What you didn't know about telematics.
Telematics is the joining of two sciences—telecommunications and informatics such as computer systems. Today, the term is commonly used in reference to the telematics solutions utilized in commercial fleet vehicles.
Wireless telematics devices and "black box" technologies collect and transmit data on vehicle use, maintenance requirements and automotive servicing. A popular option for modern companies is to utilize fleet management software, which is a branch of telematics, to coordinate the vehicles they manage and gain a comprehensive view of the health, profitability and productivity of their entire fleet.
Telematics is the technology used to monitor a wide range of information relating to an individual vehicle or an entire fleet. Telematics systems gather data including vehicle location, driver behaviour, engine diagnostics and vehicle activity, and visualize this data on software platforms that help fleet operators manage their resources.
How Does Telematics Work?
At its core, a telematics system includes a vehicle tracking device installed in a vehicle that allows the sending, receiving and storing of telemetry data. It connects via the vehicle's own onboard diagnostics (ODBII) or CAN-BUS port with a SIM card, and an onboard modem enables communication through a wireless network.
The device collects GPS data as well as an array of other vehicle-specific data and transmits it via GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), 4G mobile data and cellular network or satellite communication to a centralized server. The server interprets the data and enables it to be displayed for end-users via secure websites and apps optimized for smartphones and tablets.
The telematics data captured can include location, speed, idling time, harsh acceleration or braking, fuel consumption, vehicle faults, and more. When analyzed for particular events and patterns, this information can provide in-depth insights across an entire fleet.
Imagine a highly intelligent computer in your vehicle that is able to report on nearly every detail — from speed and idling to fuel use, low tire pressure, and more. This information can mean saving on maintenance costs by better monitoring vehicles or improving fuel efficiency by learning more about driving habits. All of this describes the universe of telematics, also known as GPS fleet tracking.
To track assets, information from the vehicle is recorded via a small, telematics device — also called a black box — that plugs into the OBD II or CAN-BUS port. A SIM card and modem in the device enables communication on the cellular network.
There are several key components of a telematics device:
- GPS receiver
- Engine interface
- Input/output interface (expander port)
- SIM card
How Can My Fleet Use Telematics Systems?
Telematics solutions can integrate with existing applications and systems to enable an array of use cases for fleets of all sizes, including:
Vehicles can be tracked using a combination of GPS satellites and receivers, GPRS networks and cloud computing. A GPS receiver downloads information from GPS satellites and processes it for use with applications such as driver GPS navigation systems. It also transmits that information via GPRS to the web servers used by office-based staff, where it can be used to dispatch the nearest driver to a new job.
Trailer And Asset Tracking
Fleets can attach GPS trackers to trailers and other non-motorized assets to ensure they don't go missing, as well as use them to route drivers directly to stationary trailers. Drivers can tag locations in their GPS unit when unhitching a trailer, and those coordinates can be easily passed on, allowing them to route directly to the trailer. The system can also be set up so that an instant alert is sent to a manager's mobile device should a trailer or asset be moved without authorization.
Vehicle maintenance and asset lifecycle management can be improved by using fleet telematics to track hours-of-use records and schedule preventative maintenance, as well as help, keep tabs on warranty recovery, engine hour tracking and service records tracking. Fleet managers can decrease expenses and keep vehicles in safe operating condition by staying on top of engine diagnostics, including battery voltage, coolant temperature, powertrain malfunctions, intake valve issues, oxygen sensor problems, and more.
Managers can use fleet telematics to monitor vehicle speed and location, as well as harsh driving events and seat belt use. Telematics provides a digital blueprint of every aspect of a vehicle's operation, helping fleet managers understand where improvements can be made in accident prevention measures and driver safety standards.
Insurance Risk Assessment
Insurance companies can use telematics to monitor driver behaviour, allowing them to more accurately determine risk factors and adjust insurance premiums accordingly. Telematics devices can also report when a vehicle is used in a location outside a designated area, known as a geofence.
Telematics Past, Present And Future
Telematics technology developed out of the rapid expansion of the internet from the mid-1990s onwards. The greater availability and practicality of telecommunications technologies that arose in tandem with this expansion also produced new forms of remote communication. Over the years, these developed into what we now recognize as modern telematics systems, and these have been particularly widely adopted over the last decade.
Fleet management programs now enable firms to manage fleets of all sizes – from a handful of vehicles to hundreds – and help deliver major improvements across the board. Telematics has now developed to the point where it goes well beyond mere asset tracking to incorporate vehicle and driver performance as well as maintenance management.
The growth of telematics technology continues apace. Although the adoption of telematics has already become standard across various industries, the technology itself continues to evolve, and to grow in power and capacities, all the time. The burgeoning driver shortage affecting the transport sector and the continuing challenge of regulatory compliance are likely to have a major bearing on the future of telematics.
Telematics is also proving crucial in what has become known as the Internet of Things that Move (IoTtM); specifically, in transport and freight. These sectors have been leading adopters of IoT technology, with the data it provides allowing for more efficient routing and scheduling as well as generally better-optimized use of resources. The IoTtM thus encompasses, for example, location tracking and driver and equipment operator monitoring, including engine and driver hours. The main benefits of this include:
- Reduced fuel costs. With fuel consumption being one of the most pressing costs facing fleets, detecting and reducing excessive fuel use is absolutely crucial to overall efficiency. Telematics does this through more direct route planning, reducing job site bottlenecks and cutting engine idling, while also detecting unauthorized vehicle or equipment use (enabling firms to cut down on resulting fuel usage).
- More cost-effective maintenance. Telematics warns managers of mechanical issues with vehicles and equipment, which allows them to address these problems sooner and thereby reduce the danger of downtime (which is not only inconvenient but can also have serious knock-on effects for other jobs). It also makes scheduling preventative maintenance simpler, which again helps to maximize vehicle and equipment uptime.
- Better communication. Previously, keeping in touch with drivers and operators out in the field could be a complex business. Telematics simplifies communication processes and significantly reduces the need for human operators and drivers to check in and report back, automating much of this process. As well as ensuring that managers have access to the data they need faster, this allows operators to spend more time concentrating directly on the job in hand.
- Enhanced safety. Another crucial consideration (and a central legal responsibility) for firms operating fleets of vehicles and equipment, safety is of paramount importance. Telematics improves safety management by monitoring both driver and operative behaviour, and vehicle and equipment performance. It allows anomalies – such as unsafe practices – to be detected and addressed quicker. It also allows for emergency assistance to be directed straight to the site where it is needed, through location tracking.
Telematics is also helping both industry and society adapt to the continuing challenges facing major towns and cities. The mounting pressure on urban infrastructure (particularly transport) requires industry to take innovative and imaginative measures; this has led to the rise of the so-called 'smart city'. This means, in a nutshell, using data and technology to maximize efficiencies (from energy efficiency to traffic management) and thereby make urban environments more practical, sustainable, secure and liveable for all concerned.
The Benefits Of Telematics
Any type of small business to large corporation, nonprofit organization and government agency operating vehicles or other assets can benefit from telematics.
Industries using telematics systems and fleet tracking technology (sample list):
- Courier and delivery companies
- Field sales and other services such as HVAC, plumbing, etc.
- Towing companies
- Trucking and transportation logistics
- Construction businesses
- Food and beverage companies
- Transit fleets, such as motorcoach, public transit, taxi, and paratransit
- Oil, gas, and mining industries
- Police and emergency organizations,
- Other public agencies
- Landscaping businesses
- Waste management fleets
Telematics In Fleet Management
Telematics has become a crucial technology for fleet management. Telematics supports these five core areas:
- Productivity and improved customer service by using real-time GPS tracking, trip reporting, and dispatching and routing tools (read a productivity success story here)
- Safety with the availability of in-vehicle driver coaching, risk and driver behaviour reporting, accident notifications and reconstruction, and the ability to locate a stolen vehicle (read a safety success story here)
- Optimization of vehicle maintenance with predictive maintenance abilities and remote diagnostics, and optimization of fuel management by tracking idling and other fuel-guzzling habits (read an optimization success story here)
- Integration of other software systems such as onboard camera technology or CRM software (read an optimization success story here)
Insurance telematics is also gaining in popularity, in which the safety data is shared with a fleet's insurance company with the goal of lowering premiums if they can prove safe driving habits. Essentially, telematics can help insurance companies better pinpoint levels of risk. (While not all insurance agencies are offering this telematics-based insurance, it's worth discussing with your provider if you're not self-insured.)
Also gaining in popularity is the ability to increase vehicle security by integrating identification sensors into vehicles. This allows fleets to authenticate a driver's identity before they can start the vehicle.
The Difference Between Gps Tracking And Telematics
GPS tracking is an essential and central component of a telematics system. As we've discussed, it allows fleet managers to keep track of their fleet assets at any given time, providing them with a comprehensive overview of what resources they have at their disposal. However, telematics cannot be reduced to a simple vehicle tracker – we have already highlighted that it has a vast array of capabilities other than this. It is because of this versatility that telematics has become so central to fleet management in recent years. Telematics devices capture data points, including the following:
- Vehicle Location
- Geographical point of interest (Geofencing)
- Vehicle speed
- Vehicle incidents (harsh braking, acceleration and cornering)
- Vehicle status (customizable)
- Remote vehicle inspection reports
- Panic alerts
- Job dispatch and messaging
- Dashboard camera footage
In addition, telematics systems integrate vehicle routing and maintenance schedules with driver performance, providing a comprehensive and broad-based solution to the key challenges facing fleet management. Thus, they go well above and beyond vehicle tracking alone.
Which Vehicles Can Telematics Be Used For?
Telematics is a versatile technology, both in the number of functions, it can perform and the range of different vehicles and other assets with which it can be used. It is suitable for use with the following vehicles and assets, among others:
- Cars: As well as performing important productivity and vehicle maintenance functions for company car and sales fleets, telematics is also used to monitor private mileage and ensure health and safety compliance, an essential part of employers' duty of care.
- Cargo vans/pickup trucks: Used for functions including job dispatch and routing, on-site time reporting, timesheet reporting, proof of delivery solutions, monitoring unauthorized vehicle use and tracking driver behaviour.
- Single axle/tractor units: Here, telematics helps with route optimization and scheduling, driver hour management, fuel management and driver behaviour reporting.
- Buses and coaches: Telematics provides assistance with driver hour management, route optimization and scheduling, fuel management (including engine idling), integration of services (through, for example, time of arrival notifications) and driver behaviour reporting.
- Heavy equipment: In the construction industry, telematics is used for heavy earth-moving equipment. Here it serves to boost jobsite productivity by tracking equipment utilization, enabling preventative maintenance and reducing fuel burn.
- Specialist vehicles: Telematics is also widely used for a range of specialist vehicles, including dump trucks, tow trucks and cement trucks. Among other benefits, the technology provides a better understanding of vehicle activity through power take-off, where mechanical power is transferred to another piece of equipment (such as the cement mixer on a cement truck, for example).
It is this sheer versatility of telematics that has guaranteed it an instrumental (and expanding) role in fleet management for the long term. It is already delivering major improvements to safety, productivity and ultimately profitability, and it is only likely to become more central in the years ahead. Those businesses across the world that integrate telematics systems into their operations can expect to continue to reap significant rewards.