On our 20th anniversary, we look at Lytx’s transformation over the years, and how we’ve gone from capturing collisions to virtually ‘anything you want to see.’
When Larry Richardson, Lytx’s longest-serving employee, started working here in 2001, Lytx was just three years into its 20-year tenure. At the time, the company was called DriveCam Video Systems. In legal documents, it went by its corporation name, I-Witness, Inc.
With 13 employees, DriveCam Video Systems was a small tech startup trying to make a name for itself in one of the most somber chapters of American history.
“On 9/11, airport shuttles and limousines were our big clients,” recalled Richardson of those uncertain days. “Air travel shut down, and that hurt sales quite a bit. We were a small company, and our survival was never assured.”
But the company did survive, and ultimately, it thrived.
“That’s a testament to the success of the DriveCam program,” Richardson said.
Clients the Source of Inspiration
By now, Lytx’s longevity is a testament to a lot more than that. In the 20 years since its founding, Lytx has made a full metamorphosis—from a small startup to an industry leader driving telematics trends.
Sure, there have been peaks and valleys along the way. But over the last two decades, Lytx always has found a way to stay at the forefront of innovation. That has been its calling card ever since its founding in 1998.
So how has the company done it?
“We are always trying to figure out how we can continuously innovate for our clients,” said Lytx CEO Brandon Nixon, who’s helmed the company for half of its 20-year existence—since 2008. “It’s a really powerful question to ask. It’s driven our innovation for the last decade. Our clients have been an integral part of our journey, and their needs have helped fuel our innovation and investment.”
Groundbreaking Moments as One of the Early Fleet Telematics Companies
Several marquee moments have played a hand in Lytx’s innovation over the last 20 years: Becoming a full-fledged managed service in 2006; the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration study in 2009 that validated Lytx’s technology; the surge of capital funding in 2010 that gave Lytx its big break; the acquisition of RAIR* in 2011 that enhanced its compliance solutions; and Lytx’s acquisition by private equity firm GTCR in 2016.
Also crucial were investing to deliver services at scale and staying abreast of new technologies, making them easy for clients to adopt. It all helped solidify Lytx’s place as the leader in the telematics industry.
The Beginning of a Telematics Company
Lytx has come a long way since its humble beginnings, when it had few resources and even fewer employees. In 2003, when Vice President of Safety Services Del Lisk came over from Smith System, event recorders were assembled in a back room, and employees were expected to contribute to the business however they could.
“Each person wore a lot more hats then,” Lisk said. “A salesperson would sell an account and then one week later show up in blue jeans to help install devices in a vehicle.”
Lisk himself has played a hand in lobbying, union relationships, and media appearances in addition to his role in safety services. “Back then, I was winging it with some skills that weren’t in my wheelhouse,” he said. “Today, each person is a lot more specialized in what they do. I think it’s helped us scale the organization.”
Richardson and Lisk are two of the longest-serving staffers at Lytx today. As Lytx products became more specialized, their roles narrowed too. While Richardson’s early expertise centered on programming Lytx devices, he now manages the team that works on firmware.
Machine Vision Opens the Door Wide for Innovation
Richardson has had an inside track on the DriveCam program* since he arrived here 17 years ago. As a firmware engineer in 2001, he wrote software for the DriveCam-II event recorder. At the time, it was an upcoming product in the company’s portfolio. He also developed software for the DC3/DC3P event recorders and the SV2 event recorder for the ActiveVision® service*.
The SV2, released in 2015, was a pivotal invention in video telematics, Richardson said. “Being able to use machine vision on a device was the start of something very important. It gave us capabilities that we didn’t have before.”
Machine vision, a combination of hardware and software, had the computational power to detect distance and lane deviation, allowing Lytx to use images to determine the distance in front of a vehicle for the first time.
“Having machine vision let us capture events that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to capture,” Richardson said. Previously, if a driver were following too closely, you could only capture it if they were in a collision or slammed on their brakes. But by using video and machine vision together, you can capture close following even in the absence of braking, he said.
The State of Lytx Today
And this is where Lytx stands today—at the convergence of video and machine vision. It’s an exciting place to be.
In its first decade, Lytx perfected the use of video in capturing and preventing collisions. In its second decade, it did that at scale for clients so that it was efficient for them to reduce fleet expenses and collision costs. The next decade will center on machine learning, machine vision, and expanding the use of video to achieve several goals related to fleet operations, Nixon said.
“Two things are changing right now,” he said. “Driving insights are changing video, and video telematics is changing to transcend safety, moving toward all the other things you can do with the [machine vision] platform. If you look forward the next 10 years, people won’t just be using video for driver safety. They’ll be using video to achieve a number of operational benefits.”
While today’s machine learning technology can more easily detect objects than movements, Nixon said that could soon change. His excitement about where technology may take clients in the next decade is palpable.
Advances in machine vision and machine learning technologies can allow Lytx clients to discover whatever it is they want to discover—things like passenger detection, service verification, smoking detection, or if cones have been put out. “The scenarios are only limited by our imagination,” Nixon said.
What the Next 20 Years Holds
From policy enforcement to workman’s compensation issues, the avenues for detecting activity in and around a vehicle in the next decade are opening wide. As a result, Lytx clients will be able to use video to review more scenarios more quickly—whether it be a rolling stop or safety gear enforcement.
“Given the state of machine vision today, we can detect almost anything,” Nixon said. “Our architecture is such that we’re going to gradually be adding workflows that allow you to detect whatever behaviors and scenarios you want to detect. This is the direction we’re going in the next decade.
“Technology is going to get better and better,” Nixon continued, “and we’re going to leverage that for the sake of our clients. We measure our success by the results that our clients achieve. Our innovations and priorities are driven by their needs. It’s a fun time to be the leader in video telematics, and as technologies evolve, we will be able to help our clients across the full spectrum of operational challenges.”
*The DriveCam program is now the Lytx Driver Safety Program, RAIR is now Lytx Compliance Services