The evolving face of telematics and the role of the platform

6 December, 2016

Telematics has changed dramatically since it started being widely adopted in the early 2000s. Back then, it was all about vehicle tracking, as enterprises used web-based fleet management systems to get real-time information updates on remote networks.

The late 2000s spawned the cloud and M2M revolution. These technologies enabled super-fast, precise tracking of location through GPS and a host of sensor-based possibilities. For the first time, we saw real-time reporting and the highly advanced, connected telematics solutions that we see today.

What does the future hold? The Internet of Things looks set to revolutionise telematics. And the capabilities for the enterprise market are vast. So much so that telematics data can now reshape the strategy of fleet based businesses.

But while the future is bright, the fact that telematics data exists on many different platforms means that organisations are not currently able to fully exploit its potential.

The current landscape

First, let’s take a look at the kind of data we’re now able to obtain with modern telematics.

There is more detailed info on driver behaviour than ever. The cumulative effect of a fleet of drivers not driving at optimum speeds is vast.

Platforms now alert drivers as soon as they become inefficient – keeping them laser focused on the profitability of their vehicle. This can save a vast amount of money across a fleet in fuel costs and also protects the vehicle and driver inside it.

In terms of other efficiency drivers, there is social lead navigation – navigation based not only on GPS, but the data of thousands of other, connected vehicles also on the roads. And there is Vehicle-to-Infrastructure information, which allows cars, vans and trucks to communicate not just with each other but with things like loading bay availability and traffic light information.

In terms of safety, some telematics platforms now use ‘gamification’, in which an application presents key safety information in the form of a scoreboard and ranks driver performance based on safety compared to others, encouraging them to improve performance in a positive way.

Using their driving record to calculate a score, they are positioned in comparison with other drivers on a team. As their driving improves, so does their position on the leaderboard.

This only scratches the surface of how cloud-based, connected telematics platforms can help a fleet. The sheer volume and granularity of data available is saving fleets millions, protecting drivers and vehicles and redefining how fleets are viewed as a business tool.

However there’s a problem with this data. Corporations typically run disparate fleet management systems. This might be one piece of hardware for planning and delivering the most profitable routes and another for fleet management – understanding where and what vehicles are doing.

This incoherent software can seriously waste fleet managers’ and drivers’ time. Data has to be entered multiple times or manually transferred between applications, and different products need to be learned and understood.

This means it can be difficult to extract and combine the data to draw intelligent insights.

A holistic approach

The only way to tackle this problem is through a holistic approach based on one platform. Like a smartphone or tablet, all the information is on one intuitive platform, with the reams of information made available to managers and drivers in the same format.

This has totally revolutionised how telematics is presented and analysed and is completely opposed to the old way of running fleet telematics. It is the only way to harness all the efficiency and safety insights that make an impact on the bottom line of a business.

So what’s next for the holistic telematics platform?

OEM partnerships – the future of the holistic telematics platform

The benefits of telematics are clear to fleet managers. In fact, dealerships around the country now report that one of the most important drivers for vehicle purchase is an option on a quality telematics solution. So, manufacturers have naturally responded by looking to integrate platforms into their vehicles.

Ford Telematics (available on selected models including the Transit range) allows managers to track location, fuel consumption, driver behaviour, and provide safety and maintenance alerts, such as on seatbelt use, oil life and engine temperature. The key with Ford Telematics is that managers can also bolt-on the likes of routing, fuel cards, insurance and other fleet-relevant applications. Previously, anyone running telematics needed three or four relationships to be able to achieve that, but the advancements in platform-based telematics have created a one-stop shop.

This is crucial. While the benefits of telematics are clear, it’s the way this data is presented, viewed, harnessed, and then actioned that makes telematics a tool for businesses to gain a competitive edge.

So the next stage in the evolution of telematics is a pragmatic one. Fleet managers and manufacturers that look to holistic platforms are able to derive true value from telematics, making the most of the opportunities created by M2M and the Internet of Things.