Now is the pre-Christmas time when most businesses have already committed their plans for the next year. And flespi is no exception here. In September we spent a few days in team discussions determining where we are going and what we should concentrate on to make flespi better, easier to use, and more popular. In the next few months, we stabilized these ideas, defined the priorities, and will now present this information to you.
Looking back at 2022
Before looking into the future I would like to analyze the past year and make a quick overview of what 2022 brought to flespi.
From a business perspective, this was not an easy year. In March flespi as a part of Gurtam made a decision to cease all operations in Russia. It was a quick but hard decision given the fact that we operated the dedicated infrastructure in Russia installed just a couple of years ago. As a result, we dumped into the trash a 10-month-long project and a lot of server equipment. What’s left is an important experience of deploying a distributed ecosystem with dedicated regions, which we may use again in the future.
We lost around 35,000 registered devices (around 10% of our total base at that time) and canceled a few quite promising projects due to the termination of operations in Russia. Also, we started providing our services for existing clients from Ukraine for free until the end of the year. Still, it is noticeable how their volumes are contracting each month due to the war, energy and humanitarian catastrophe, and constant threat to human lives.
On the other side, if we exclude the Russia-Ukraine theme from the analysis, we were still able to double the number of registered devices and contracts on a year-to-year basis. Our services are still in huge demand and platforms relying on the flespi backend for telematics processing are rapidly growing.
Our services are particularly attractive to clients from developed countries with the USA, UK, and EU on top of the list. In 2019-2020 we were mostly attractive for startups to quickly access telematics data. In 2021-2022 we noticed two more growing categories — large corporations embedding telematics into their solutions and small-to-medium-size regional Telematics Service Providers that replace their in-house developed communication backend service with flespi.
Interestingly, we see the trend that our startup-type clients are growing and demanding more and more functionality from flespi. Instead of using it as a backend service that provides simple bidirectional access to telematics data they need more and more features that usually platforms provide. They want to store and analyze data on the platform instead of just passing it via a gateway. For us, this is an important signal in order to develop more and more advanced services on the backend to simplify the life of our clients.
Getting back to what you may expect from flespi in 2023 I would like to split our roadmap into several tracks that we will be (and already are) working on.
Grow from a telematics backend into a telematics platform. Provide more and more specific higher-level services on top of generic ones. For example, introduce a “vehicle” entity that works on top of a device and provides various vehicle-oriented API methods, events, and data analysis tools with trips, parkings, stops, and so on. Similarly, introduce a very specific set of functions for personal tracking and micromobility segments with “person” and “scooter” entities on top of generic devices and so on. We see that more and more flespi clients reinvent the wheel using our services in the same segment and we want to provide them with ready-to-use highly efficient vertical solutions. At the same, we still minted to remain a highly configurable flexible telematics backend for those who need it.
Constantly enhance user experience with the existing GUI and API services. It means improving and adapting flespi.io UI for smooth operation on large accounts with tens of thousands of devices. It also means that we are devoting efforts to making our REST API and telematics services better and more predictable to use — this is all about eliminating any unexpected REST API return codes that may pop up during our services upgrade or when you perform actions on a recently created items too quick. This is non-stop internal work with mostly invisible results because almost all core mechanisms have already been implemented and now is the time for the little nitty-gritty issues. Another feature we want to implement on this track is soft protocol updates that will not force devices to disconnect from channels immediately or even introduce protocol versioning so that some channels can stick to a specific protocol version and skip any further updates.
Increase services and data durability. We want to have stable 100% uptime each month and are regularly making small steps in order to reach this goal. In 2023 we want to launch flespi operations in the second datacenter in the Netherlands and provide operations from both (existent and new) datacenters in a mirror mode. The infrastructure for the second datacenter is already under construction and should be ready by the end of Q1. In such mode, we should be able to survive a nuclear bomb explosion in our current datacenter (we are not preparing for the nuclear war, it is just a vivid example of the magnitude of a disaster!) and the second datacenter will be able to take over all the operations. This will be automatically available to all flespi users as an integral part of our service without any extra charge or setup.
Let me name a few totally new features we plan to work on in 2023:
Automation module. This is a system that triggers Actions based on specific Events when certain Conditions are met. Think of this as a No-Code lambda you can have inside your flespi infrastructure. This should greatly speed up flespi-based application development. We expect to release the initial version of the Automation module by the end of Q1.
Video telematics. We already integrated a bunch of MDVR devices, but so far we supported only the telematics part of the data. Our intention in 2023 is to look closely at video data and finally provide handy API services and storage for mixed video and telematics data.
Automatic anomaly detection and notification. This is to automate our users' daily operations and bring to their attention different anomalies that may occur in their accounts. For example, detect devices that stopped data/location transmission, diagnose a growing number of parsing errors in channels, or inform when stream latency is increasing. We want to proactively inform our users about possible problems so that they address them as soon as possible.
Not that much but at the same time not that little. Together with this we will improve and simplify the analytics system and will continue to integrate various telematics devices and protocols. In 2022 we have already integrated more than 20 new protocols and we regularly receive requests for new protocol integrations.
I do not mention dozens of minor and major features we are implementing on a daily basis when the idea pops up in the air either from a chat with a flespi user or at the moment we are discussing something with the team. The number of such ideas is impossible to estimate but based on our changelogs I can conclude that 30% of new features are delivered within a month from the moment they initially appeared on the horizon. This is a positive side effect of flespi engineers personally supporting users in the chat. Engineers get feedback on their work firsthand, feel more involved, and find inspiration for new features. Another side effect is pretty straightforward — engineers are lazy — if our users ask the same question multiple times, engineers modify a platform in such a way that the question won’t pop up again — either by delivering a new feature, automating some routine, or changing UI to make the feature more reachable.
Finally, I want to say thanks to all users who are staying with us — believing in our team, in our product, and in our technologies. We started the platform development in 2015, released it to the public in 2017, and until the present moment our focus and intentions have been the same. In 5 years we have grown to 500,000+ registered devices and 200+ commercial users so far doubling the numbers year-to-year. If we can double our numbers again in 2023, we will reach our first million devices by the end of 2023. This is an extremely ambitious goal, which however is not our top priority. Our top priority is the success of our users. We believe that if our users are happy and successful with flespi, they will organically grow and launch new projects with us, which will ultimately bring us to our first million.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Be happy!