What Is A Telematics Device?

Telematics has revolutionized the fleet management protocol, allowing managers to accommodate more vehicles per fleet and manage them even more efficiently. Distance does not matter anymore, and the idea of directing your fleet drivers to follow a schedule is simpler and more practical than ever before.

But how do telematics devices make it so simple?

We know that GPS powers fleet management, but how does this relate to a telematics device and the extent of such devices’ functionality? This article will explore the nature of these devices, understand why they are as effective as they are, and how they help improve fleet management.

Let’s get started!

What Is A Telematics System & How Does It Work?

To start, what is telematics? We know that it uses the principles of telecommunication and informatics, but that’s not a definition rather an oversimplified statement. By definition, telematics is a hardware and software system that uses GPS, internet, and communication to help bridge the gap between fleet vehicles and fleet managers.

Everyone defines telematics in their own way based on how they use it. Some may add dashcam footage to the equation, while others may focus more on remote management. But telematics has no single form. It is a versatile tool/phenomenon.

Telematics devices are plugged into the OBD port of the vehicle being tracked or hardwired, depending on the type of the device. Once activated, the devices will emit data signals that will travel across space and reach the GPS satellites (Global Positioning System). These data signals will be reflected and sent to a designated server computer.

This server, located wherever the fleet tracking company is based (which owns the tracker), will process the data signals and forward them via a private channel. From this wireless private channel, the signals will reach the user who has rented the telematics device, and they’ll be able to see the location of the said device and other data/stats.

All of this happens over the internet. As the vehicle moves and so does the device, it will constantly emit data signals while being displaced. This will appear on the screen as a moving dot. The dot or marker represents the telematics device within the car, and its movements on the map screen correspond to the actual movements of the device in the car.

Apart from displacement data, the device will also register any anomalies it comes across via the OBD panel and even warns you if there is a sudden change in the speed or driving pattern (recklessness, aggressive driving, and so on). This way, you can ensure complete road safety and adherence to the company schedule and prevent the misuse of company property.

Types Of Telematics Devices

Now that we have a basic understanding of what a telematics device is and what it can do for you let’s dive a bit deeper into the details and try to uncover the differences between the different types of telematics devices. You can choose to have your device installed in your vehicle, plug it in, or just hide it anywhere (for wireless ones); all options have their merits and limitations.

Let’s explore them individually:

Plug-and-Play Devices

These are the simpler ones of the lot; plug-and-play devices don’t require any installation whatsoever. These devices are ready to use from day one, and all you have to do is to locate the onboard diagnostics board or OBD panel and plug it into the corresponding port.

Once that is done, the telematics device will start functioning – talk about simplicity.

This way, you don’t have to hire a professional to install the device, and you can get started with fleet tracking as soon as you get the telematics device. The device will begin transmitting data, and you’ll be able to access the information via the connected application.

The only downside to this type of tracker is that the data transmittance can be interrupted easily by simply unplugging the device. If the device is explored in case of theft, there will be no way to track the vehicle. However, since GPS-tracked vehicles carry indicators on them saying so, it is highly unlikely for such a vehicle to be stolen in the first place.

Plug-and-play trackers are more than adequate for smaller fleets operating in a small to medium-sized service area (i.e. one city).

Hardwired Devices

In contrast to the aforementioned plug and play trackers, hardwired telematics devices need proper installation before they can be used. Not only are these telematics devices more expensive, but you’ll also have to pay extra for the installation.

An expert can only handle the installation, so if you were thinking that you’ll be able to do so yourself, that’s not likely. Plus, you’ll most probably have to agree to some binding contractual agreements before you can use the telematics device (since it is hardwired and can’t be removed easily).

On the plus side, the device is an almost foolproof anti-theft gadget.

But as for the rest of the features, they are no different from what a plug-and-play telematics device has to offer.

Battery Powered Trackers

This third kind is not used commercially. We only mention this here to avoid leaving an important angle uncovered. Battery-powered telematics trackers are usually used as anti-theft devices. As the name suggests, these trackers don’t draw any energy from the vehicle itself but instead have a battery-based energy supply.

The best part of these trackers is that you can hide them anywhere inside your vehicle, such as under one of the seats, inside the seat cushion, and so on. There is no limit to the number of places you can plant the device. After all, they are wireless and battery-powered.

In case of theft, you’ll be able to track the device very easily and thus recover your car with the help of the police. However, apart from this, the device does not have much practical use. Plus, changing the batteries can be a bothersome endeavor.

Such devices are only suited as anti-theft gadgets for personal use, nothing else, but they are an interesting variant of telematics devices.

Features Of An Effective GPS Telematics Device

What makes a telematics device worth your investment? We know that the devices have several capabilities, and they can help fleet managers get the best out of their fleet, but if you’re out shopping for one, what should you look for specifically? Not all telematics systems are the same. You need something capable of delivering an endless stream of location-based data and more.

We’ve discussed things in greater detail under the following headers:

Live Location Tracking

Telematics devices are not all the same. They differ in their capabilities, even in pointing to the location of the vehicles being tracked. The data transmitted from the trackers can either be continuous or intervalled. Usually, devices that draw a continuous energy supply from the vehicle can transmit data uninterrupted, but this is not always the case.

Be sure that your product says “live location tracking” or “real-time location tracking” instead of simply location tracking. This way, you’ll know that the location data will be constant, and thus you’ll see the displacement of your vehicles on your mobile screen as they happen in real-time.

In contrast, devices that only offer data after some interval can’t deliver the same level of performance. There will be no way to figure out the picture between screen refreshes (when the location is updated), i.e., whether the driver took a turn, or if they went one way or the other, or if they even moved in the meantime or not.

This way, you’ll never be able to make an informed decision.

Always look for a telematics device that delivers live location data, nothing short of that.

Driver Safety Alerts

There is a lot of stress on both fleet managers and fleet drivers to get to places on time. After all, the schedules are ever busy. But this should not lead to any unsafe driving behavior on the road; nothing is worth more than the general public’s safety.

Plus, in the event of a commercial vehicle driver accident, the company itself will also be pulled into the lawsuit and the legal mess.

Your telematics device can help here if it can report such behavior before it becomes more problematic. High-end telematics trackers can note unsafe levels of speed, hard braking (abrupt stops), uneven steering, and so on. They’ll transmit this data to the center, allowing the fleet manager to act in time and prevent a disaster in the making.

Idling Notifications

Another problem with fleet vehicles is idling, which is when a car is left on while it is stationary, and this causes unnecessary fuel wastage. Idling causes monetary losses and also lowers the working efficiency of your team.

Capable telematics trackers can detect this and report the data to the fleet manager. Based on your notification preferences, you’ll receive an alert if one of your vehicles has been idle for a given amount of time.

This may not seem like much, but it will help you make statistically significant savings for your business over any given year.

OBD Data Alerts

Since the telematics tracker is connected directly with the onboard diagnostics board or OBD panel, it draws information from this source. The data also includes maintenance alerts. It is important to keep your vehicles in top shape to avoid any issues on the road, but regular maintenance checks are hard to keep up in such a hectic routine.

Your daily vehicle inspection will not cover the whole picture, and it won’t be surprising if the maintenance date went by without you noticing it. But you don’t have to worry about impending maintenance trouble escaping your notice until it becomes a menace.

The OBD data transmitted by your telematics device will show you that there is some issue that you need to resolve ASAP. After that, it is up to you to communicate the matter with your driver so that they can get the necessary repairs/replacements done.

Thus, telematics keeps your team working at peak efficiency and keeps your vehicles safe from maintenance trouble, that is, if your telematics device has the capability of doing so. But this will never substitute your daily inspections, be sure to have those without fail!

Geofencing Features

Lastly, telematics devices can be limited to a specified geographic boundary. This is called geofencing. If your vehicle strays out of this boundary, the device will register this and transmit alert response data, which will show you that one of your cars has gone outside of the designated area.

This feature is important for businesses that want to keep their vehicles constantly engaged within their service areas so that there are no overlaps between two groups of vehicles. It also serves as a society measure in case one of your vehicles gets stolen.

Geofencing is not a ubiquitous feature. Only compatible trackers can be programmed to register unnecessary movements.

Fleetr Is The Ultimate Telematics System For Small Fleets

Fleetr is the epitome of simplicity and effectiveness combined in the fleet tracking business. Not only does our telematics system combine high-end features with ease of use, affordability, and simplicity, but we also strive as a team to deliver well in the customer satisfaction arena.

Our telematics device is a plug-and-play tracker which connects with our exclusive app. The Fleetr app works on both PC devices and mobile phones and has a simple, minimalistic UI to help you master the craft in no more than a couple of taps or clicks.

Plus, since we won’t hold you back with any binding contracts or hidden fees, you can rest assured about the quality of our services since that is the only thing we use to retain our customers. For a mere $9.99 per vehicle per month, you’ll get your free telematics tracker and get tracking from day one.

Questions? Just let us know.

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