Of all the technological innovations in recent years – and there have been many – few have been the subject of more feverish excitement than the Internet of Things (IoT).
The potential of the IoT to revolutionise not just the way we do business with one another but the way public infrastructure as a whole operates has been widely hailed as radically transformative, with the potential to harness and interpret huge quantities of data in ways that facilitate dramatic improvements in efficiency, reliability and customer service.
However, the Internet of Things is just one part of a wider digital transformation in the logistics and commercial transport sectors. Telematics, for its part, has also come to play an integral role in the way transport operates. The continued integration of telematics systems with the IoT over the coming years is therefore likely to prove crucial to its further development.
But just what is the relationship between telematics and the Internet of Things? How does telematics fit practically into the development of the IoT, and what role will it play as the latter expands? These are among the key questions we will address here.
What is the relationship between telematics and the Internet of Things?
Telematics and the IoT are, between them, changing the face of fleet management and the transport industry as a whole. Since the turn of the millennium, telematics has come to be embraced as an industry standard in the fleet sector, and has provided fleet managers with detailed insight into the way both their drivers and their vehicles perform.
For example, telematics has allowed fleets to re-route vehicles in real time by sending them along the clearest route available; this has in turn facilitated more reliable and quicker deliveries to customers. GPS vehicle tracking enables fleet managers to keep a close eye on deliveries as they make their way to customers, while telematics has also simplified vehicle maintenance, allowing fleets to maximise uptime.
In tandem with the IoT, this is enabling the development of new digital supply chains as well as closer interconnection and co-ordination between different sectors, offering potential for enhanced overall efficiency.
What can the Internet of Things do now?
The Internet of Things already has a more extensive reach than you might realise. Research from Gartner found that by 2016, 3.9 billion connected devices were already in use – a figure that will have risen substantially since. It is these connected devices that enable the IoT to gather the data needed to build visions such as the smart city, which is a concept that has started to become a reality around the world in recent years.
The IoT allows a huge range of devices from vehicles to domestic appliances to link up, exchange data and provide the insight that can create data-driven cities. With urban populations around the world continuing to grow rapidly, understanding how people move and interact is crucial to build new infrastructures that sustain and improve quality of life.
Through facilitating the exchange of data as it does, the Internet of Things is helping to ensure better road safety (reducing the risk of accidents), greater efficiency (including by improving the flow of traffic and reducing congestion), and is also helping to cut CO2 emissions and improve urban air quality.
What is the future potential of the Internet of Things?
Smart city technology is being rolled out by more and more cities all the time; for example, two-thirds of US cities are already investing in smart city technologies. This extension of smart city infrastructure, and the improving connectivity it entails, also promises to facilitate the further expansion of IoT technologies into everyday life.
The Internet of Things could also help fleets gain a better understanding of telematics data, and to put it to new uses. For example, IoT technologies could enable fleets to use data gathered by telematics systems to produce more precise diagnoses of mechanical issues with vehicles, and use machine learning to develop more efficient vehicle maintenance processes.
Coupling telematics with sensors and other artificial intelligence technologies could also rapidly expand technological capacities, potentially delivering a wide range of benefits to fleets and their customers. This could have a number of positive implications in terms of efficiency, service standards and safety, including:
• Extending the life of perishable goods by monitoring ambient temperature throughout the supply chain.
• Weather prediction and severe weather warnings allowing for even more efficient re-routing, as well as changing driver behaviour measurements taking weather cycles into consideration.
• More efficient management of freight in the city, ensuring that the delivery of freight is taking place at optimal times.
Over the coming years, the Internet of Things looks set to develop into an extensive network encompassing vehicles, home appliances, personal gadgets, smart sensors and other technologies. Machine learning will allow these technologies to become more autonomous, interpreting use patterns and habits, and reducing the need for active user input.
The more agile firms have already integrated the IoT into their business strategies, and in doing so have gained a competitive edge which could prove crucial. Those businesses which are sluggish to adopt IoT technologies, therefore, run the risk of falling behind their rivals. The Internet of Things revolution is already upon us – there is no time to waste.