How else can you use telematics?

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If you’ve been a regular reader of Telematics.com then at this point you are no doubt fully aware of all sorts of fuel saving, security improving, efficiency boosting, safety overhauling ways that telematics can improve the life of just one individual driver. That’s not to mention the fact that it makes the life of a fleet manager endlessly easier, as well as improving the bottom line of companies that install the technology.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Telematics is being used around the world for some amazing things, from getting people to cut back on car usage, to asset management. So “how else can you use telematics?” loads of ways. Here’s some of our favourites.

Reducing congestion

traffic

Some parts of the world are facing traffic epidemics

While chances are congestion around the world is going to get worse before it gets better, some local authorities are using telematics to try and cut back on the amount of cars that hit its roads each morning and evening. Take Milan, which recently teamed up with local insurers and a black box provider, to fit cars in the city with telematics devices. That is largely a retro-active installation as new cars in Italy all must come fitted with telematics now as standard, but in Milan, there’s a lot of older cars and they all seem to be on the roads in the morning and evening, every single day.

In short, Milan has a major congestion problem, which the government is hoping it can fix: with telematics.

How? You ask. Well, by keeping track of people’s cars and making sure they don’t leave the driveway. The local authorities are offering drivers that track their car and leave it at home all day, one free ticket on local rail and bus services. For every single (week)day they leave their car at home, they get one free ticket. It’s only worth about £1.50, but that starts making getting to work via public transport a lot cheaper and easier.

The idea is to drive people to use buses and trains and cut back on the amount of cars on the road. In turn, it’s hoped that that will ease congestion, making driving to work a nicer, less stressful experience for everyone and it will help cut back on smog too.

The city has previously tried banning cars from certain parts of the city once they’re full, and congestion zones, but it’s not made much of an impact as of late. Let’s see if telematics can make more of a difference.

Farming

Farming certainly isn’t something you would expect to need a technology that was initially designed to keep an eye on airplanes more than 30,000 feet in the air, but it’s slowly but surely revolutionising the way the world farms.

For starters, it helps by giving farmers information on when they started, how long they worked for and when they finished; and the same goes for their employees. This makes not only things like paperwork much simpler, but makes sure that everyone gets paid for the hours they work and there’s no need to question anyone as it’s logged with the vehicle itself.

At another level, it helps with security. The kind of vehicles used on farms (tractors, combines etc.) are incredibly expensive pieces of machinery. If they are stolen, it can mean either crippling increases to insurance or a massive payout for the farmer, neither of which are desirable. With fleet management telematics, as soon as a vehicle leaves its usage area, an alarm can be triggered which tells the owner and potentially the police, exactly where it is.

The same goes for maintenance. Due to parts being expensive, it’s important the vehicles are well maintained and any potential problems addressed quickly. With on demand and aggregated diagnostics on a particular asset, telematics can allow for a farmer to keep their vehicles in top shape, avoiding any potential disasters of major breakdowns at the wrong time.

If you want to look at the highest level implementation however, you need to think about efficiency analysis. Farming is a business that’s all about efficiency. The most crops or animals per acre of land, the most return on investment, the least amount of wastage. Even a small per centage improvement in one aspect’s efficiency can have huge knock effects, especially when it comes to competing with other farms. With that in mind, telematics can track a vehicle through the day and with analytics from a third party firm (or the black box provider) they can then analyse how efficient a certain route was. If it wasn’t ideal, a new one could be crafted and developed to make the farm run smoother, faster and more efficiently.

All of these features are having such an impact on the industry, that many tractor manufactures are installing telematics systems in their tractors as standard beginning next year. The same goes for combines and other expensive farm vehicles.

Cutting back on insurance fraud

It’s an unfortunate fact, that insurance fraud is on the rise around the world. In the UK alone, it costs the insurance industry untold millions and globally, it’s likely to be in the billions of pounds; adding a suspected £50 or more, to every motorist’s insurance premium. Fortunately, there are efforts to combat it coming into play, and telematics is one that can play a significant role in it.

Take one recent incident where a small Vauxhall Astra was travelling behind a lorry in a slow moving lane of traffic. The lorry stopped suddenly, not giving the person in the car behind enough room to stop, so they ended up bumping the tailbar. The lorry was undamaged and the car only received minor cosmetic damage. That however, didn’t stop the three occupants of the lorry claiming to have whiplash, with their lawyers looking to net some £54,000 in physical and punitive damage from the Aviva insurance firm.

crash

Finding out who’s at fault can be very important.

Fortunately for Aviva, and the Astra driver’s future premiums, the latter had telematics installed in the vehicle to help keep track of their mileage, car location (in the event of a theft) and driving habits. When courts examined the data help on the telematics device, it was discovered that due to the forces applied to the lorry when the collision took place, there was absolutely know way that whiplash could have afflicted the three lorry drivers.

Ultimately the case was dismissed and the three men walked away without receiving a penny.

Similar sorts of fraud are averted in Russia, with the use of telematic dashboard cameras. There’s reams of footage on video sharing sites like Youtube of what looks to be injury scams, which have people literally jumping in-front of cars to try and injure themselves, so that they can then claim back on the insurance of the car owner. However with telematics and cameras installed in the vehicles, drivers are able to show concrete proof that any injury was caused through dangerous actions or negligence of the person who suffered the injury, making sure that they aren’t entitled to any money.

If more people started using telematics, we would be able to help cut back on fraudulent claims like this, thereby saving the industry many millions each year and saving consumers a lot on their insurance premiums too.

Speeding up emergency services

When it comes to major injuries, whether they’re caused as part of a car accident or not, to avoid it becoming life threatening, it’s important that the patient receive immediate medical attention. That way a trained professional can assess their situation and not only make sure they get the help they need, but can expedite your recovery to a medical facility. However as it stands, with auto-injuries, we rely on a bystander, passenger or even the injured individual calling emergency services themselves and asking for help.

With telematics, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. For a few years, services have existed which in the event of an accident, connect you directly with either the emergency services responder, or a representative of your insurance or auto-maker (who can put you in touch with the emergency services if needed, or contact them on your behalf). This system relies on telematics data gathered from sensors within the vehicle that are able to detect when an impact occurs, or if something else happens which endanger the life or wellbeing of people in the car.

This sort of instant reporting can speed up emergency response times by a reasonable margin, enough that it can occasionally make the difference between life and death.

Of course though, none of that is that useful if very few people have the technology. It’s not like only the rich get into car accidents. Fortunately then, it looks like a basic form of emergency based telematics is set to be installed in all European cars by 2018. The service is called eCall and it will mean that anyone buying a new car after that date, will have the technology installed as standard. It works just like current emergency contact telematics, but also offers a manual assistance button, which will allow those that are in dire straights but haven’t been in an accident, to contact the police or ambulance services at the touch of a button.

There has been some push back from certain Members of the European Parliament over privacy concerns, but those have been largely mitigated by regulators making it a severe offence to share or sell on third party data from these devices. Similarly, they won’t collect anything beyond location while the device is not in use.

Long term analysis

While the immediate future of telematics has a relatively obvious benefit, including all the basics that we all know about (fuel economy, efficiency, safety, vehicle wear etc.) and all of the above weirder uses for it, there’s one big goal that data analytics and telematics firms have in the long term: understanding humans that bit better. This is all thanks to data, or in this case, big data, which is the mass collection of endless reams of information on people.

Where do people go? When do they go there? How do they get there? What roads do they use? When do they use them? How fast do they drive at different times of the day and night? All these sorts of questions and hundreds more can be asked and answered with telematics in the long term. If we think we’ve learned a lot from the technology on a per person or per business basis in the past few years, imagine what we can learn when you combine all that data together over years and decades?

Of course this isn’t going to happen overnight. We need to collect the data first and then look at getting the different telematics firms to share it. Then there’s privacy hurdles to cross and even a particular reason for collating it all to try and draw a conclusion from it. But there’s a lot that can be learned from all those habits and comings and goings. Trends can be spotted for fuel usage spikes, minor accident hotspots can be discovered, a true profile of what drivers are like on the road can be conceived.

You know we’re set to find out that nobody sticks to 70 on the motorway don’t you?

There’s lots to learn and in the near future, we could start to uncover some secrets that only really come to light when you look at huge masses of data over long periods of time. That could end up being the real legacy of fleet management systems.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Telematics isn’t quite as straight forward as it often seems. There’s a lot of interesting uses people have come up with for the technology and I’m sure it will become even more diverse in the years to come. Are there any new and exciting ways of using the asset management system you can think of?

Image source: Jolseyshowaa, Yannickmlnet, New Holland

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Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.