Selecting the right telematics device or data collection solution

“Data is King.” This saying is getting thrown around so often that it has lost its punch. However, as cliché, as it may be, it remains valid in fleet management, where managers can glean data from multiple sources to drive operational insights and solve everyday challenges. Thus, this article looks into different ways fleet managers can use data analytics to their benefit and provides suggestions on choosing a telematics solution suitable for one’s needs.

The iconic stories of UPS saving $400 million on optimizing delivery routes or Boston shaving off 1 million miles per year by making school bus routes more efficient are just a sample of what data insights can do for fleets. But even though fleets small, medium, and large can benefit from data, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Fleet managers must be aware of the different options available to match data-driven fleet management and telematics solutions with their needs. We will explore some of them.

How can fleet managers use data?

Modern telematics can provide insights into technical aspects of fleet management, such as idle times, fuel consumption, vehicle fault information, or emissions. But it can also inform fleet business decisions based on customer visit times, driver’s behavior, or weather conditions. So let’s briefly review some of the most popular ways fleet managers up their game with vehicle data.

Theft prevention

Preventing car theft is the most basic scenario in which a telematics device tracks the GPS position of a car and may send automated alerts to notify the manager about any suspicious behaviors. GPS tracking can also locate a trailer unhooked from the body of a vehicle, while telematics systems can monitor petrol levels to detect fuel theft.

Route optimization

This refers to tracking and tracing vehicles to ensure that routes are respected and that deliveries are on time. Route monitoring systems read data from devices to make rides more time-efficient, improve vehicle utilization, and save costs.

Driver monitoring

Geofencing is a location-based technology triggering a specific action when a mobile device or tagged device enters a particular geographical area, called geofence. Frequent in retail, it also helps fleet managers put stringent controls on drivers, monitor unauthorized use of vehicles, or alert them when a car goes outside a designated area.

Increasing safety

The repercussions of any car accident on a fleet business can be far-reaching—from health damage to repair costs and tarnished reputation. But with telematics data, insights into driving behavior can give coaches much richer content to train fleet drivers in safe driving and link their habits to quantified exposure to accidents. As a result, the fleet’s risk exposure can decrease by up to 60%.

Fuel consumption and eco-efficiency

Data insights are also vital for optimizing fleets in terms of fuel consumption and eco-efficiency through improving routes, reducing idle times, and detecting vehicle issues. On top of that, significant savings can be made on working with drivers to reduce fuel-inefficient behaviors such as lack of braking anticipation, unnecessary high speed, or harsh accelerations.

Enhanced fleet composition

Choosing between SUVs, cargo vans, minivans, sedans, coupes, crossovers, wagons, trucks, and the other vehicle types can be mind-boggling. Especially as electric and hybrid solutions come to the equation. However, using fleet optimization analytics saves this issue for fleet managers, providing suggestions on optimal vehicle makeup based on the fleet mobility patterns.

Lower maintenance overhead

Doing maintenance too early will waste money on parts that still have a lot of life, but doing it too late can cause unexpected downtime. To identify the ideal time for maintenance, fleets take advantage of predictive analytics based on data, which tells them exactly what part and when to fix or replace.

 

Telematics devices you can use to manage the fleet

Depending on the use case and fleet complexity, there are various techniques for collecting, analyzing, and reporting fleet data using different hardware.

Plug-in telematics devices

These simple devices plug into the auxiliary power outlet or the 12V car cigarette lighter socket. They are cheap, easy to install, and can be retrofitted into almost any vehicle. Plug-ins use built-in sensors and controllers to track basic parameters, like braking, acceleration, and cornering. The available options aren’t sophisticated, which isn’t a bad place to start for individual drivers unfamiliar with telematics. However, these devices are not recommended for more complex fleets.

Example Device: TELTONIKA FMP100 Plug and Play tracker

Source: https://teltonika-gps.com/product/fmp100/

Onboard Diagnostics (OBD-II)

Onboard diagnostics connect by plugging into most cars’ OBD-II ports found under the dashboard. They are a popular choice for fleets because they are cost-efficient, lightweight, and fairly easy to use. 

Some models, for instance, those offered by Teltonika, can be customized with external sensors to cover more options and parameters. OBD solutions track things like fuel economy, vehicle location, CO2 emissions, and some data on driver behavior, which they usually output as error codes. Unfortunately, these devices haven’t evolved much since they originally appeared on the market, so they offer limited functions and storage capacity compared to more recent, mobile-based solutions. 

Example Device: TELTONIKA FMC001 Tracker OBD plug and play LTE / GNSS / BLE

Source: https://teltonika-gps.com/fr/product/fmc001/

Blackbox

Blackbox is a fixed box wired into the vehicle, so vehicle identification, mileage tracking, and trip detection are uncontested. Devices of this type usually provide solid data accuracy, and they are very tamper-resistant. However, blackboxes are generally installed and serviced by a trained professional, since they could require a wire-to-wire connection. Between installation, ongoing support, and maintenance for a black box device, they typically are the most expensive option. In exchange, they could provide more specific data fields than standard OBD-II devices.

Example Device: TELTONIKA FMB120 GNSS/GSM/Bluetooth tracker with internal GNSS/GSM antennas and internal battery

Source: https://teltonika-gps.com/product/fmb120/

Dashcams

Fleet dash cameras can serve as a complement to a GPS tracker, providing the visual evidence to validate the collected data. Augmenting the GPS fleet tracking technology with connected dash cameras enables additional detection of driver behavior, such as distractions, sleepiness, phone usage, thanks to video footage. A number of advances in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have been applied to dash-cam video, being able to detect very specific events inside and outside the vehicle. Also, video telematics allows fleet managers to detect the dangerous habit of tailgating.

Example Device: TELTONIKA DUALCAM FMC125 and a camera solution for in-cabin and road video monitoring 

Source: https://teltonika-gps.com/fr/product/dualcam/

Smartphone-based telematics devices

Mobile-first telematics devices don’t require upfront installation, and they provide a convenient and inexpensive medium for fleet tracking via a driver mobile app, by simply using the embedded GPS. Also, they could receive data via Bluetooth from in-car sensors and can be easily tailored for individual needs. In addition, the amount of information they can store and process exceeds this of other solutions. Due to that—and thanks to frequent software updates—they keep up with recent innovations in fleet management.

Also, smartphone-based devices offer the possibility to link the phone to the Bluetooth of the vehicle. Thanks to that, it is possible to discard trips on the cloud when a user is driving their personal car. But there are also some downsides to this option: first, you are tracking the driver, not the vehicle, more importantly, ensuring that phones are on all the time and all trips are recorded can be a daunting task for medium and large fleets.

Smartphone-based Telematics
Car Manufacturers Data Platforms

OEMs are a current trend in telematics, and according to the “Global Automotive OEM Telematics Market” report, they will be embedded in 84% of all vehicles, starting from 2024. OEM devices are factory-installed in the car and often come already with the accompanying fleet management software. As they don’t require installation of any equipment by the vehicle owner, OEMs can start collecting data from the first trip. 

On the downside, they are typically a one-size-fits-all solution that offers no customization options. Since they are fixed, like black boxes, replacement or maintenance involves extra time, effort, and cost. Also, managing a fleet with different car makes and models will mean having to use multiple OEM solutions, which might add complexity to fleet management, instead of streamlining it. In the last years, data aggregators like High-Mobility have provided a homogenization layer to access car data across all the connected brands, simplifying data consumption via APIs and the deployment of solutions based on this data. 

Connected Car Data

Finally, we should mention an emerging technology, poised to dominate the mainstream when 5G gains ground. And that is likely to happen quite soon, as Ericsson predicts that by 2027, the 5th generation connectivity will cover half of all mobile subscriptions. The connected car technology will use near real-time connections in conjunction with a multitude of sensors to increase driving safety and comfort and provide onboard entertainment to all passengers. 

Connected car data solutions already provide value to fleets, bringing managers insights from hundreds of IoT sensors to optimize trips. Most popular brands like Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot, or BMW have models equipped with such systems, which send data to the cloud to be processed and cater for various use cases, from vehicle diagnostics and maintenance, through in-vehicle personalization.    

How to avoid overspending on fleet management telematics?

Because there are different subscription plans to the telematics devices and various data plans/data transmission frequencies, you have to be mindful of your goals when evaluating the budget for telematics solutions. For example, if you need them only for theft prevention, tracking one location point every three seconds can be unnecessary but expensive. In that case, pinging each location once an hour or 30 minutes will cost you way less while meeting your needs. 

Here are other details to consider when evaluating various options: 

Upfront cost

Obviously, the devices themselves must be purchased. Then they must be installed, and sometimes by a technician, but that cost may not be included in the purchase price. But even if it is something one of your on-staff technicians can do, there is still time and cost involved. 

Software

After getting the hardware trackers, you’ll need to acquire the telematics software. As cost-effective as it may seem, buying a license may amount to more than going for a subscription-based payment. In the first case, you usually have to pay extra for all updates and support; in the second, the subscription will include them in the monthly or annual fee. 

Monthly fee

If you decide to go with regular payment, dissect the elements that go into your final fee. For example, some companies may charge you extra per each car where their devices are mounted, and some devices need to be hooked up to cell towers, which can incur additional fees per month for this ability. So consider this when making your choice.

Key Takeway: Before purchasing a solution, go over the finer details to ensure it will fit your needs and budget. Installation costs can add up quickly if not budgeted for. And any hidden fees can easily shoot you over budget. 

Make sure you are aware of all fees upfront. A roaming charge might not be thought about, but asking for an area of operation is important, especially if you have vehicles that leave your fleet’s home country of operation. More data is usually a good thing, but why pay for it if you can’t use it? Sometimes situations occur that data can’t help improve, so paying for extra sensors to gather data that you will never use makes no sense.

As you can see, choosing the right technology to serve your needs is difficult, but when it comes to calculating its cost, the real challenges begin. If you’re unsure how to deal with it, our consultants are happy to help. Contact us!

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