How is Telematics Used In Vehicles?

Telematics is a combination of two different sciences; informatics and telecommunications. In essence, it allows companies to collect real-time data from their assets.

Today, telematics has various uses. For example, it can inform security agencies about stolen vehicles, car crashes, and airbag deployments. However, the main use of telematics is in fleet management, where it collects and transmits data about automotive servicing and vehicle use.

Trackunit, for example, is a fleet management software company that uses telematics to provide clients with a complete overview of their fleet to optimize equipment use and reduce costs. But how exactly is telematics used in vehicles? Let’s explore.

What is a telematics system?

Think of a telematics system as a smart computer or device. It’s fitted into your vehicle and collects various bits of information. Depending on the type of telematics system, it can gather data about driver behavior, like collisions, idling, frequent braking, and location. It also reports vehicle performance by monitoring tire pressure, fuel use, and other indicators.

A telematics system typically has the following components:

  • GPS receiver: It receives satellite signals to determine a vehicle’s speed, location, and direction.
  • Engine interface: The engine interface unit is a computer with input and output functionality that collects analog signals. It further converts them to digital signals.
  • Input/output interface: It is responsible for allowing communication between a device, like a buzzer, and the computer.
  • Buzzer: The audio signaling device alerts the driver when a problem arises.
  • Accelerometer: It measures the acceleration force in the vehicle.

The telematics system is plugged into the onboard diagnostics port (OBD II Port), which has been present in all vehicles manufactured since 1996. In most cases, the port is under your vehicle’s steering wheel, an ideal location for easy access and installation. Otherwise, CAN (controller area network) vehicles will broadcast data that is collected by a single platform.

How does it differ from GPS tracking?

Many people use the terms GPS tracking and telematics interchangeably. While they often work together, they’re not the same thing.

GPS collects information about a vehicle’s location through its GPS receiver. Telematics transmits this information to a central computer via satellites and cellular networks. The computers then process this data to show you the insights you see on the telematics dashboard.

Examples of telematics integrations

If you drive a modern vehicle, you’ve likely come across some telematics integrations. Here are a few popular telematics solutions, and ones used specifically in the off-road construction sector:

  • Location tracking
  • Engine diagnostics
  • Predictive maintenance
  • Electronic logging (ELDs)

The simplest example of telematics is GPS navigation, which most vehicle operators and personal drivers have used.

How do vehicles use telematics systems?

As mentioned, telematics systems are predominantly used for fleets and fleet management. Most modern commercial and construction vehicles come with pre-installed telematics systems. A vehicle or piece of equipment without such a system can benefit from an aftermarket telematics solution.

In some cases, a vehicle’s electrical system powers the telematics. Others are battery-powered. Here’s how the vehicles in a fleet use telematics systems.

GPS tracking

The main use case of telematics in vehicles is GPS tracking. Besides the GPS satellites, the system also contains a cellular network and a signal receiver. Here’s how it works:

  • The satellite gathers data about a vehicle’s location.
  • The receiver downloads this information, which undergoes processing in the computer.
  • From there, the information can go to a navigation system, a web server, or both.

When the navigation system receives the information, the driver can use it to navigate their route. The information is also transmitted to the fleet management company’s web server, where fleet managers can use the data to track the location of their equipment.

For example, if they see that a vehicle or piece of equipment is idle or not in use, they can dispatch necessary maintenance to get it back in the game.

Asset tracking

Construction fleets comprise expensive vehicles that are often rented and must be properly cared for. Fleet managers use telematics to monitor their vehicle’s location.

Many telematics systems also allow users to set instant alerts which is especially useful for rental depots. Geofencing makes use of this feature. If a vehicle or piece of off-road equipment goes beyond the set boundaries, the system notifies the user of unauthorized access or usage.

Vehicle maintenance

Modern telematics systems are like vehicle monitors that provide information about everything from battery voltage and tire pressure to powertrain malfunctions, coolant temperature, and other factors that could warrant routine maintenance.

Preventative vehicle maintenance is key to lowering project costs. By nipping the problem in the bud, you can reduce repair costs before they escalate into something serious. Preventative and predictive maintenance ensures that vehicles are in use the majority of the time, helping rental businesses and construction companies get the most out of their equipment.

Evolution of telematics

Considering the fast pace of today’s technological advancements, it’s only a matter of time before telematics becomes even more efficient and feature-rich. Many off-road equipment manufacturers are partnering with telematics solutions providers to improve user experience.

In the future, we can expect telematics systems to connect with Internet of Things (IoT) devices to connect construction vehicles with other smart systems.

Fleet managers are also increasingly adopting telematics due to its potential for cost control, compliance, and accountability improvement. As more businesses take up telematics, providers will offer better integrations with business management software for seamless fleet management.

Final words

Telematics is a huge segment in the automobile industry and is only set to become bigger. Besides improving road safety and optimizing fuel consumption for personal-use vehicles, telematics solutions also reduce costs for fleets through real-time tracking, vehicle health monitoring, and unauthorized access notifications.

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