Fleet Telematics Hardware
The hardware in fleet telematics systems collects information that is fed into the software for transmission and analysis. Hardware usually consists of some or all of the following four elements:
1. Embedded systems installed in vehicles or buildings
2. Mobile systems in smart phones or other GPS devices
3. Rearview mirror eye-level sensors
4. Key fobs or badges for tracking the movements of individuals
Original equipment manufacturer-installed telematics remain the choice of larger and long-haul fleets. Despite the increasing use of mobile devices and their expanding capabilities, embedded systems aren't in any danger of obsolescence. Larger operations depend on them for greater reliability and quality. For one thing, mobile devices are more susceptible to damage and loss and, unfortunately, tampering by employees. Moreover, OEM-installed systems integrate better with all the other technology in the vehicle, such as engine diagnostics systems.
As telematics grow in use, the price of hardware has been dropping. At the same time, smartphone and tablet-based telematics offer solutions that are, in many cases, less expensive alternatives to traditional hardware-installed systems. Consequently, even small fleets are starting to embrace the technology, frequently in combination with the smartphones and tablets already in use by their drivers.
More affordability means a greater focus on application. As Genevieve Conti, assistant editor of Trucking Info points out, "When Qualcomm first offered its Omnitracs system in 1987, the hardware cost $4,500 per truck, with a $50-a-month service fee for satellite connection. ... Today, the company's newly released fleet management solution, the MCP50, has a suggested retail price of $799 and monthly service charges as low as $19.95. ... As costs come down ... there will be less focus on the hardware installed in the truck and more focus on the information we get from it."
Fleet Telematics Software
As with most software today, the trend in fleet telematics is towards SaaS (Software as a Service). In contrast to traditional on-premise servers storing data collected from programs installed on your PC network, a vendor stores your data for you and provides access to it through a web browser. ABI Research forecasts a 15-fold increase in commercial SaaS-based fleet telematics units, from 1.06 million in 2012 to a projected 16.8 million by 2018.
The advantages of SaaS-based fleet telematics include:
• Elimination of installation and IT infrastructure expense
• Easy administration
• Open systems easily integrate with other applications
• 24/7 access
• Compatibility with mobile devices
• Unlimited users; easy scalability
• Frequent and automatic updates and patch management
• Easy-to-use, familiar and intuitive user interface
• Server redundancy to ensure accurate backups and prevent data corruption or loss
Data collected by telemetric devices are mined to distill actionable, real-time analytics typically regarding:
• Asset utilization (e.g., vehicle speed and location, times of arrival, fuel consumption)
• Regulatory compliance and safety
• Driver communications
• Maintenance and inspection records
• Alerts regarding any of the above that requires timely corrective action
As SaaS-based telematics grow in popularity, reports and data analysis will increasingly be performed via a web interface, or dashboard. A web dashboard allows managers to quickly sort and interpret a variety of data on driver behavior, location, and routing information, as well as vehicle operating conditions.