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What is Telematics?

By Simon Austin December 12, 2018

December 12, 2018

A combination of the words telecommunications and informatics, it was the joining of these two sciences that resulted in the field of telematics.

In its broadest sense telematics actually includes the internet itself, since it combines telecommunications (phone lines, cables, etc.) with informatics (such as computer systems). However, the term is now more commonly used to apply to vehicle telematics, where vehicle location information is used in different business applications to ultimately help business owners better manage a fleet-based workforce.

The technology allows the sending, receiving and storing of information relating to remote objects (in this case, the vehicle) via telecommunication devices that plugs into the OBD II or CAN-BUS port, with a SIM card and onboard modem enabling communication through a mobile network. This smart device then records and reports on various points of available data. There are many who believe, however, that telematics simply shows GPS vehicle location – this does not begin to cover the breadth of actionable intelligence that telematics provides.

But, before we get into the weeds of what telematics can really do, let’s quickly look at how it came about in the first place.

The early days

Telematics developed alongside the internet. As computers became smaller and more widespread, the need for an easy way to exchange data grew. This is when telecommunication technology was used to connect computers with each other as well as other devices and thus telematics was born.

(Quick fact: The actual term ‘telematics’ was coined back in 1978 by Simon Nora and Alain Minc in their report titled ‘L'Informatisation de la société’ – which was prepared for the French Prime Minister in response to the development of computer technology and the dawning of the information age).

Since that time, computer processors have become smaller and more ubiquitous, while telecommunication networks have become widespread and effective in transferring larger amounts of digital data, regardless of where the computer is located. Whether it's on a lorry driving through the remotest parts of the Lake District or a delivery van on a ferry crossing the Channel, telematics can transfer near real-time data to central offices to help fleet operators better manage their mobile workforce. 

How does a telematics system work?

At the core of a telematics system is a vehicle tracking device or black box. It collects GPS data as well as a huge range of vehicle specific data from the vehicle’s ODBII port and transmits it via either GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), 4G mobile data or satellite communication to a centralised server that then interprets the data and enables it’s display to end users.

what is telematics, and how does it work? An explaination of the core components of modern vehilce telematics systems

There is a multitude of data collected by the telematics device, which when decoded, can provide in-depth vehicle information such as location, speed, idling time, harsh acceleration or braking (measured by an internal accelerometer), fuel consumption, vehicle faults and much more.

All this data is then layered over a map in our fleet management software in near real-time and can be viewed via secure websites and apps optimised for smart phones and tablets.

So what can telematics really do?

Today there is practically no limit to the different applications for telematics. The world is becoming more connected every day and new ways to use location-based information are being developed constantly.

Yet still there is an ongoing misconception by many that vehicle telematics just shows GPS vehicle location – a simple dot on the map as it were. This doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Find the right solution for your business with our free Fleet Management Buyer’s Guide.

With this telematics data, fleet managers can then determine when a driver is speeding, check the idling status of each vehicle in your fleet and send near real-time alerts to drivers to show them the fastest, most efficient routes to take. Further to this, monitoring of fuel consumption, individual driving behaviour, time spent at (and outside of) specific locations and scheduling of timely vehicle maintenance is made easier with the right telematics technology. 

Simply having telematics, however, is not enough. Not all telematics solutions are created equal and in order for you to make the most out of the intelligence available, you need to find one that’s right for your business.

How to make the most of telematics

Adopting a telematics solution is crucial for truly efficient and effective fleet management and there are a number of significant advantages that implementing a telematics solution will bring to your business.

For starters, who wouldn’t want a complete picture of their entire fleet at their fingertips, via intuitive and easy-to-use dashboards delivered through a mobile app?

Here are six fundamental ways telematics-adopting companies are maximising the potential of their fleets:

Decreased fuel costs:

    Tracking driver behaviour could help you to identify areas of waste and act upon them accordingly, which ultimately helps towards reducing your fuel usage. Also, with the right solution you’ll be able to plan the most efficient route for each of your drivers at the touch of a button. This helps to minimise any unnecessary mileage.

Improved safety:

    Because feedback on driving style and behaviours are continuous, you’re in the best position to coach drivers about their bad habits (speeding, late or harsh braking) and also acknowledge those who perform well. Whilst your drivers are likely to have good intentions and don’t set out to jeopardise the safety of other road users, they are only human and can easily slip into bad habits. With a telematics solution you can closely monitor these bad habits and produce reports, or league tables, which highlight your drivers performance and help to implement new safety targets.

Boosted productivity:

    With near real-time GPS system data, your drivers can avoid traffic delays, as well as giving you the ability to quickly and easily attribute any new or additional site visits to the nearest vehicle and instruct them on the most efficient route to get there.

Better payroll management:

    By tracking the precise time a vehicle starts at the beginning of the day to the moment it shuts down at the end, a fleet tracking solution provides an accurate, automated record of how long an employee worked and where. By automating payroll business owners not only help ensure their employees are paid accurately for the hours they have worked, but they can also take back the time currently spent manually matching up timesheets and job tickets.

Reduced unauthorised use:

    One way you could lower the risk of accidents is to ensure your vehicles are only on the road when they need to be, during business hours. However, are you certain none of your vehicles are used in a driver’s own time without consent? With a telematics solution, you can monitor when a vehicle is used out of hours as well as having the option to geofence certain areas to ensure your vehicles are where you expect them to be at all times.

Lower maintenance costs:

    Telematics can be set-up to deliver alerts based on mileage, engine use or time. Couple this with information on driving behaviour and you can monitor the wear and tear on your company vehicles in order to plan and carry out preventative maintenance. Furthermore, a comprehensive solution can alert you of diagnostic trouble codes such as engine warning lights, removing the need to rely on the driver to report faults and enabling you to resolve the issue quickly, minimising ongoing damage.

    Find the right solution for your business

    So, how do you know which solution is right for you and your business?

    There are many telematics suppliers out there, but few are flexible enough to offer the right mix of features to ensure you receive the maximum benefits of tracking your fleet. The best of the bunch will give you simple usability, easy-to-understand technology and financial clarity from start to finish. What’s more, GPS tracking systems are only becoming better at integrating with your existing business applications so it’s the perfect time to consider one for your business.

    Verizon Connect provide solutions to help solve all of your biggest fleet management challenges. If you want to explore this or you have more questions regarding telematics, why not schedule a short demonstration

    Simon Austin

    Simon is the Associate Director, International Marketing, EMEA & APAC. With over 20 years marketing experience in the IT software and business analytics industry, Simon believes passionately in the power of data and how it can help business realise their full potential faster.

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