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9 October 2015

For businesses operating in the HGV sector, or those operating mission/time critical business services, telemetry is relatively common place and well understood. The operational logic for installing the relevant devices is clear, the drivers understand the reasons for its use and a return on investment model is relatively simple to articulate.

However, as telemetry has become more widely available and accepted within the traditional company car parc, the market seems to have flooded itself with myriad devices, data, software, suppliers, services and general ‘noise’. For many fleet operators, today’s telematics market can therefore appear complex, with supposed rapid change and ever-increasing choice creating confusion and uncertainty.

As telemetry in this sector is also relatively new, there is apprehension of its uptake. The questions from businesses looking to install a telemetry solution are quite similar – “What if a new box comes out which can perform x and y?”, “What do I do once I have the data?”, “Can I justify the return on investment?”, “Are the manufacturers going to install them as standard?”, “I fear a driver revolt - this is big brother territory”, “Which device should I use?”, “What are the Data Protection issues” etc.

Firstly, let’s look at the hardware. With so many different devices and apparent complexity, this can seem like a minefield in itself. However, what is becoming clear is that much of the noise and confusion can actually be alleviated by “thinking outside of the box.” The reality is that much of the core useable data is already being harvested from devices today and most of the hardware solutions tend to do relatively similar things. Therefore, even as box technology advances, there is probably not a substantial amount of additional useable data to become available. In fact, the sheer volume of data already available is one of the core elements driving the confusion for fleet managers; having too much is as detrimental as having little or inaccurate information, and equally, the range of reporting and functionality solutions from different suppliers can be overwhelming.

Therefore, should the initial question when looking at telemetry be focussed on choosing the right hardware, or is it about what’s outside of the box – the software? A flexible software solution will help future-proof your telemetry solution by the nature of the fact that software is immeasurably easier and more flexible to update and advance, than replacing all of the hardware in your vehicles? If the software is provided by a business which is box agnostic, it can also provide an answer for those who already have devices installed in part of their fleet, or those not wanting the cost of installing new devices, just to gain access to a better software service.

Therefore, a software platform which has the ability to import vast amounts of data, consolidate it and provide useable actionable information to the fleet manager/driver, irrespective of the hardware utilised, seems like a simple and sensible choice. So what kind of software should be looked at?

Obviously, this depends on your respective business goals, but if we focus on the traditional company car market, where telemetry may not yet be present; experience shows that the predominant focus is the safety of the driver, rather than the logistical optimisation of the asset. When these businesses first look at telemetry, increasing driver safety is not always the first area identified when looking at returns on investment models. However, it is in reality one of the best approaches to achieving the financial benefits of implementing telemetry within this driver population. The £ value benefits are clear, including reduced incident frequency and severity, significant fuel savings, insurance premium stability and potential reduction, maintenance spend (dependent on how you source it), mileage expense reporting accuracy etc.

Does a specific / focussed approach limit the evolution of the chosen solution? Quite the opposite, for example, if a business identifies a driver behaviour solution as its core focus, it does not mean they cannot access other core operational data for alternative uses. Mileage and expense management, proactive service and maintenance data, CO2 emission monitoring, accident notification / analysis, servicing and fault alerts and geo-fencing set operational locations etc – all the data is already there, it is the software which will deliver the functionality and usability of that data. Therefore, a flexible software solution is the key.

Irrespective of the prime focus or core reason identified for implementing a telematics solution, what thinking outside of the box also delivers, is the ability to more easily identify the appropriate hardware device to meet those pre-identified requirements, reducing the complexity of sourcing the right box.

For those who have identified their software and hardware solution, it is then all about “Driver Engagement”. This is THE most essential part of running a successful telemetry solution and imperative to achieving the best outcomes; yet it is notoriously challenging and can be the area with least business focus and investment. An unsupported off-the-shelf / fit and flee approach will not provide a fleet manager with the experienced implementation and on-going hands-on support required to ensure successful driver engagement. Whilst some drivers instinctively see the benefits of safer driving, others need convincing that big brother is not watching them! Winning the hearts and minds of drivers from day one, even before installation, is pivotal to overall scheme success. Therefore, it is important that businesses look for providers who have a specialist account management and implementation support teams, who can be trusted to work in partnership throughout the life of any contract.

In summary, to reap all the benefits that telemetry has to offer, you must first identify the one core reason for which you are looking to implement telemetry within your fleet. Once identified, look at the market to evaluate potential providers who have their own in-house and flexible software services to meet your requirements, together with the experience and depth of their implementation and on-going account management support services. Lastly, you can then use the above structure as the foundation for selecting a hardware solution that specifically delivers your requirements.