Driving innovation in fleet management through Internet of Things

A joint UNDP and Microsoft pilot expected to be expanded later this year

June 24, 2020


New York - The road leads to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals, but how do we drive that road? 

A new solution devised by Microsoft and UNDP uses the Internet of Things technology to connect vehicle fleets. Thus, country offices and field operations can pursue their mission while reducing environmental impact, saving vital funds and bolstering donor confidence, and keeping staff and host communities secure.

UNDP operates in about 170 countries with more than 17,000 staff members and employees. Moving the people best suited to tackle each challenge requires a sizable fleet. UNDP employs roughly 3,000 vehicles including trucks, cars, vans, and even armored vehicles. This resource presents difficulties of its own, such as safety, security, and efficiency.  

UNDP has partnered with Microsoft and QuEST Global to build a solution that addresses all these challenges by saving money, reducing its carbon footprint, improving safety, and increasing donor trust.

This new solution uses telemetry readings from Internet of Things (IoT) enabled devices to help the organization track its fleet’s location, driver behavior, speed, and vehicle health, in real time. With the new insight into the location of vehicles and the behavior of drivers, UNDP is advancing safety and security in host countries around the world. 

Piloting an IoT project

Microsoft connected leadership from UNDP and the product engineering and lifecycle services partner QuEST Global to understand how to deliver on the agency’s goal. The partnership determined that the organization needed accurate data to confidently make decisions and keep staff secure. The team identified the most important metrics to track, including speed, location, vehicle health, and driver behavior. Since the types of vehicles and connectivity options vary among host countries, the solution needed to be flexible and effective with both satellite and cellular connections.

The straightforward solution makes it easy to deliver IoT devices to country offices and add new vehicles to the management system—a critical point for the organization as it rolls out the solution worldwide and replaces older vehicles with hybrid and electric cars.

The pilot for the project was carried out in country offices that represent diverse geographies, such Georgia, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, and Cambodia.   

Improving safety and security

“The main impact we got with the pilot was safety, and the impact was immediate,” says Keti Ukleba, operations manager at UNDP in Georgia. "Every time a vehicle went into the field, I used to call and ask, ‘Did you arrive safely?’. With this solution, I feel much less worried.”  

Live monitoring of fleet vehicles can have critical implications for security. For example, an immediate alert of a vehicle breaking down in a dangerous region could save precious time in how offices respond. 

The fleet management solution also improves safety by tracking driver behavior. It monitors speed, harsh turns, and abrupt braking so that fleet managers can give specific feedback or training to drivers who need it.  Staff report that drivers are already more conscientious about speed and defensive driving. “We run projects to benefit our host country,” Ukleba says. “When we help create safer roads, we are also taking care of the people of this country.”  

Conserving financial and environmental resources

Increased safety and security does not have a price tag, but the IoT connected fleet is already yielding both financial and environmental savings.

While all United Nations entities are carbon-neutral, the Secretariat has committed to reducing emissions by 45 percent in the coming decade. A reduction of this magnitude requires innovation and concerted effort across the globe—and UNDP leaders see the fleet management solution as one tool to contribute to this effort.

It is still too early to quantify the savings in countries that piloted the project, but it is already making a significant impact on pilot countries’ budgets. The fleet management solution allowed the Georgia office to create an interconnected driver and vehicle pool, reducing the number of staff and vehicles needed—and saving the office thousands. Ukleba expects the savings to grow the longer they track the office’s fleet.

“This is really a wow factor because you’re not only using vehicles more efficiently, but also generating less emissions,” Kirienko explains. “This is good not only for the organization. It’s good for the whole planet.”

Boosting donor confidence

UNDP is an international not-for-profit organization that relies entirely on voluntary contributions from UN member states, multilateral organizations, the private sector, and other sources. “Donors expect that money is used in the most efficient way possible to implement projects,” says Vera Kirienko, an asset management specialist with UNDP. “Having this solution, which helps us better utilize vehicles, allows us to show a better return on the money they invested.”

Managing a more efficient fleet

Additional UNDP offices are expected to join the next phase of the pilot, which includes working on a centralized booking system and expanding fleet management to include hybrid and electric vehicles, and enabling IoT devices to connect to the cloud via satellite as well as mobile connections.   Offices around the world are gradually adopting the solution and, by testing it, helping the team develop an even better version for the organization-wide rollout later in 2020.