Telem­at­ics

New Zealand Company Vehicle - - CONTENTS - By John Ox­ley

Most of us watched the fi­nal of the Amer­ica’s Cup with bated breath, anx­ious for Emi­rates Team New Zealand to ex­on­er­ate that de­feat of four years ago and bring back the Auld Mug. There were great in­fo­graph­ics, and we knew ex­actly where each boat was on a course which, in real life, was just so much sea. But how many of us re­alise that th­ese in­fo­graph­ics were made pos­si­ble by GPS, and telem­at­ics? Yes, the new work­ing tool of fleet man­age­ment is also the work­ing tool of sail­ing, as well as For­mula One and other mo­tor rac­ing se­ries, and a grow­ing num­ber of other sports. Ve­hi­cle track­ing is not new. Those with long mem­o­ries will re­mem­ber the Ta­cho­graph, a me­chan­i­cally-driven de­vice which tracked the run­ning time, dis­tance, and speed of truck­ers and the like, long be­fore GPS or the In­ter­net. The ad­vent of the OBD (on-board di­ag­nos­tics) port led to new sys­tems be­ing de­vel­oped which could per­form sim­i­lar tasks to the me­chan­i­cal Ta­cho­graph via the car’s on-board elec­tronic con­trol unit (ECU), but it is only now, with GPS com­monly avail­able – Smart­phones come stan­dard with it, for

in­stance – that true track­ing can take place, with ac­cu­rate time and place po­si­tion­ing, speed, and di­rec­tion, be­com­ing re­al­ity. Time is money, so it stands to rea­son that lost time is lost money. Add in the Health and Safety at Work Act, and you get two very good driv­ers for want­ing to know where your ve­hi­cles are, how they are be­ing driven, and by whom. And that’s what telem­at­ics is all about –mon­i­tor­ing a ve­hi­cle by com­bin­ing a GPS sys­tem with on-board di­ag­nos­tics to record and map ex­actly where a car is, and how fast it’s trav­el­ing, and cross ref­er­ence that with how a car is be­hav­ing – how much fuel it’s us­ing, how hard the driver is brak­ing, how fast he’s ac­cel­er­at­ing, and so on. A re­cent sur­vey on the use of telem­at­ics in the US in­di­cated that driver be­hav­iour is the top rea­son why fleets are us­ing telem­at­ics. Wast­ing time, speed­ing, ag­gres­sive driv­ing, driv­ers go­ing to places they aren’t sup­posed to be (they call this ge­ofenc­ing), and us­ing the ve­hi­cles when they aren’t sup­posed to be – th­ese are the main fac­tors fleet man­agers are look­ing at. And it’s work­ing. The same sur­vey said mon­i­tor­ing driver be­hav­iour, with proper fol­low-up such as is­su­ing the driv­ers with “score cards”, was be­gin­ning to reap div­i­dends, not least of which was (apart from the ob­vi­ous one of fewer crashes, and there­fore less down­time), re­duced fuel con­sump­tion, less wear and tear on ve­hi­cles, and ul­ti­mately, lower in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums. But all isn’t plain sail­ing. To­day’s telem­at­ics sys­tems can pro­duce an enor­mous amount of data, and one of the big­gest chal­lenges fleet man­agers face is ex­trap­o­lat­ing this data, and many com­pa­nies rarely use most of the in­for­ma­tion they have gleaned, even when mak­ing fleet pol­icy de­ci­sions. In fact, in the US sur­vey only 35 per­cent in­di­cated they had re­ceived a re­turn on their in­vest­ment, although most were sat­is­fied with the telem­at­ics ex­pe­ri­ence. So, hav­ing de­cided it’s a good idea to in­tro­duce a telem­at­ics sys­tem into your ve­hi­cles, what do you look for? Here are a few of the main fac­tors peo­ple take into ac­count:

• The cost of the de­vice.

• Monthly data cost.

• Real time track­ing.

• Sim­plic­ity and ease of use.

• Easy setup and adding or delet­ing ve­hi­cles.

• Se­cu­rity and tam­per-proof­ing. Telem­at­ics is one of the fast-grow­ing sec­tors of fleet man­age­ment, with new com­pa­nies en­ter­ing the field on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, and the of­fer­ings are be­com­ing more and more com­plex. In the be­gin­ning it would be merely a track­ing de­vice within the ve­hi­cle mak­ing record­ings that could later be an­a­lysed. Now, thanks to cell phone net­works, wifi, and satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tion, it’s pos­si­ble to mon­i­tor how a ve­hi­cle is be­hav­ing in real time. You can sit in your of­fice, and on your com­puter mon­i­tor watch the ve­hi­cle track­ing along. You can see where it goes, when it goes, and when it’s not go­ing. Have you used a taxi lately? Some com­pa­nies al­low you to track the taxi’s ap­proach on your cell phone, so you can see how long it’s go­ing to take – that’s telem­at­ics at work. The lat­est telem­at­ics sys­tems go a few steps fur­ther. They can send real-time stream­ing footage of what’s go­ing on in­side a ve­hi­cle, so you can check the driver’s re­ac­tions, as well as what’s hap­pen­ing in the road in front of him – or in the load com­part­ment be­hind him. At the same time it will send still im­ages from the ve­hi­cle. There are sys­tems which will call the of­fice, or emer­gency ser­vices, if your driver is in­volved in a crash, and at the same time will record what’s hap­pened. The lat­est telem­at­ics ser­vices can be mon­i­tored on por­ta­ble de­vices so you can check on your ve­hi­cles when you’re away from the of­fice and thus re­act im­me­di­ately to any sit­u­a­tion. Telem­at­ics records can be used to prove you’ve made a de­liv­ery, they can tell how long the driver was there, they can even pro­vide in­for­ma­tion which can be pro­vided as ev­i­dence in the event of a road in­ci­dent – although this could well prove to be a dou­ble-edged sword and as­sist the author­i­ties more than your driver! In­sur­ance com­pa­nies in other parts of the world are in­stalling telem­at­ics boxes into cars and as­sess­ing pre­mi­ums based on how a car is be­ing driven. This is re­garded as an im­por­tant new move in the ve­hi­cle in­sur­ance in­dus­try as a whole, and it may well be that in fu­ture all cars will come equipped with such de­vices. Cer­tainly telem­at­ics is the key to the fu­ture of au­ton­o­mous cars, which need to know not just where they are, but re­quire the mi­nut­est of de­tails so they can get you home safely without driver in­ter­ven­tion. But that’s an­other sub­ject en­tirely!

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