A number of Canadian companies are playing a leading role in shaping the global telematics market, and while they have taken different paths, they are now beginning to find their groove. Some have grown organically, while others have focused on acquiring smaller outfits to bolster existing operations. Still others have gone through painful restructuring to only now find what they say is the right business model going forward. Telematics covers a number of applications with the most common being asset and fleet monitoring and tracking using a variety of wireless technologies.  AirIQ Inc., one of the country’s most recognizable names in the telematics sector, bolstered its operations over the last couple of years through acquisition and product expansion. In 2003, the Toronto-based firm expanded into the consumer space with the launch of MobileIQ (RoW, Oct. 5/03) and then subsequently boosted that offering through an agreement with LoJack Corp. last year (RoW, Sept. 22/04). The company also made two key acquisitions last year adding Aircept and Boatracs to its operations.  Don Simmonds, president and CEO of AirIQ, told Report on Wireless last year that while there are many verticals the company could be attacking, it has one key goal. "Our aspiration is to attack what we call large-scale homogeneous vertical markets where we have massive numbers of vehicles to attack or so that our technology investment can have as much opportunity as possible," he said. Simmonds’ comments are telling for two other Canadian telematics companies. Burnaby B.C.-based WebTech Wireless Inc. and Cell-Loc Location Technologies Inc., of Calgary, are both trying to accomplish the same type of strategy: leverage existing telematics systems to secure contracts with enterprises that have large installed bases.  WebTech Wireless inked such a contract late last year with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) to provide fleet management services for CPR’s intermodal carriers across the country. System deployment is expected to begin this month.  Anwar Sukkarie, president and CEO of WebTech, told RoW prior to the signing of the CPR deal that the telematics market is fragmented, so any product and service strategy has to flexible. "Our formula (for) success is we cater to any fleet of any size," he says, adding that this is possible because the company maintains ownership of its service from end to end.  "Our ability to remain opportunistic (and) at the same time be able to focus on one or two applications has given us the flexibility to continue growing, whereas you could see fluctuations in how other companies are growing," he says. "But it’s obvious that the future of telematics, in order to become a significant leader in it, is the ability to address several markets at the same time. That’s how you become successful in this business (in my point of view."  After opening its doors four years ago, the company is now operating with a profit. Sukkarie attributes that success to two things: the company’s ownership of the end-to-end solution and its ability to execute. In addition to owning the service, WebTech Wireless designs the locator unit, which is manufactured in China, and owns the interfaces with third-party vendors and peripherals and applications.  "From a business perspective, I would say what differentiates us or what makes us successful in this field is execution. How you execute in this particular business will dictate if you are a winner or not. Markets are looking for companies that can sustain their growth, that can show bottom line profit, and all of these things are related to how to execute, how to sell, how to operate, how to spend you money where your return in maximized," Sukkarie explains.  Comparing the evolution of WebTech Wireless to that of Cell-Loc Location Technologies of Calgary is a study in contrasts. After years of research and development and millions of dollars spent perfecting an innovative wireless location service in which few expressed an interest, Cell-Loc had to undertake a major reorganization. It is only now after coming out of a painful restructuring that the company says it has found the right model to provide ubiquitous monitoring and asset tracking services to customers with a large install base.  The Calgary company does appear, in fact, to be on the road to recovery, having recently inked a nearly US$20-million contract to provide tracking technology to one of the largest insurance companies in Brazil (RoW, Jan. 26/05). But this isn’t the first time. The early outlook was bright for Cell-Loc, and the company in its early days thought it had a slam dunk with a cellular location technology. As company president and CEO Sheldon Reid explains, the firm soon realized there wasn’t much interest in a cellular location network.  "What we found after building out a couple of cities was that the market was really looking for a device that they could attach to an asset, be it a car or a cement mixer or a backhoe or something like that where they could locate it. Although we did spend a substantial amount of money basically doing R&D and deploying cities, it really confirmed to us that the market was ready and willing to pay for a device," he told RoW last month.  Going the device route with its Beacon product also makes it easy for the company to ramp up deployment quickly to a large installed base because "you can attach it to essentially anything," Reid says. Reiterating the desire to find customers with large numbers of users or assets, he says, "We’re really looking a party where we build and the market is already there, and we felt that was a great way to initiate our South American operation where prior to even starting deployment we had a substantial client base which in and of itself would pay for the cost of the deployment and offer us profit in a very short period of time without going to additional customers."  Reid says there are a number of opportunities available using the company’s Beacon technology, including drink machine inventory management where the temperature and inventory levels are measured with the Beacon. He also says change of state services such as when doors open and close is an opportunity worth exploring.  "I really believe that this is a great opportunity for us and we have obviously spent a tremendous amount of money on R&D over the past nine years and it was really a function of finding the right model and working in an existing market rather than working in what we believe to be an emerging market of locating cellular phones," Reid says.