotab,” says Cawse. “Statistics show a 30 per cent reduction in accidents. That means not only fewer deaths and less suffering, it also cuts costs. Commercial insurers offer deep discounts for fleets equipped with Geotab.”

Geotab GO7 devices arranged in a stacked pyramid
The Geotab GO7 plugs directly into a vehicle's OBDII port. Second-by-second, it transmits thousands of data points to fleet managers, from fuel consumption rates to engine diagnostics and seatbelt use.

The keys to success: strong partnerships and a highly skilled workforce

Cawse attributes a large part of Geotab's success to two main factors, the first of which was to work through partners.

“We're engineers and, from the beginning, we wanted to stay laser-focused on what we do best,” he says. “We built an open telematics platform on top of which our partners can build applications tailored to meet their specific needs of their clients, much like a mobile app sits on top of the operating system of a smartphone.”

“I don't think people are aware of just how skilled and well-educated the workforce is here,” he says. “Studies by the OECD show Canadians have higher levels of post-secondary education than just about any other country.”

The other critical factor in Geotab's success was the high skill level of the workforce available in Canada, an element that first surfaced during his initial location research.

“The universities here are excellent and we recruit heavily at the University of Toronto, McMaster, Waterloo and a few others,” he says. “But it's also a result of the Canadian immigration system. By prioritizing skills and education, we get the cream of the crop.”

Fueled by that talent pool, Geotab is equipped to respond to rising demand for its technology and software due to the increasing need for safety and productivity tools, and the growth of the connected car/truck market worldwide.

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