Avis Budget Malta, which operates one of the largest car hire and vehicle leasing fleets in Malta, has appointed HandsOn Systems as their telematics supplier, with the devices being installed in all their rental cars using an on-demand tracking system.
According to sales manager Alan Mercieca, this is a lower cost, less intrusive technology than the 24×7 GPS tracking provided by HandsOn Fleet and is more suitable for hired cars or leased vehicles and even brand-new cars that have been bought on hire purchase.
“All you do is send a text (SMS) message with a code to the SIM that is in the
individual car and, depending on the code, the device in the car will do one of two things: give you the car’s exact co-ordinates (replying via SMS) or disable the car when it is stationary with the engine off so that it cannot be re-started,” Mr Mercieca said.
He gave a number of ways this type of connected car is beneficial: a tourist could have parked the car somewhere out of the way and would not be able to find it; it could be ‘lost’ in a car park; the car could have broken down and the tourist would need the car hire company to locate the car; and a car buyer could default on instalment payments.
“If a client hires the car and does not return it at the end of the rental term despite repeated efforts for the client to be contacted, the owner has every right to retrieve his car,” Mr Mercieca said. “The device is highly secure and tamper-proof. Only the car hire operator is allowed to communicate with the tracking device.”
The market is currently warming to this type of device, with enquiries being received both from car rental and vehicle leasing firms and new car importers. “There are certain clients that are sensitive to privacy and we believe our on-demand tracking system addresses these concerns,” Geoffrey Farrugia, HandsOn Systems CEO said.
“We have been in discussion both with Avis Budget Malta and other potential clients for some months and I am glad that they are the first to have concluded such a big contract. HandsOn Systems is committed to helping transport and mobility companies implement connected car technologies to make driving vehicles safer for passengers,
drivers and other road users through actionable insights.”
Avis Budget Malta Director and CEO, Jason Aquilina, is pleased with the initial results. “Thanks to HandsOn Systems’ on-demand tracker, we are now in a position to know where all our vehicles are at a given moment. This helps us with logistics and ensures we are turning around the business much faster.”
One of the key areas of focus of Adrian Borg, International Business Development Manager of HandsOn Systems, is to expand the company’s operations in the African continent. With Ghana hosting the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which started trading on 1 January 2021, HandsOn sees the country as a gateway not just to the Western region but to the entire continent.
Late last year, a delegation from HandsOn Systems, led by the company chairman Anthony De Bono, paid a courtesy call on the Deputy High Commissioner of Ghana in Malta, Ag. Head of Mission, Mr Amanor T. Daku Mante. HandsOn Systems international business development manager Adrian Borg, who attended the meeting, along with CEO Geoffrey Farrugia, described the meeting as fruitful and interesting.
“It is important to network with the diplomatic representatives of the countries in which we are operating since they can give us insight on how business can develop, and build contacts in both the public and private sectors, helping us to infiltrate the country in the most seamless and effective manner,” Mr Borg said. “The term of the previous High Commissioner came to an end last November and Mr Amanor T. Daku-Mante is acting as the Head of Mission, pending the arrival of a successor.”
During the highly cordial meeting, the Maltese government’s initiatives to develop trade relations with Ghana were discussed, especially in view of the establishment of a subsidiary of HandsOn Systems in Ghana in 2018. Ag. Head of Mission, Mr Amanor T. Daku-Mante and his team showed great interest in the company’s initiatives and its technology, which it is already deploying in the country, and expressed a willingness to help the company with key introductions and overall support.
Although the primary focus in West Africa is Ghana, HandsOn Systems’ strategy is to use Ghana as a stepping-stone to other countries in the region, including Benin, Togo, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast. “Ghana is considered one of the most stable and the point of departure for this region from a business perspective,” Mr Borg said.
The African Continental Free Trade Area, founded in 2018, already has 54 of the 55 African Union members as signatories. The free trade area is the largest in the world in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.
The agreement initially requires AfCFTA members to remove tariffs from 90% of goods, allowing free access to commodities, goods and services across the continent. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the agreement will boost intra-African trade by 52 per cent by 2022.
Mr Borg is in daily contact with the team in the Ghana subsidiary, headed by a manager and including a technician and a support executive. “What I have managed to do since I joined HandsOn Systems last May is to start growing a network of partners who have the contacts and have developed the clientele in these countries, enabling us to go to them with our technology.
“We are constantly on the look-out for companies operating in these countries. We set up meetings with them, create partnership agreements with our products and they themselves will be able to open certain doors for our technology which they did not offer previously. For them, these become part of the products, services and solutions they offer to grow their business, at the end of the day,” he said.
Mr Borg has so far concluded three partner agreements with companies with a market reach outside Ghana in the countries in the region. “Our strategy after this period was to review our products and see what industrial sectors fit those products. We produced a matrix with the various sectors, like agriculture and automotive, to address these types of industry with our products and services.
“We are sowing the seeds so that in the future we will be able to harvest the fruit. I believe in this strongly. I believe in the growth that is possible with our people. They are a young, dynamic team, motivated and enthusiastic. We have to keep them that way. My days are spent reaching out to them and offering them all the support I can.”
He would like to travel to Ghana to meet these partners and the staff in person, but the pandemic has ruled that out. A trip has been scheduled for this year but so much depends on connectivity since many airports are closed and he would not want to get stranded anywhere. Any visit would build on those in the past both by the company’s chairman and the CEO, who were assisted in the country by Malta’s High Commissioner Jean Claude Galea Mallia.
Mr Borg singled out Mr De Bono as being a highly influential catalyst in building the business in Ghana. “He has huge contacts with the President, King of the Ashanti Region, the government as well as with certain entities and highly important personalities in that country. He was hugely influential in this area and helped me personally a great deal by giving me crucial information on how to conduct business in the region.
“Mr De Bono is a person I look up to. He is a big asset to the company, and I consider him a big asset to myself. I try to get as much information as I can from him. You always learn from people with experience.”
Because of the nature of the job, Mr Borg, 44, works long hours – also because sometimes virtual business meetings have to be held late in the evening. Still, he strives to achieve a balance between his work and family life. After graduating in general and industrial electronics from the Fellenberg Institute, he obtained a B.Sc. in IT from the University of Malta and an MBA in Business Management, which he did part time while he was working.
He has always worked around systems administration, management, operations and business development in the private sector and focused on gaining experience in these areas – both technical and commercial. He spent the last 10 years before joining HandsOn Systems with the Malta Football Association.
The first quarter of 2021 looks highly promising, with the adjudication of various tenders in the markets where HandsOn Systems is active. In Ghana, two large projects, one with a leading bank and the other with an electricity provider of the country, will be announced for the deployment of HandsOn Fleet, the company’s GPS tracking and fleet management solution.
“We will continue to work hard to try and diversify. Hopefully, it will be a better year than 2020 and we will see the growth we are targeting. Our projections are that the growth will be achieved, if not exceeded,” he said.
Although recruited at the early peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, chief technology officer Gabriel Sultana has been working tirelessly, initially remotely, to put together his team at HandsOn Systems to drive the organisation and its product portfolio to new heights.
Since he took over the technology leadership at HandsOn Systems, Gabriel Sultana said he is committed to continue building and evolving the company’s product portfolio, while making sure that customer centricity and tangible value are embedded both at the strategic and execution levels.
“At the core, the successful alignment of data and a strong, unified team are considered critical for achieving the set objectives. We are transforming our solutions to meet the current consumer patterns, exhibiting characteristics such as event- driven, insightful analytics and directly connected with the person’s usage needs. This is one of the core strategies adopted to constantly meet ever-changing consumer expectations,” he said.
Taking usage-based insurance (UBI) as an example, Sultana said HandsOn Systems is deploying IoT (Internet of Things) solutions to tackle a highly-specific need. Yet the goal is to make UBI commoditised in terms of being “accepted and fully utilisable by all”. Yet, he pointed out, HandsOn Systems is implementing UBI in very different ways here in Malta compared to Dubai, among other places.
“Although certain common concepts of UBI are adopted everywhere, the contextualisation element is very important to be a better fit for the specific business domain needs,” he said. “That is something we pride ourselves in achieving in all the markets where we are active.”
The recent investment of Melita in HandsOn Systems, he said, would enable the two companies to tap and merge strategies to offer richer services that are cost-effective to the end user.
HandsOn Systems is giving more of the real-world scenario of IoT to Melita, which it is currently doing on a small scale around Malta. This can be projected through Melita’s GSM and SIM infrastructure globally so HandsOn Systems can be more aggressive in Italy and other countries where it has operations.
“The idea is that we intend to continue working in this strategic alignment when it comes to projects and initiatives so that it is a beneficial partnership for both” Sultana said. “Our greatest strength would be around this continuously aligned relationship. This is something we are happily vested in retaining to make this partnership successful.
”Our vision is to work hand in hand with our customers to transform our telematic solutions into feature-rich services that constantly create value, transparency and positive experiences
Discussing HandsOn Systems’ vision and mission, he explained: “Our vision is to work hand in hand with our customers to transform our telematic solutions into feature-rich services that constantly create value, transparency and positive experiences” and “our mission is to improve the quality of life for consumers through the processing and presentation of rich telematic data that is packaged into intuitive and ease-of-use services”.
The company has been growing in the IoT and telematics sector for the past 10 years, Sultana pointed out.
“Notwithstanding this wealth of knowledge and first-hand experience in the sector, the socioeconomic challenges that organisations are facing nowadays, are forcing almost every organisation to reboot and rethink their next steps, thus pushing for continuous learning and creative solutions along the way.
“These aspects are not limited to a specific function within the organisation and have to be adopted and adapted across all functions and in all areas of the organisation,” he emphasised.
HandsOn Systems CEO Geoffrey Farrugia said the company’s technological vision is to be a global IoT systems provider.
“We are in the process of achieving this vision by ramping up our recruitment of leading minds in the field and through alliances like those we have with Melita,” he said.
The new CTO is working hand in hand with the CEO to consolidate the organisation’s existing operations, further grow its team and continue to innovate by developing new technologies and extending the applications of its current suite of products and solutions.
Five years down the line, Sultana sees HandsOn Systems as a data powerhouse with the necessary backbone infrastructure, so that both through technology and strategic partnerships it can constantly offer high-value services to its customers. He pointed out that “although this five-year vision has been wrapped in one simple statement, on the ground it entails a lot of sweat and hard work… How are we going to get there? Persistence, perseverance and a strong drive being taken on board by the entire organisation.”
With the global COVID-19 pandemic impacting some of HandsOn Systems’ product lines, Chief Executive Officer Geoffrey Farrugia and his team have launched COVID-Tech, a range of solutions to enable the company to diversify in its effort to continue to grow and expand.
According to the Boston Consulting Group, three main areas have been the focus of technology companies since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. A quarter of solutions are around detection and containment; one fifth tackle issues of healthcare provider enablement; and a further 21% grappled with economic resilience.
In the area of prevention/detection of the virus, Mr Farrugia said HandsOn Systems is now offering fever detection cameras, alongside temperature guns, to help businesses detect people with possible symptoms of the virus. “Even though some people with no fever are still carrying the virus, statistically, 60% will have fever. So, it helps businesses to automate the process and save a lot of money in the process,” he observed.
Another product line is disinfection diffusers and dispensers. These machines can be left on during the night to automatically diffuse a disinfecting solution across a given area – the bigger the machine, the bigger the area that can be disinfected automatically.
HandsOn Systems offers solutions covering 150 m 2 or 50 m 2 or less. “Given that we are in the transport industry, such a machine is also ideal for the disinfection of people-carrying vehicles,” he pointed out.
A third key area is contact tracing for businesses. “If you have a factory that employs some 400 people, having even one person testing positive can have catastrophic results with the entire cohort having to self-isolate, leading to lay-offs or a four-day week,” he said.
The solution is a wearable using Bluetooth and ultra-wide band technology – a wrist band incorporating a Bluetooth beacon to not only enable contract tracing but also to give the wearer a social distance alert in the form of a beep or a vibration (or both) if that person is too close to someone.
“Many technology advancements were spurred in wartime. We are living in a different kind of war. It is an invisible war. So, we are looking internally and saying, ‘What can we do to fight back through innovation?’
“This requires a different kind of weapon. The kind of weapon that we need is, first and foremost, education. However, technology can play an important part in this and our COVID-Tech line can also contribute,” he said.
Following the recent appointment of Suzanne Salerno as chief financial officer of HandsOn Systems, the Maltese technology company with sister companies across the globe has a firm hand on the financial tiller. Already the required structures have been put in place, enabling the company to be better placed for its expected further expansion. Here Salerno shares her views.
For someone still in her mid-30s, Suzanne Salerno brings considerable industry experience to her position. Very much a hands-on person, she has an enquiring mind and has always taken interest in business operations.
Her first job was as an office manager in a foodstuff importer and manufacturing company. Yet she always liked finance and gravitated towards that business function, despite having graduated with a BSc in business and computing.
In every position she held, she sought to grow and learn something new.
“I always try to understand how the business operates and how processes can be improved,” she says.
“I believe synergy needs to be achieved among different business units for the company to operate effectively. The finance department is there to provide senior management with information necessary to make strategic decisions, such as markets or projects to pursue. Gaining a deep understanding of the business is critical and it is imperative to regularly meet with the board and collaborate with managers.”
Salerno later moved on to an accounting and business advisory firm, where she completed her ACCA and obtained the CISA certification. Here, she focused on conducting compliance audits. She worked in marketing, manufacturing, and retail companies as part of her career path, where she was responsible for the finance function, with involvement in project management and other business operations where she acquired much of her expertise.
Never one to be afraid of a challenge, Salerno will always volunteer for something new. She believes in listening from multiple perspectives.
“Understanding others’ perspectives, needs and goals can significantly enhance your ability to gain clarity around the context. Each individual can add value to the company and help you make better decisions, in the end,” she says.
Each individual can add value to the company and help you make better decisions
“In business, the finance function helps to meet the company’s goals and objectives. Financial KPIs (key performance indicators) are set to measure the company’s financial performance. These indicate how well a company is doing regarding revenue and profits. As a CFO, you need to have a firm grasp of the fundamentals of budgeting, analysis, compliance and risk management. My role comes with wide-ranging responsibility and accountability, as well as a high level of job satisfaction.”
Geoffrey Farrugia, chief executive officer of HandsOn Systems, welcomed Salerno’s disciplined approach and can-do attitude.
“Suzanne’s background and experience in business operations and finance will ensure that HandsOn Systems can approach its financial commitments with confidence and can plan for the long term with greater serenity,” he says.
Since she joined, shortly before Melita concluded its investment in HandsOn Systems, Salerno feels the company has already come a long way.
“We have introduced policies and procedures to give us guidance for better decision-making,” she notes.
Melita’s investment will enable HandsOn Systems to extend its product portfolio and to pursue international expansion.
Salerno is a firm believer that women in leadership help businesses to thrive.
“As women, we bring our own set of complementary skills and our unique experiences. Women are likely to be more empathetic, which translates into better team building and stronger work relationships. We take initiatives, strive for results, and practice self-development.”
She believes that in the course of time, HandsOn Systems will become a public limited company (plc). She is of the opinion that this will increase brand awareness and have better access to capital.
“Better brand recognition can lead to more sales. This will also make the company more visible to valuable potential business partners. Credibility and confidence, reinforced by greater transparency, will provide HandsOn Systems with an advantaged position to pursue new projects, new products or new markets,” she concludes.
Melita Limited today announced that it is investing in Maltese technology company HandsOn Systems. The investment will enable HandsOn to extend its product portfolio and to pursue international expansion.
HandsOn Systems specializes in Internet of Things (IoT) solutions and provides three key products; Fleet management, Asset tracking through RFID, and an innovative Usage-Based Insurance solution. The company offers its services primarily in Malta but already has customers in Italy, Africa and the Middle East. Through its melita.io brand, Melita acts as an IoT connectivity platform to local as well as European technology companies
Geoffrey Farrugia, CEO at HandsOn Systems, said: “This investment will assist our growth plans, particularly internationally where there are clear synergies between our solutions and Melita’s connectivity. The unique customer portal which melita.io provides for their IoT customers is easy to use, and very effective, enabling us to manage multiple clients’ projects both locally and internationally.”
Melita provides its international IoT services through melita.io, which provides clients with a dedicated portal giving a high degree of control, safety, and transparency to users. Features include SIM visibility, naming, management, and cost control, as well as automatic triggers and notifications of data usage and SIM status. APIs can be embedded into the platform providing data from thousands of sensors directly into a business’s own application or CRM system.
Harald Roesch, Melita CEO said: “We believe that IoT will be a key enabler of Malta’s future growth, which is why we have invested significantly in IoT infrastructure in Malta, deploying a nationwide NB-IoT network combined with a dedicated IoT connectivity platform. Melita’s focus is on its connectivity expertise which we use to enable companies like HandsOn to provide end-to-end solutions to end customers. We view this investment in HandsOn Systems as another way in which we can support the development of Malta and its technology talent”
Further information on IoT connectivity services from Melita is available at www.melita.io.
HandsOn Systems has won a competitive public transport tender to provide GPS tracking and fleet management services to the Azienda Siciliana Trasporti SpA (AST), which operates a fleet of around 500 buses across the entire Sicilian region.
Work has started immediately and is being coordinated through a subsidiary company, HandsOn Italia SRL, that HandsOn Systems has set up with offices in Palermo, which has trained technicians who will be installing the technology in the buses in five depots spread around Sicily. These are located in Palermo, Catania, Messina, Trapani and Syracuse. Some 120 buses have had their tracking systems installed with work on schedule to install the balance by the end of July.
“HandsOn Systems has been exploring opportunities to penetrate the Italian market for the past two years and is already tracking almost 2,000 vehicles, ranging from ambulances to commercial and leased vehicles,” CEO Geoff Farrugia said. “According to our market research, Sicily was a region where the major national and international players were least active.“ What was a bone for them is the meat for us. We are very much in a David and Goliath situation, with HandsOn Systems being the David. Yet, from the five bidders for the AST contract, we came first, both in terms of price, and in terms of features and capabilities.”
One of the many reasons AST wanted tracking was to ensure that the buses employed on some 120 routes across the island cover the full route, to make punctuality more transparent, and to ensure that their drivers are paid for the amount of distance they covered on the ground, ensuring a fairer system for those owner-drivers who have the longer routes. AST will be monitoring all this from its control room in Palermo, where all the reports and all the data coming in is to be processed and any action taken accordingly.
The Sicily office is to become an extension of the Malta operation since locally HandsOn Systems is experiencing huge growth and needs to maximise on the resources available. “In software, certain projects can be managed and developed remotely. So, we are not only using our Italian subsidiary to serve the market there but also to serve our market, which is close by – same region; same time zone,” Mr Farrugia said.
The Sicily contract is part of HandsOn Systems’ internationalisation drive, which has led to the opening of offices and subsidiaries in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. “We’re using this project as a launch pad, to continue making a statement that we are capable of penetrating the Italian market with a practical case study,” Mr Farrugia added. “We are now reaping the fruit of our investment over the past three years. It proves that Maltese products, our technology, and our products and services, are competitive in the international market. Also, despite our size and maybe our limited track record, we have demonstrated that we can succeed to land contracts in different countries, especially in Italy, which is quite a developed European country with quite a number of players.”
Aktuaris, a system of usage-based insurance using HandsOn Systems technology, is being introduced in various parts of the world. The company is working closely with several insurance companies in Bolivia through a local partner Gianfranco Gipponi Pessoa and has plans to launch Aktuaris there later on this year. “Since this concept is new to the country, we have to take our time to design marketing and educate the market and the public,” Mr. Farrugia said. “We were not only technology suppliers but also consultants.”
Aktuaris team recently went on a three-day road show visiting seven companies in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), based in Dubai. There was plenty of interest and the visit had a positive outcome. A number of pilot projects are also in the pipeline there.
A plug-and-play solution is being launched in the UAE since theft in this market is minimal. “It is in the interest of whoever takes out this type of insurance policy to use Aktuaris to be able to claim prizes. Although Dubai has the latest technology, many companies did not know about this concept and means of insurance,” Mr. Farrugia
added. However, most insurance companies are run by ex-pats who have heard of this type of insurance and Mr. Farrugia sees an opportunity in this region. The company has also found a strong partner there. Sivan Said, who is Maltese, runs RISC Insurance and has been successfully developing his insurance related business for quite some time. Mr. Said is also going to represent the company in its negotiations with a number of insurance companies.
Mr Farrugia was invited to give a Master Class during the recent international conference organised by the Mediterranean Tourism Foundation. The subject of his presentation was on how RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology can be used in the tourism sector to improve the tourist’s experience and increase the operator’s efficiency – both those working in hotels and restaurants and in the sector of tourist accommodation.
The Master Class was well attended, and Mr Farrugia received valuable feedback. Among those who attended the conference was the King of Ghana, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II. Since HandsOn Systems have strong business interests in Ghana, they took the opportunity to present a portrait of the King, executed by local artists Maris Zammit. “This helped to show that we want to continue to strengthen our presence and dedication towards the Ghana market,” Mr Farrugia said.
In fact, HandsOn Systems have recently attracted investment from a Ghana businessman, Nicky Wilson of Cape3, in their subsidiary company in Ghana. “In this way, we are continuing to strengthen our presence and persist in our efforts to succeed in Ghana. Through this conference, we strengthened both the cultural aspect of Ghana in Malta and the commercial relations our company has with Ghana,” Mr Farrugia said.