The Next Wave of Telematics Value

Telematics has come a long way since the first rudimentary systems became prevalent on our highways just less than two decades ago.

The early telematics solutions were primarily used to monitor vehicle location, but the technology has moved forward rapidly in the past decade and is now much more sophisticated, creating significant opportunities for road freight operators.

Smart, software-driven telematics solutions are adding significant value, delivering timely intuitive information to transport professionals enabling them to act and reduce costs, increase earning potential and improve safety.

Big Data

No technology article would be complete without the obligatory reference to Big Data and its sidekick, Artificial Intelligence. While they are hyped terms, there’s no doubt that they do offer the potential to supercharge the value proposition of telematics. Not in the distant future, but very soon.

In the UK alone there were a total of 180,248 drivers on Microlise’s systems in 2017, burning around 1.9 billion litres of fuel and recording 90 million speeding, harsh cornering and harsh braking incidents.

These billions of miles of anonymised road data have the potential to deliver myriad opportunities to reduce risk and improve safety, increase productivity and bring about Minority Report-style predictive analytics – albeit less dramatic and involving fewer robots than the fast-paced Tom Cruise action-fest.

The introduction of products enabled by Big Data will enable transport operators to understand risk in a whole new way and manage vehicle maintenance in new ways too.  We expect the first products harnessing Big Data to be ready this year with vehicle health, improved hazard awareness and industry benchmarking the first applications.

Driver Hazard Warning

This technology is making it possible to quickly rank routes according to risk, and even to alert drivers to specific risky spots as they approach them.

Taking the 22 billion events captured from fleets during 2017, Microlise data scientists have already developed a smart algorithm which can assess risk in real-time and deliver audio notifications to drivers in the cab, notifying them of a risk hotspot approaching.

External factors like traffic and weather conditions can also be factored in so that drivers receive appropriate alerts relevant to the conditions on the road at the time. For example a given junction might have an exceptionally high number of harsh braking incidents, but only when it has been raining. Working with a police force in the UK, this technology has been tested and shown to reliably predict accident hotspots.

This data can also be used to risk assess routes, enabling planners to allocate their most experienced drivers to the routes they know to be the most challenging.

The same hazard warning system can also be used to alert drivers to low bridges. This is a major problem. For example, in the UK alone Network Rail estimates the railway suffers almost 2,000 bridge strikes every year and costs around £23m in damages and delays. With transport operators often financially liable for far more than their damaged vehicle this has the potential to be a very useful tool.

Predictive Analytics

As well as predicting risk, data can also be used to understand when best to replace components as part of a repair and maintenance programme.

Trucks are now very sophisticated pieces of machinery, full of all sorts of technology, with data being passed up and down the CANbus data network. Super accurate sensors, CANbus electronics, on-board telematics systems, fast mobile data communication and cloud computing are making vehicle health management easier for many fleets. On-board diagnostics systems, legally required as part of emissions control systems, have also made health condition reporting simpler.

Monitoring vehicle health in near real-time can help operators be proactive when something unusual is going on. Tracking engine temperatures and pressures in real-time for example, could indicate a fault with the fuel injection system or something amiss with the emissions control system. The point is that just knowing the engine temperature is outside normal parameters is an early indication of the problem. This all allows vehicles to be out on the road for as long as possible, earning for the business.

This sort of data is key in reducing costs, both in terms of parts and workshop labour hours. Reliability and safety is improved and vehicles are kept in optimum condition, enhancing performance parameters such as fuel economy.

Integrated Camera Systems

Video cameras to record incidents and near misses have been gaining popularity amongst road freight operators for some time now, but full integration with telematics is only now reaching its full potential.

There’s a very good reason for their success – the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) has calculated that crash scams cost insurers £392m a year – or around £50 extra a year for every policyholder. Reducing the number of fraudulent claims is just one way cameras are saving operators money, with reports that operators have succeeded in reducing pay-outs on disputed claims by up to 70%.

And it’s not just fleets benefitting from more technologically advanced cost effective camera systems – with body worn cameras now regularly warn by law enforcement and other front-line professionals, as well as cyclists. Research has suggested that cameras increase accountability – the same is thought to be true on the roads for drivers leading to improved safety and greater fleet efficiency.

Now with full telematics integration it’s possible to view combined data including location and speed of the vehicle; along with a range of CANBus data elements five times a second and footage from anywhere along a vehicle’s route. All of this is possible over the internet at the click of a mouse or tap of a screen.

The potential applications this will have for security, driver training, to provide an accurate record of any incident and to handle customer or public queries quickly will enable extensive positive outcomes and value propositions to be realised.

This blog originally appeared in Freight Industry Times.