What is Telematics?

September 16, 2020

What is Telematics? Let Samsara explain it for you.

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Key Takeaways

Telematics, or telematics systems, refers to the convergence of telecommunications and information processing. Based on the French word télématique, the term telematics gained traction in the United States in the 1970s and is now commonly used to refer to the intersection of information technology and telecommunications. Telematics has taken off more recently with the rise of the internet and a spike in the number of telecommunications networks that can transfer data to offices in real time for various purposes, including fleet management.

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Vehicle telematics

In the automotive or fleet industry, telematics is typically synonymous with vehicle telematics or fleet telematics. Vehicle telematics is used to describe vehicle onboard communication services and applications that communicate with one another via GPS receivers and other telematics devices. The most common application of this is vehicle tracking. This is achieved by combining a GPS system with onboard diagnostics, typically to map the exact location of a vehicle and the speed at which it is moving.

Vehicle telematics continues to rise in popularity as a direct result of business demand and regulatory requirements. Fleets rely on telematics data not only to stay compliant with the ELD mandate but to run their operations more efficiently.

How does telematics work?

  • A vehicle's location is provided to a vehicle telematics device, such as Samsara's vehicle gateway, via a GPS receiver or GRPS. Information is transmitted from the vehicle to a server via a wireless network.

  • A telecommunications company manages the flow of information from the vehicle and telematics provider.

  • The internet transfers the information from the telematics provider to a computer or mobile device for a fleet manager to access.

  • Fleet management for public fleets such as governments and schools use vehicle telematics data to analyze fleet vehicles, vehicle location, service delivery and coverage, driver behavior, community safety, routing, dispatch units, diagnostics, and preventative maintenance so that they can optimize their service their communities and respond to citizens.

The benefits of vehicle telematics

There are a number of ways fleet managers can benefit from integrating a vehicle telematics system into their fleets. Topping the list are:

1. Visibility

Vehicle tracking gives organizations visibility into the whereabouts of their vehicles by monitoring the movement or location of a vehicle through a GPS system. This is one of the most common applications of vehicle telematics and is particularly useful for companies that need to keep track of a fleet of vehicles. This same feature can also be used to track powered and unpowered assets, like trailers or reefers.

2. Maintenance

Most vehicle telematics systems are plugged directly into a vehicle's diagnostic port. This automatically pulls engine data—like fuel consumption, coolant temperature, or engine load—for fleet management teams to easily access. This is also a great way for fleet managers to set up a regular vehicle maintenance schedule. Vehicle telematics providers can identify vehicle faults so fleet managers can know when to bring a vehicle into the shop.

3. Safety

Because vehicle telematics systems monitor and collect data on vehicles, they can also be a great way to gain insight into driving habits. Fleet managers can also create training programs or individual coaching sessions based on telematics data, such as harsh braking or acceleration, to help increase driver safety on the road.

Insurance companies are also starting to use telematics information to accurately assess risk factors and modify insurance premiums accordingly.

4. Cost savings

Telematics can easily reduce fuel costs across a fleet by identifying trends in driver behavior and route performance—insights that can lead to major increases in fuel efficiency. Without visibility into how drivers are performing in their day-to-day, it can be challenging to coach them on fuel efficiency. Certain telematics systems can also connect fleet managers with drivers in real time via messages so drivers can easily reroute in case of heavy traffic or another unexpected road delay.

Watch the video below to see how All Aboard America uses Samsara Vehicle Telematics to reduce fuel usage by 3%, resulting in $140,000 saved in a single year.

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5. Compliance

Because they electronically and automatically track vehicle drive-time, telematics systems can make it easier to maintain ELD compliance. Fleet managers can use telematics systems to track records of duty status and certain providers, like Samsara, even streamline workflows associated with editing, certifying, and annotating Hours of Service logs.

The future of telematics technology

The rise of telematics in the automotive industry has been a huge turning point for fleet efficiency and safety. As it continues to gain momentum, there are a few emerging trends to keep an eye on in the near future.

Data sits at the heart of telematics, but understanding that data and acting on it can be challenging. Expect to see telematics providers, like Samsara, present customers with intelligent tools to help weed through raw data. Samsara’s data-driven platform provides reports and tools to help customers digest the numbers and turn them into actionable insights.

The unseating of 3G cellular networks is another trend that is likely to see a sharp rise as telematics providers connect to faster 4G or LTE networks. The switch is bound to trigger device replacements in a number of fleets still using 3G telematics systems over a decade old.

Telematics systems could look to improve integration capabilities with other services or software systems as demand for connected platforms increases. To create a more holistic fleet management system, fleet managers will want a telematics provider that seamlessly integrates with other parts of their business. Samsara’s open architecture enables integration opportunities with a variety of partners in transportation including payroll applications and transport management systems.

Looking for a vehicle telematics solution?

Samsara is a fleet telematics provider that helps with safety, compliance, and efficiency. With GPS tracking for vehicles and assets, ELD compliance, and more, Samsara is a complete telematics system that helps create a unified fleet management system. If you're looking for fleet management software, get in touch for a demo or free trial today.