A Glympse of the Future

Apr 03, 2019 • FeaturesFleet TechnologyAutonomous VehiclesMachine LearningfleetGlympsetelematicsThe Field Service PodcastLocation Based

Chris Ruff is the President and CEO of location-based technology outfit Glympse and was a recent a guest on The Field Service podcast. Here Deputy Editor Mark Glover cherry-picks some highlights from the interview including automotive technology, machine learning and a misty-eyed look at the hardware that inspired him.

Let’s travel back to 1999, the year of the Palm VII, seen as the first truly wireless handheld device. Chris was (and still is) a fan. “It was why I got into wireless,” he says with nostalgia. “The idea that we run little applications on mobile devices was hugely inspiring to me. It was amazing because, until that moment, most of our experiences were from a dial-up modem in hour homes and we’d sit in front of our PCs, and that was how we got content and communicated with people.

“Now all of a sudden with this mobile device we were able to view content and share things with people. It really became the beginning of mobility and mobile applications. Starbucks had an app where you could find stores. It was really amazing, you could find coffee on your Palm VII.”

Is it collecting dust in Chris’ loft? “I might have it in a box somewhere,” he says laughing. “I tend to keep all my devices. I know I have seven generations of BlackBerries up there. They soon became my addiction."

“Mobile device improvements have been modest ones,” he says when I ask him about the evolution of mobility hardware. “They are mostly around cameras and screens but the underlying tech has been pretty stagnant for several years and generations now. It means it’s becoming a pretty mature market, just like the PC,” he suggested.

Chris has been with Glympse just over a year now, prior, he spent a significant chunk of time – 18 years – at connected car technology and automotive telematics provider Xevo where he joined in its infancy, overseeing various executive positions and becoming its President, CEO and Chairman. He remains on the board.

"Starbucks had an app where you could find stores. It was amazing, you could find coffee on your Palm VII...” 

The potential of automotive technology, therefore, forms a good part of our conversation, most notably when I ask where he sees the next big disruption in field service. “I believe that in the big Iot space that autonomous driving will create a huge change in field service,” he says. “It’s going to make everything more productive, it will improve communications with consumers and it’s going to make it safer. I think this will re-shape the industry more than any tech enhancement than we have today.

He also cites machine learning as a significant enabler in the sector, providing service in real-time and pre-empting faults but he thinks another pinch point could be the way a product is delivered, syncing with the arrival of the technician.

“We’re currently looking at way of tracking two or more things simultaneously, in a healthcare scenario, for example,” he explains. “Here a skilled nurse and the drugs they need to administer need to be at the patient’s house at the same time.

You could see that in some of the advanced field services and even big machinery cases; where the part and tech show up at the same time, assisted by machine learning that alerts the service company when the asset is about to break.”

I ended the podcast by asking what motivates Chris in his work. His answer is wide-ranging that touches on potential of technology as well as making a difference in society. “I’m motivated by two things,” he says. One is being able to continually push the envelope of what’s available using technology. Two is making a difference in the world.

Can he cite an example? “During the hurricane season, while the search and rescue operations were taking place, teams were using Glympse to keep track of each other, ensuring they wouldn’t lose touch while they carried out the task.

“That to me is super inspiring. That I can work on technology that actually makes a difference in people’s lives.”