Israeli firm markets product from Winnipeg
WINNIPEG — As often happens in life, Michel Aziza’s career has taken some unexpected turns.
Of Moroccan Jewish background, Aziza grew up in France and later ended up in Toronto. In 2002, he and his Canadian-born wife, Danita, and children relocated to Winnipeg when he was offered the senior position of head of engineering at bus manufacturer New Flyer Industries.
But Aziza had always dreamed about living in Israel. Four years ago, he and his family realized that dream when he took a very early retirement and the family made aliyah.
This past summer, however, Aziza came back to Winnipeg as North American point man – in partnership with Hans Peper, Aziza’s co-worker from his New Flyer days – for Traffilog, a new to North America Israeli high-tech product. Aziza’s wife, Danita is in charge of marketing and communications.
Traffilog promises to improve fuel economy for fleet vehicles – trucks, buses, taxis and utility company vehicles – and to improve driver safety and performance.
As with most new Israeli technology, Traffilog grew out of an Israel Defence Force need. Aziza said the IDF was finding that accident rates among younger drivers were 50 per cent higher than the rest of the drivers. The IDF was looking for a way to reduce the accident rate among younger draftees. Israeli businessmen Robert Izraeli, a former IDF lieutenant-colonel in the logistics division, and Adi Amihai came up with Traffilog to solve the problem.
Traffilog is an Internet- and cellular-based telematics system consisting of a central processing unit and a modem that can be mounted under the dash of a vehicle. The system provides real-time monitoring of driver safety and driving style, as well as fuel consumption, vehicle performance and vehicle health. The data is analyzed on board and relayed via cellular networks to the customer’s office. A communications tablet can also be mounted in the cab to give the driver access to the information.
The components are all manufactured in Israel, Aziza said.
“Traffilog’s system reduced the accident rate among younger IDF drivers by about 35 per cent,” he said. “The system is now installed on all IDF vehicles.
“It’s not just a GPS system. It tells you everything you want to know.”
Izraeli and Amihai started Traffilog in 2003. Aziza connected with the company in 2009 while he was working as a consultant with the Israel Export Institute in Tel Aviv.
“Traffilog was very active in Israel and Europe and has a presence in South America,” Aziza said. “The company was looking to break into the North American market. I liked the product. I knew that Hans [Peper] at New Flyer in Winnipeg was looking for a product like this. We started a development project with New Flyer. Now all buses coming out of the New Flyer factory are outfitted with the Traffilog system.”
Traffilog was looking for a North American partner and distributor, and Aziza and Peper were happy to come on board. They opened for business this past September.
“For the past four months, we have been knocking on doors and talking to people about Traffilog,” Aziza said. “We believe that our product is superior to what the competition offers. Our challenge is to introduce ourselves and persuade people to give our company a chance.”
Peper said that Traffilog clients recoup their investment through fuel savings alone within four months. And, along with reducing accidents by 35 per cent, the system also reduces dangerous situations by up to 75 per cent.
Aziza said that Traffilog North America currently has eight pilot projects in Manitoba and Ontario, with another one expected to begin in early January. “In about six months a time, we plan to tackle the American market,” he added.
He said that Traffilog’s Israeli parent company is currently working on a system for private vehicles that would reduce fuel consumption and improve safety.