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Sunday, September 24, 2023

A Complete Guide to Telematics


Telematics, once a niche feature, has now merged with the mainstream automotive and vehicle industry, making its way into modern personal-use vehicles and construction fleets. 

Although telematics adoption is fairly low at the moment, it is predicted to accelerate in the coming years due to two reasons. First, many governments are making telematics solutions mandatory. Russia and the European Union are among the first ones.

Second, consumers and companies have garnered  an appetite for better vehicle intelligence and connectivity. That has resulted in the emerging sector of telematics-based fleet management software, where companies like Trackunit are doing impressive work, allowing clients to keep track of their equipment location, performance, and health. The guide below touches more on telematics and its uses.

Overview of telematics

Telematics is a unique hybrid of informatics and telecommunications, fueled by the internet and GPS (Global Positioning System).

Today, most people use telematics in their day-to-day lives without even noticing it. Have you ever ordered Uber Eats or another delivery service and watched the driver’s icon move toward your location on your phone screen? That’s telematics.

How does a telematics system work?

In simplest terms, the working mechanism of a telematics system is based on a tracking device collecting vehicle data and sending it to a server through a cellular network.

The tracking device is installed in the vehicle through the CAN-BUS port or the onboard diagnostics port (OBDII). Plus, there’s a SIM card-powered modem that provides a cellular network for telecommunication.

The vehicle’s tracking device gathers vehicle health and GPS data, such as location, braking behavior, idling pattern, and tire pressure. It transmits this information to the server through a satellite communication system or cellular network.

The centralized server processes and interprets the data for the end user to see on an app or website on a computer or smartphone. Telematics data collection is not limited to a vehicle’s speed or location.

You can also learn about your vehicle’s internal health, such as any faults or fuel consumption differences. The end user analyzes the driver and vehicle patterns to make informed decisions.

Types of telematics devices

The type of telematics device you install in your vehicle will depend on your use case. Here are some options:

  • Smartphone apps: These are easy to install and provide limited data, such as vehicle location. 
  • Smart tags: These have SIM cards for a cellular connection and mount on a vehicle’s dashboard. The end user sees the processed data on a web page or a phone app.
  • OBD device: These require professional installation since they plug into the diagnostic port. OBD devices gather comprehensive insights about a vehicle’s health, location, speed, and driver behavior.
  • Battery line device: Such a device would connect to a vehicle’s battery. It’s installed by a professional and offers features like e-assistance and driver score.

Applications of telematics solutions

Although most modern equipment and vehicles come with built-in telematics systems, telematics can also integrate seamlessly with existing equipment too. 

Fortunately for rental companies looking to upgrade their existing fleet instead of purchasing a brand new one, even older vehicles and off-roading equipment can use telematics with third-party assistance. Here are several ways telematics systems can be used. 

Fleet tracking

Telematics is becoming increasingly popular for fleet tracking for both on-road and off-road fleets. Some ways fleet managers use telematics systems are:

  • Vehicle tracking: A fleet manager can use a centralized platform or software to know where vehicles are on the job site at all times. For the construction industry especially, it saves a lot of time that would be otherwise wasted looking for vehicles and equipment across multiple job sites. 
  • Asset safety: By setting access control and customized notifications, fleet managers lower the risk of unauthorized vehicle access. Even if a breach occurs, they can get instant notifications to take quick action.
  • Vehicle maintenance: Since telematics systems give an overview of engine diagnostics, such as intake valves, powertrain, battery voltage, and oxygen sensors, fleet managers can schedule maintenance events accordingly. Predictive maintenance can help reduce downtime, ensuring that vehicles are always ready when needed. 

Vehicle maintenance

Telematics systems gather information about a vehicle’s internal condition and health. If there’s a fault, such as malfunctioning brakes or fuel leakage, the system can warn the driver in time.

These systems can save drivers from costly repairs and vehicle breakdowns in personal use and construction vehicles. They can also indicate if it’s time for maintenance events like tire replacement or an oil change. 

Insurance assessments

Insurance companies use telematics devices like Bluetooth beacons, plug-in systems and mobile apps to gather data on driving patterns and vehicle use. From this data they can determine each driver’s risk of collision and adjust premiums accordingly.

Even for off-road equipment, insurance premiums can be significantly reduced with telematics systems installed. Since the risk of theft and unauthorized use is significantly decreased by location tracking features fleet management companies can enjoy owning lower liability assets. 

How much do telematics systems cost? 

Cost could be a potential hurdle in telematics adoption for some companies and business owners. 

Simpler options like GPS tracking systems, can be more cost-effective; however, they may not offer enough information for fleet managers. More sophisticated solutions often come with a higher upfront cost for the best features. 

That said, investing in the future of your fleet is worth it. Businesses that do so reap the high ROI (Return on Investment) benefits of lower vehicle repair costs, increased productivity, better fleet efficiency, and reduced downtime. Choosing a comprehensive, yet affordable solution like Trackunit can help fleet managers take control of their fleets.

Final words

With smart vehicles and equipment becoming the norm today, we will likely see telematics being incorporated into more and more personal and commercial vehicles. Future advancements could include 5G technology, cloud computing services and artificial intelligence.

Alex Hales Work for BTM
Alex Hales Work for BTM
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