Understand The Basics Of Telematics And Why It Is Relevant Now More Than Ever

Before we dive into the relevance of telematics in today’s technology based economy, let us understand the meaning,applications and functioning of telematics.

What is Telematics?

Simply put, telematics is the joining of two sciences—telecommunications and informatics. The former is  a branch of technology, including phone lines and cables, and the latter deals with the structure, behavior, and interactions of natural and engineered computational systems. This technology is used extensively in today’s world, particularly in fleet management systems. 

This article aims to give an outline of the working principle as well as some of the important applications of this powerful technology. 

How Does Telematics Work? 

At its very basic, a telematics system includes a tracking device installed in a vehicle that allows the sending, receiving, and storing of telemetry data. The device collects GPS data as well as several other vehicle-related data (location, speed, idle time, harsh or unusual acceleration or braking, fuel consumption, vehicle faults, to name a few) and transmits it through GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), 4G mobile data and cellular network or satellite communication to a centralized server. 

The server then interprets the data and sends it to the end-users via secure websites and apps on their tablets or smartphones. Such a system capable of interacting with other devices to provide insight into business operations is called an open platform telematics system. 

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Telematics Devices 

The components of telematics devices typically include the following:

  1. GPS tracker
  2. Engine interface
  3. Input/output interface (expander port)
  4. SIM card
  5. Accelerometer
  6. Buzzer

The information from the vehicle is recorded using a telematics device called a black box that plugs into the OBD II (the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics) or CAN-BUS port. A SIM card and an onboard modem allow communication on the cellular network.

These devices can come pre-installed when one buys a truck or car or can be externally installed later. With the advent of smart cars and the Internet of Things (IoT) technology, more manufacturers will look to connect their vehicles to devices using telematics. 

Five Core Areas

Telematics supports five core areas when used in fleet management. They are:

  1. Productivity: The use of real-time GPS tracking, trip reporting, and dispatching and routing tools helps companies effectively use their logistics networks to increase productivity and improve customer service.
  2. Safety: Availability of in-vehicle driver coaching, risk and driver behavior reporting mechanisms, accident notifications, and the ability to locate a stolen vehicle are features that aid the safety of vehicles and their drivers.
  3. Optimization: Predictive maintenance abilities and remote diagnostics help to reduce downtime of the vehicles. Other optimization tools focus on efficient usage of fuel by minimizing idle time and guzzling.
  4. Compliance: Solutions for electronic logging, IFTA (International Fuel Tax Agreement) reporting, and vehicle inspections ensure that all the vehicles satisfy the latest safety standards.
  5. Integration: Other software systems such as dash camera technology or CRM software need to work together with the devices in the vehicle for proper tracking and analysis of data.
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Applications of Telematics 

The value of fleet telematics systems in the US in 2020 is $3.9 billion and is expected to grow at a rate of 2.6%. Let’s look at some applications of this emerging technology sector. 

1. Vehicle Tracking 

Vehicles can be tracked using a combination of GPS satellites and receivers, GPRS networks (as mentioned before), and cloud computing. GPS tracking is usually accurate to around 10–20 meters, but the latest technology tries to bring accuracy to 1 or 2 meters. This is the simplest and most common application, whose working is exactly as described earlier in the article.

2. Trailer and Asset Tracking 

Trucks and other big vehicles often have trailers attached to them when transporting goods. Attaching GPS trackers to the trailers and other non-movable assets can help track them and ensure they don’t go missing or get detached accidentally. Any unauthorized movement of a trailer can also instantly trigger a notification to the concerned parties. 

A key application of this is in food transportation. Cold-store freight trailers that deliver fresh or frozen foods incorporate telematics to gather data on the temperature inside the cargo container so that if the temperature varies beyond a threshold, either an alert can be sent, or it can trigger temperature systems which come into play immediately to regulate the temperature. 

3. Maintenance and Risk Management 

Every vehicle needs to be maintained regularly, but this is an expensive and time-consuming process because often, drivers don’t realize that they need maintenance until it’s too late. With telematics systems, technology can track the condition of the vehicle over time based on engine diagnostics, including battery voltage, coolant temperature, power-train malfunctions, and so on. This helps it to predict when the next round of maintenance should occur so that drivers and the service company can be prepared in advance. 

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A related issue is that of risk management and insurance. Telematics systems monitor driver behavior routes to be traveled, and vehicle conditions to assess the overall risk during every trip. This, along with the proper service records, allows insurance companies to adjust the premiums accordingly.  

4. Car Sharing 

It is becoming a trend for people to just use assets than own them, and the relevant example, in this case, is that of car sharing. People can rent cars either by the hour or by the day and return them after. Using telematics systems ensure that the car is maintained properly during that interval and to calculate the exact fare based on distance traveled or time in motion. 

Is Telematics Costly?

While the initial investment in GPS technology and other software seems costly, in the long run, the company will see an increase in ROI. Increased productivity, efficiency, better safety standards, and maintenance, as well as the mass of data that companies collect to analyze and plan logistics in the future, add up towards reduced costs and increased revenues as time goes by. This is not an area where it is advisable to go for cheap alternatives. 

Are You Equipped With the Necessary Technology?

If you are in the fleet services business, this article would have thrown some light on the need and importance of having telematics systems installed. Transportation and logistics operations are crucial to the functioning of any economy, so you must upgrade your technology and have the right devices installed in your vehicles. 

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