There's been a lot of discussion about telematics, but the word itself probably doesn't mean a great deal to most people. However, the technology is having a dramatic effect on our everyday lives - from business fleet management to the cost of motorists' car insurance premiums. So just what is telematics, and what does it mean for us in our professional and private capacities? We've assembled this handy FAQ on the topic to help clear a few things up.
WHAT IS TELEMATICS?
The definition is clear, telematics encompasses a range of technologies (including GPS trackers, for example) which are used to monitor various aspects of driving. That data is then transmitted - whether to a fleet manager or an insurer - so they can keep tabs on how and where that particular vehicle has been driven. The term itself is a portmanteau of 'telecommunication' and 'informatics', which neatly encapsulates what it's all about: transmitting data over long distances.
HOW IS TELEMATICS DATA CAPTURED?
The most common way by which telematics data is captured is via the installation of a black box in each vehicle. These then feed that data back to a central control centre. The box has no bearing on the functioning of the vehicle - it merely monitors factors such as its location and various aspects of its performance.
WHO USES TELEMATICS DATA, AND WHAT FOR?
The technology is commonly used by fleet managers to obtain a more accurate insight in to how their vehicles are being used. This allows them to deploy their fleet in more efficient ways, saving money on fuel as well as reducing their carbon footprint. Some firms may even use geo-fencing, restricting a vehicle's movements to certain boundaries. Some car insurers also insist that telematics devices are installed as a condition for providing insurance cover (often among younger drivers, for example).
WHICH PARTICULAR TELEMATICS FEATURES MOST BENEFIT BUSINESS?
Fleet telematics can be used to obtain live traffic feeds, allowing fleet managers to change routes and respond to unexpected problems by reallocating resources on the fly. It can provide up-to-the-minute information about where individual vehicles are, so that the nearest vehicle can be despatched to a client as quickly as possible. Data collected on individual driver behaviour can also help to give fleet managers a more detailed insight into how drivers conduct themselves when on the road. Telematics can also support vehicle maintenance scheduling, by facilitating daily vehicle safety checks and ensuring that all vehicle servicing is completed on schedule, through odometer based service alerts.
IS TELEMATICS DATA SAFE AND SECURE?
There are robust safeguards in place to ensure that data collected by automotive telematics is secure. The European Parliament recently endorsed tougher data protection rules - including a more stringent definition of what constitutes personal data and a higher threshold for driver consent. These regulations will apply to any firm doing business in the European Union - so it will continue to affect British businesses and their employees even after Brexit.
CAN TELEMATICS HELP MAKE DRIVING SAFER?
Automotive telematics gives fleet managers and insurers the ability to monitor driver performance in fine detail. This means that instances of unsafe driving - and persistent poor conduct behind the wheel - can be acted upon with greater certainty. Of course, drivers themselves will be fully aware that their driving is being monitored and this knowledge is likely to make them more risk-averse. This will have positive implications for the safety of other road users as well as pedestrians.
WHAT SHOULD BUSINESSES CONSIDER BEFORE ADOPTING TELEMATICS?
The first question for businesses to consider is which type of telematics system would be best for both their needs and their budget. The type of vehicles that the business run, the services they provide and objectives they have are key questions to think about before investing. There are many telematics solutions on the market so our advice would be to speak with a telematics experts who can advise what type of solution would deliver your business the strongest return on its investment.