Connectivity and data plans shaping modern fleet management solutions

Devices alone aren’t enough to efficiently collect and process car data. Equally important is the configuration of the sampling rate. The frequency of data collection from the vehicle affects the quality of insights and, first and foremost, the fleet manager’s wallet.

In one of the previous posts (“Selecting the right telematics device or data collection solution“), we discussed various devices that collect the vehicle, driver, and trip data to provide insights for fleet optimization. But devices make up only half of a complete telematics solution. The other half is related to the data plan and concerns the frequency in which the device will transmit information (GPS sample frequency or sampling rate). 

One of the fleet manager’s tasks is to decide what data plan to go for and how to configure the device to transmit the data and maintain cost-efficiency. The collection, storage, and processing of high-frequency data will be more expensive than low-frequency data. However, certain telematics-based fleet management scenarios require frequent data sampling. Striking the right balance between the cost and the savings data analytics generates is the key to successfully managing fleets. 

How to choose the right data sampling rate (case by case)?

The GPS sample rate (or sampling frequency) refers to the number of times per second that the device stores a location update obtained via a Global navigation satellite system (GNSS) system. The value is expressed in Hertz, which means that a device with a 1Hz sample rate stores one location once per second. These stored locations are then assembled into packets of multiple locations and other data fields and sent by the device to the cloud.

Each case should be considered individually, but some guidelines exist as to what sampling rate would be the minimum one in particular circumstances. While they are never one size fits all, remember the more frequent the data is transmitted, the more expensive a data plan will need to be. But if data is not transmitted enough, fleet managers might not get the proper information from their systems and the issues caused might outweigh the cost of increasing the transmission frequency.

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Data storage estimates for modern vehicles greatly vary. However, it’s assessed that fully autonomous cars might generate anything between 3.2 GB to 300 TB of data per day (based on 12 hours per day of car usage).

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Theft prevention

Fleets often use telematics to prevent theft and aid the recovery of stolen cars. However, even though telematics solutions used for that purpose are marketed as providing ‘real-time tracking’ of fleet vehicles’ movements, in reality, they usually read the car’s location sporadically, say one update every 15 mins. That means that you don’t need high-frequency data to protect your fleet’s vehicles. 

Track and trace

Monitoring the fleet vehicles’ whereabouts and movement requires more frequent but still manageable updates. For example, an update every 3-5 minutes, which is still within the low-frequency ranks, already allows you to see where your fleet is driving and whether the load will be delivered on time. 

Going for a more practical approach, every few minutes is ideal if you don’t need precision turn-by-turn information. This rate gives you a good sense of where your fleet of cars is and how long they stop for, without breaking the bank. For example, suppose a vehicle hasn’t moved for several pings. In that case, this may suggest a delay in loading or unloading, an extended break taken by the driver, or another issue worth investigating. An intermittent plan—where you can increase the sample rate on demand or under specific conditions of driving—is ideal for monitoring the vehicles in these situations. 

Driver coaching

You likely need higher frequency data to gain valuable data about driver behavior that will inform the content for personalized driver training and coaching. By pinging the car often, the analytics systems can detect and record the exact maneuvers of the driver, including harsh acceleration, aggressive driving, tailgating, and others. On the contrary, pinging a car every 3-5 minutes may be too rare to collect accurate data. 

However, it’s worth noting that some telematics devices work with variable data transmission, also known as curve algorithms. They have a smart mechanism only to transmit “relevant” location points where the driver is either taking a curve or changing speed, and they then relax the frequency when the driver is just driving straight at a more or less consistent speed. (Click here to get an example). 

How high sampling rate enables a precise analysis of the driver behavior and context of driving

At Motion-S, we correlate aspects of an individual driver’s behavior such as cornering, speeding, braking, complying, or resting with contextual information like road type, intersections and pedestrian crossings nearby, traffic jams, weather conditions, the occurrence of risk events, etc. This allows us to produce highly accurate scoring profiles of each trip and driver, allowing managers to optimize every aspect of their fleets.

To offer such impactful insights, we need high-frequency data. Our smartphone-based telematics application and SDK collect data at 1 Hertz to let you see everything that happens throughout the trip with a magnifying glass. With this type of high data transmission frequency, we can augment each location point and provide information not only about the speed of the driver at a chosen point in time, but also about the bearing rate, the direction of travel, road conditions, and weather, and so on. Any insights you need to make your fleets operate better, safer, and more cost-efficiently. 

Vehicle maintenance

If you are focused only on understanding the vehicle’s status (engine, maintenance, defect codes, fuel consumption…) by reading the information coming from the OBD, normally, you don’t need to transmit data with high frequency. Once every few minutes to occasionally should get the job done. In the case of catastrophic failure, the driver should know immediately, long before a fleet manager has a chance to intervene. But sporadic pings are a great way to monitor maintenance and fuel consumption while keeping data costs down.

Theft prevention

Theft Prevention

Every 15 minutes

Tracking

Track & Trace

Every 3-5 minutes

Maintenance

Vehicle Maintenance

Every few minutes

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Driver Behavior

From 1 location every second

A rule of thumb for choosing your data plan

The choice of the data plan is as important as the choice of the right telematics device, but sometimes, it may be demanding. On the whole, you should:

  1. First, choose a device that will give you the analysis type and data collection you need,
  2. And then choose a data transmission configuration that meets your needs.

Note that certain data collection devices allow for one data transmission frequency configuration, leaving no wiggle room to fine-tune the setting and accommodate more use cases. But other times, you can decide how to adjust the sampling rate to your needs, your local market costs, how much your clients are willing to pay, etc.

Fleet management can be much more efficient with the correct devices, and with companies such as Geotab, Teltonica, HighMobility, and others, fleet managers can’t complain about the lack of options. 

To identify the best one for your needs, start with proper research into your end goals. Then, check which telematics device can cater to those needs, and finally, what data plan can provide a proper frequency for the system to return the requested results. 

Key Takeaway: Soon, vehicle data can become more profitable than vehicles. Thus, savvy managers already use data insights to improve the efficiency of countless processes and open up new revenue streams for novel services. Modern AI-driven fleet management analytics solutions need to be paired with the optimal connectivity solution to unlock that value. If you are unsure how to combine them, reach out to our mobility analytics team!

 

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