Telematics – integration is key
The fast changing world of vehicle tracking and communications
Like a lot of technology nowadays, telematics is a rapidly advancing area. A dot on a map on a screen revealing where a vehicle is may have once been impressive, but that’s not so much the case anymore. Telematics has moved on to be much more than that, with one of the biggest trends being to integrate it into other onboard systems. Chris Peat takes a look at some of the trends, developments and changes in the telematics market.
To find out the latest telematics trends, MiX Telematics conducted a detailed study across the UK, France, Germany and Spain. The study cited statistics estimating the global market for telematics will reach $40bn/£39bn in 2016. In each of the countries examined, the adoption of telematics solutions has been steadily increasing with the potential capabilities of telematics in saving fuel now well known. According to the research, operators are now beginning to seek innovative ways of adding value by integrating their telematics solutions with other onboard systems to eke out further efficiency, operational and safety gains.
Leading this trend is the UK, where integration with bus ticketing machines to automatically report driver log-on is now a reality. The maturity of the market is also reflected in the fact that vehicle manufacturers are beginning to include telematics as part of their offering. While this is a step forward in terms of exposing more operators to the advantages of telematics, MiX claims the limiting factor is that solutions provided by manufacturers tend to be marque-specific and limited in scope, especially when it comes to integration with other onboard systems.
MiX’s research looked at ‘big data’. For instance, the company’s solutions on 4,500 of Go-Ahead Group’s vehicles produce 3bn GPS position updates and 46m other events annually. The company says the challenge of this is to draw out the data that will enable the greatest gains to be made in all areas of operation. Each market it looked at agreed that achieving this demands input from the telematics supplier, suggesting the days of ‘fit and forget’ suppliers are numbered.
Road safety continues to ride high on the agenda for Europe’s transport operators, according to the MiX study. In the UK, for example, there has been considerable focus on cycle safety throughout 2014. Operators in each market studied agree there is a link between telematics solutions and a reduction in accident rates. One measurable example is that bus and coach operators using in-cab driver aids such as the MiX Telematics RIBAS system have reported a reduction in personal injury claims since adopting the system.
Looking into telematics’ relationship with future vehicles, the research said the technology can measure parameters such as fuel usage and driving style regardless of the power source utilised. This comes as hybrids and electric powered buses and coaches become more widespread. Telematics can also play an important role in terms of validating the performance of electric and hybrid vehicles.
Each market studied agrees the drive for ever higher operational savings will lead to a far greater integration of onboard systems, with the vehicle’s telematics solutions acting as the central hub through which all information will pass. The scope for integration is broad and varied; anything from engine overheat warnings to onboard accelerometers, which monitor adverse road conditions to help the local authorities deal with potholes, as in the case of Cardiff Bus. The report claims these will become progressively more prevalent.
It is not just MiX’s report that has found integration of different onboard equipment with telematics is a key concern for fleets. CMS Supatrak has also experienced something similar, with more focus now on what it calls a ‘connected fleet’ solution. Operators are not looking for a stand alone solution for tracking vehicles anymore; instead they are looking for added value by integrating such systems as CCTV. The company can provide this sort of integration, developing partnerships with providers of other onboard equipment to include it in a single solution. CMS will visit the depot and work out what existing equipment can be integrated with its own products.
CMS Supatrak’s systems are completely configurable, meaning certain reports and alerts are sent to the most relevant staff, with other alerts and messages given to other workers. This helps combat information overload for users of the system.
One of CMS Supatrak’s latest products is a crash reconstruction system, which has been developed in response to crash for cash scams. This combined video and telematics system delivers real time crash reconstruction information to incident management centres. Using this real time information, the incident centre is able to reduce and mitigate the claim and ensure the correct medical assistance is made available to the driver, if required. It has a range of fully integrated telematics and camera solutions available. The system automatically identifies a potential road safety incident and starts sending back video and telematics data 20 seconds before and ten seconds after the logged alert. Drivers can manually create an incident by pressing a button inside the vehicle. When an incident is identified, the system will automatically create an alert which can generate an email with the video footage embedded and a text message, if required.
CMS SupaTrak has recently teamed up with Tachodisc to launch TachoMax, a new integrated compliance system for managing tachograph analysis, verified remote downloading, driver behaviour and vehicle tracking. The system integrates Tachodisc’s analysis software with CMS SupaTrak’s telematics system. This enables operators to combine the management of driver’s hours with tracking, as well as use vehicle telematics to remotely download verified driver and vehicle data into compliance software for analysis and secure storage in its original format.
ADT and Intelligent Telematics
Applied Driving Techniques (ADT) and Intelligent Telematics have teamed up too. The pairing is intended to help fleet operators improve road safety, reduce insurance costs and boost Duty of Care. The two companies are working closely to develop an integrated approach that will not only minimise the risk factors facing fleets but also provide real time visibility of all incidents, near misses and harsh driving events. This will enable organisations to meet legal obligations, reduce costs, lessen environmental impact and ultimately save lives, overcoming some of the most challenging driver safety issues they face. Video footage and driver behaviour reports from Intelligent Telematics’ all-in-one 3G vehicle camera and tracking tool is available direct from ADT’s Riskmapp solution, a web based portal that provides instant access to fleet data, analysis and documentation.
The system uses the IT1000 3G vehicle camera to capture footage of road collisions and harsh driving events along with supporting vehicle data. This should help mitigate financial and operational risks within fleet operations with proof of what happened. ADT will also be able to use historical driver behaviour data alongside its existing audits to better define low, medium and high risk employees.
Ctrack and Applied Driving Techniques
Yet another partnership combining telematics with another service is Ctrack. The company has teamed up with Applied Driving Techniques (ADT) to integrate its advanced vehicle tracking systems with the business’s fleet compliance solution, allowing another layer of in-depth analysis. Users can now use real time driver behaviour data to better understand, manage and minimise risks facing their drivers. This is intended to help lower accident rates, as well as cut fleet costs and improve the reputation of the business. Ctrack’s tracking system provides all the information needed to achieve legislative compliance and meet duty of care responsibilities including vehicle usage, maintenance schedules, trip analysis, exception reporting and driver hours and behaviour. The integrated compliance solution is intended to make better informed decisions on where training or other action is required by early identification of issues.
As telematics becomes an even more commonly used technology, one challenge that has arisen is how users best react to and make use of the data being generated? One company aiming to overcome this issue is Quartix. The company provides training to customers in how best to use its technology. This is quite often done over the phone, but it can send technicians out to depots for this tuition.
In addition to the training, Quartix keeps it straightforward by ensuring the system is easy to use and intuitive. ‘We are very conscious of the way we present data to users’, a spokesperson said. It uses not only figures, but presents the information in graphs and tables. Quartix is introducing a new feature, which configures and generates its own reports using only the data the customer wants to see. This may include details on vehicle idling times, which it finds is of great interest to PCV fleets. In the company’s experience, even though there is a vast amount of data the system can generate, only around 35% of that information is ever used by customers. However, this 35% is different for each customer.
Quartix offers three packages. Firstly, its InfoPoint scheme gives the user updates every two minutes, online timesheets, e-mailed timesheets, vehicle route maps via Google Maps and Excel reports. The InfoPlus package provides updates every minute, driving style reports, speeding/idling times, geofencing with alerts, fleet utilisation and capacity reports, in addition to management key performance indicator (KPI) dashboards. Its most advanced package, Corporate, combines InfoPoint and InfoPlus features with management tools for drivers and fuelling, as well as fleet maintenance support, organisational processes and duty of care fleet compliance and policies. Before selling either of these packages, the company will liaise with the customer and work out which one would work best. They have been and will continue to be developed in line with customer feedback.
Tying other fleet management aspects in with telematics is something eDrive Group is involved with too. Amongst the equipment it provides is the new 3G live camera technology from SmartWitness, collision avoidance systems from Mobileye and telematics and fleet management solutions from TomTom.
An upcoming innovation from eDrive is the MySafeDrive, a new sophisticated, low cost, onboard telematics black box device. Unlike other rival products on the market, this system aims to put the driver in control of the information generated in the shape of feedback on behaviour as well as loyalty and rewards. The device is also designed to improve driver performance and safety, automate vehicle checks and maintenance, reduce insurance premiums and support Corporate Social Responsibility and accountability policies.
When it comes to ensuring customers fully use and engage with the data collected by telematics packages, 21st Century has found the most successful way is to create ‘experts’ in the technology within the depot itself. The EcoManager telematics solution is, in addition to vehicle tracking, designed to reinforce positive driving behaviour by assessing harsh acceleration, excessive braking and G-Force when cornering. As well as providing clear and concise reference documentation, a bespoke ‘train-the-trainer’ programme can be rolled out, leveraging the knowledge already held by depot trainers; enabling them to utilise their experience to get the best out of drivers.
21st Century Technology’s web based reporting has been optimised to give clear and accurate accounts depending on the level of access required. For example, whilst each driver is only able to see their own scores, management are able to gain a wider view of what is going on within their fleet. Clear consultation with the customer prior to EcoManager implementation is essential for the company to gauge exactly where they feel they could most profit from the benefits of the system. The solution is then optimised to enhance driving styles for that particular area. According to 21st Century, it is this, in addition to an ongoing relationship that strives for constant improvements, that has seen EcoManager customers cut fuel consumption by up to 12% and reduce accident rates by up to 39%.
21st Century maintains that, where possible, data should be shared onboard amongst technologies, including telematics units, CCTV, Wi-Fi, passenger counting and standard AVL (automatic vehicle location) solutions. Technical Sales Director, Mark Johnson, said, ‘We already see how operators benefit overseas from adopting standards such as ITxPT where simplified cabling, connections and sharing of data through common protocols helps with the design and installation of systems; telematics included. The data sent off-board can become more valuable; not only where data streams such as odometer and driving style can be included within maintenance and operational systems, but by integrating current EcoManager data with information from onboard CCTV and passenger counting systems, you could build an even more bespoke training platform to enhance driver skills.’
Integration of not just onboard technology, but an entire transport system network, is the name of the game for INIT. A good example of its telematics package integrated into a wider system would be at Nottingham City Transport (NCT). The operator has rolled out INIT’s automatic vehicle location control (AVLC) and real time passenger information (RTPI) systems, which have recently had their functionality boosted with the integration of additional modules for ticketing, scheduling and driver assignment.
NCT’s buses are equipped with INIT’s PROXmobil2 smartcard validator, which is linked to the onboard computer, COPILOTpc. The system is designed to provide fast transaction times for passengers. Sales data recorded during the day are automatically uploaded via WLAN to INIT’s clearing and ticket management system, MOBILEvario. Operational data which is already being handled by INIT’s multi-client AVLC and RTPI system, MOBILE-ITCS, and the evaluation tool, MOBILEstatistics, are passed onto the planning software, MOBILE-PLAN. This is used to generate what INIT describes as ‘further synergic effect’, such as feeding back real time performance data into the planning cycle.
One thing MD of Road Tech, Derek Beevor, questions about telematics systems is how well the data is being collected and how accurate it is? Derek says his company’s telematics system, Falcon, provides the most exact fuel consumption information. Whereas a lot of products connect into the CANbus via the FMS port (described by Derek as a firewall between the CANbus and any external equipment), his product links in with the CANbus by clipping a reader on a wire leading out of it. Designed by vehicle data specialist, Squarrel, this device ‘listens’ to the information passed through the wire. This, he says, provides a much more reliable measurement, gauging the exact amount of pulses the fuel pump makes.
Concurrent with the theme of integration in this article, Falcon can feed into Road Tech’s tachograph analysis package, Tachomaster. As well as being able to check the whereabouts of the fleet, linking the two packages enables users to see where drivers took their rest breaks, where they stopped for the day and more.
One problem that has been highlighted concerning telematics is the amount of alerts and messages such systems flag up, which can become overwhelming if not managed effectively. This is not the case with Road Tech’s system, according to Derek. He said that with Falcon, the high quality of data generated and the processing are key to ensuring only the required warnings are made to users. He said, ‘If you have got very good quality data being generated, then the system won’t be warning them when it shouldn’t.’ His advice to anyone looking into telematics systems is, ‘Buyer beware! There are products out there that aren’t as good as some may make out.’
For AGM Telematics, liaising with the customer is one of the most important things when it comes to ensuring customers know what they are doing with the data collected by its telematics packages. Its MD, George Weston, said the company will look into what the customer actually wants it for and provide them with a package accordingly. Its telematics programmes feature a number of options, including accelerometers, live mapping and a suit of reporting features, as well as being able to measure harsh braking and cornering.
Winson Coaches have installed AGM’s Interlink Enterprise 2.0 system into its fleet of coaches and minibuses. The package was selected due to recommendation by existing coach users and after successfully trialling the system on two test vehicles. It is being used to monitor idling and driving style to reduce the company’s fuel bill amongst other things. The same system has been rolled out into Johnson Bros Tours’ fleet, tracking its coaches, service vehicles and drivers. Each vehicle has been fitted with the company’s driver ID system, which enables the operator to view each staff member’s timesheet, working hours and see who is or was driving any vehicle at any time.
One of AGM’s strengths, according to George, is that it can provide bespoke software. He said, ‘Whereas you get some of the bigger boys that might take a considerable amount of time to put together something specific, I can just hand an idea to our IT team and they can give a much shorter timescale to have it rolled out.’
Another advantage of these systems relates to insurance claims. One of its coach operator customers received a claim relating to an incident alleged to have taken place in Ipswich. Consulting the historical data AGM’s system keeps of the whereabouts of its vehicles, it was found the operator did not even have a coach in the town on the day of the alleged incident.
Ensuring its customers know how to use its systems, Vix provides user training in all its applications. With some larger customers it follows a train the trainer approach, so the customer’s ‘super user’ can then train other staff. It also provides support for users in response to individual queries, as well as providing consultancy services where Vix staff can analyse data and produce reports and recommendations based on the data as a service to customers.
To ensure end users of Vix’s Horizon fleet management and tracking system are receiving the exact data they wish to see, its interface is configurable to each individual user within the permissions associated with their role. This means they can configure which aspects of the system and associated data they wish to see. The features and data collected by its systems and the method of their presentation are enhanced on a regular basis with regular product releases. These developments are guided by customer feedback.
Vix has noticed there is an increasing trend of integrating on bus systems. For example, Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) functionality is now often integrated into Electronic Ticket Machines. Some suppliers of CANbus telemetry also can provide vehicle tracking data using their inbuilt GPS unit and 3G modems and vehicle journey information through links with the electronic ticket machine. Vix is able to roll these integrated systems out.
Actia’s telematics systems cover a wide range of vehicle data types, including fuel consumption, vehicle health, CO2 emissions and CCTV system status, as well as driver behaviour. Its Automatic Passenger Counting system is just one element of its Eco-Fleet telematics solution. Like a number of other products available today, Eco-Fleet supports driver improvement and vehicle maintenance. However, it has a couple of unique features: full remote diagnostics (Multi-AID Remote) and Automatic Passenger Counting. The business claims no other telematics package offers this combination of solutions.
Actia’s Automatic Passenger Counting system counts the number of passengers on and off the bus, as well as where they boarded and alighted, enabling the distance travelled per passenger to be measured. It uses two cameras, enabling it to ‘see’ in 3D and to recognise heads, for better accuracy. The system can also be used to validate ticket machine sales, with the transport technology specialist claiming it is 98% accurate. It allows users to assess passenger distribution across the fleet throughout the day, with the data measured in conjunction with fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and GPS location. The information is sent remotely via Actia’s telematics unit to an internet server. This information is accessible through Eco-Fleet telematics reports. It works from a stereo unit mounted above each door and only counts when doors open, reading movement in the doorway.
GreenRoad’s latest development is the opening of a new branch in Leeds, expanding the company’s operational footprint in the UK to meet growing demand for its solutions. It also has offices in London and headquarters in the US. The move comes as it beefs up its Driver Safety flagship solution to include fleet performance features such as Live Fleet (real time fleet tracking), Landmarks and Geo-fencing, Resource Locator, Route Replay & Location History and Dispatch Verification. GreenRoad now also offers an in-vehicle video feature that records the critical moments before and after unsafe driving behaviour. This is intended to provide additional visual context to help drivers and managers quickly get to the source of issues.
GreenRoad CEO, Zeev Braude, said, ‘The opening of GreenRoad’s Leeds office is a natural outgrowth of the strong customer and partner base we already enjoy in the UK. UK fleet operators of all sizes are extremely savvy about their fleet operations and technology. We are seeing intensified demand for a telematics solution that genuinely combines driver behaviour change and fleet performance management.’
TomTom Business Solutions
TomTom Business Solutions aims to be more than just a supplier of telematics technology. Instead, it works with each customer to get the most out of the system, ensuring it achieves their specific business goals. The company first finds out what they want to achieve and why they have decided to invest in telematics. The primary goals of the business will always dictate how the technology is used, rather than the other way round. It often finds the important thing for its bus and coach operator customers is improving customer service and ensuring their drivers arrive on time. In such cases, the live traffic data and information on optimum routes provided by telematics is crucial and needs to be integrated into the company’s planning and scheduling processes.
TomTom finds data overload is one of the biggest problems faced by modern operators. It is known that telematics reports contain a lot of valuable insight but struggle to identify what datasets can best provide this. All the dashboards and data tables in Webfleet, its fleet management software, are fully customisable, helping ensure users do not get swamped by masses of irrelevant data. The dashboards provide an overview of how a fleet is performing in line with defined business goals, highlighting only the data which is relevant to certain agreed KPIs. Beneath this, the detailed data tables can also be defined to ensure each user is only presented with the data they need.
TomTom believes integrating telematics systems with other technology is one of the biggest changes to the industry in recent years and has the potential to revolutionise operators’ core business processes. Integration allows greater flow of data between all back office systems and vastly improves efficiency, according to the company. Webfleet integrates with Distinctive Systems’ software, meaning real time data on the GPS location of vehicles, traffic, journey information and driver hours can be used to inform, schedule, plan and invoice.
Fleetview Solutions uses TomTom’s system, being a certified partner of the telematics and Sat Nav specialist.
Nimbus Journey Information
Another telematics provider growing is Nimbus. The company’s 2014 accounts show ‘good solid growth’ and an increase in profitability for the fourth year running, with turnover topping £1m. MD, Russell Gard, said, ‘This is a reflection of the good team we have here – the market has been tough yet we continue to do well and improve the product and service.’
During the year, Nimbus announced it had won the contract to develop and refresh the Reading Borough Council Real Time Passenger Information System. This builds upon its recent success with Reading Transport, to whom it provides an on bus media system and automatic vehicle location.
Growth has been experienced by PTV Group, which has recently expanded into the UK. The German company’s branch in Birmingham offers transport and logistics planning software, as well as real time optimisation solutions and services. Products include the PTV xServer, comprising of software components with logistical and geographical functions designed to easily and seamlessly integrate into telematics systems and route optimising software. Its software is modular, meaning customers only have to specify what they require. The Royal Automobile Club (RAC) has chosen these components for its telematics application.
One of PTV Group’s most popular products is its Truck Parking Europe app, which despite the name is applicable for coach drivers. It provides the location of over 10,000 parking options throughout Europe. The free app for iOS and Android has attracted well over 4,500 drivers to date and is constantly updated with additional parking locations added by users.
Keeping fuel costs down is an issue deeply associated with fleet telematics and Fleetmatics has found it is the first major worry in a survey it conducted on 50 coach and bus operators. It claims the biggest benefit of installing the company’s Software as a Service (SAAS) GPS fleet tracking system is the impact it can have on driving down fuel use. The system focuses on engine idling times by using the GPS system’s dashboard or smartphone app to draw attention to, manage and reduce idling. The system also includes a reporting suite that can help identify improper fuel use. GPS technology gives managers the information needed to institute change within a fleet driven organisation and reports generated from it can demonstrate to drivers how their driving behaviours have a direct impact on fuel expenditure.
A phrase often heard in the realm of telematics lately is ‘big data’. This is something Traffilog makes use of, collating the data of millions of miles travelled by vehicles in fleets it works for. It informs future applications for various users, including identifying and solving traffic problematic locations at roads, carbon footprint monitoring and for relating components quality of integration with part and subsystems performance.
Traffilog supplies its Mobile Data Terminal (MDT); an onboard bi-directional navigation and communication terminal. The MDT serves as a navigation device, a messaging system for the driver and an index for saved and frequent routes, as well as a check-list for daily vehicle inspection.
Trakm8, an M2M telematics company, uses big data analytics to improve driver behaviour. The group, based in Shaftesbury, Dorset, distributes its hardware and software through a network of distributors worldwide. Its products and services allow vehicles and drivers to be monitored, allowing organisations to manage deliveries and services, or track stolen vehicles down to five metres. Recently, it developed the T10 product range, which includes a self install telematics device. In addition it provides vehicle monitoring and tracking services direct to the B2B market. One device it has is the ecoN fuel saving solution, which monitors driving behaviour and provides real time feedback to the driver via an in-cab light-bar.
Descartes Transport Solutions
One more telematics company to take note of is Descartes Transport Solutions. The company provides fleet management tools for hours of service tracking, managing driver behavior, GPS fleet tracking, remote diagnostics, idle monitoring and fleet fuel tracking. Operators can take advantage of the company’s fleet tracking system, designed to change driver behavior, improve productivity and better understand real time vehicle performance. Descartes’ solutions include integrated route planning, comparisons between planned and actual route performance, fleet monitoring and management of driver behavior, as well as vehicle tracking. Its Electronic On-Board Recorder (EOBR) units continuously monitor performance of vehicles and drivers.
Telematics are now an essential tool for maximising profitability as well as the performance and well being of your staff and fleet. Yes, the choice is bewildering, and deciding which route to take is time consuming, but the benefits are immense.