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What are telematics?

With technology continuing to change the way we live at what feels like an hourly rate, telematics can seem like a daunting idea to someone who has never heard the term before. ‘What is that? And what do you mean it uses information regarding my car?’ Telematics is now being used in a number of industries, especially those involving transport and construction, and in doing so, is providing numerous advantages to operators who like to receive minute details about equipment and machinery.

At its core, telematics is about transferring data across distances (quite literally. ‘Tele-’ coming from the Greek ‘far off’, combine that with ‘informatics’ and you get, telematics). This, as you can imagine in sectors involving machines, can be very useful. For a picture as to how this might work, think of the days before GPS, where one would have to flick through Ordinance Survey maps and bicker with the person next to them. Now, thanks to telematics, one can listen to a progressively annoying, robotic voice tell them they missed their last turn! In gathering data and information across many different fields, telematics offers the user a look at everything they could possibly want and need to know, rather than say, just your present location in the way of GPS. It is a transmission of real-time data, so everything should be by-the-minute where possible.

It is now assumed that all of us will be using telematics for one thing or another, GPS is the most common one, and especially in the wake of such applications like Google Maps being readily available on smartphones, this isn’t necessarily limited to drivers either.

What is it used for?

Think of a fleet operator, at their desk, on their computer – now, wouldn’t it be handy if he had technology that allowed him to see how every vehicle was getting on? To get that information, including household names such as GPS, the fleet operator relies on telematics.

The kind of information that telematics uses in order to present to the fleet operator can be quite a range of things. As already mentioned, GPS will come to the fore as it allows the operator to see the vehicle’s position, speed and movement. Yet, there is more than just that. Sensors can also be used to monitor the personality of the driver, say, how many times the brake has been pressed harshly or if the turning has been a bit awry. All-in-all these are very handy things to know about a vehicle if you are in charge of a fleet of them.

But there’s one instance where telematics has really come to shine. An ever-present use for telematics, from fleet operating to construction, is engine diagnostics.

With engine diagnostics, one can easily view the real-time data of the machine in-question, and this means being able to see the likes of fuel consumption, emissions and odometer readings. Why is this helpful? Well, with this kind of information, one can easily look to decrease fuel consumption as much as possible, as well as emissions, and in decreasing the fuel consumption also means decreasing the amount of money spent on fuel. A true win for saving some needless pennies spent on a project.

For example, if the fleet operator noticed that fuel consumption was high in one particular vehicle, and the driver in that vehicle had a tendency to brake harshly, that would allow for the discussion to be had between the operator and the driver with all the statistics and numbers. By knowing the problems, one can look at fixing them, and knowing your fuel consumption can save a lot of pennies.

Companies in industries such as insurance are now even using telematics in order to gather information about the drivers they’re insuring. Ever heard of a ‘black box’ in someone’s car? That’s another prime example of telematics.

Are there further benefits?

Well, besides cutting costs thanks to keeping track of fuel consumption, this can also keep tabs on your emissions, allowing for you to keep your equipment as green as possible. By taking on-board data and trying to kerb things such as aggressive driving, mismanaged speed and unnecessary routes, one can look towards lowering their carbon footprint as much as possible. As being sustainable and eco-friendly becomes more and more important to consumers, being able to support that need is a massive use for telematics. Elsewhere, the technology in sensors has become such that we are now seeing warnings for possible collisions. This can be seen in everyday cars, where, one might have a warning sound for getting close to another car when reversing, or even so much as a safety notice for seat belts. In having these kinds of details needless collisions and damage can be avoided. You don’t need us to tell you that such collisions would be expensive and are best when avoided altogether. Telematics are now getting to the stage where it can help us erase needless collisions as much as possible.

The final advantage I’ll mention, is that you can also allocate your machinery much more effectively. With telematics in equipment, you can tell how often each piece of equipment is being used. If one tool isn’t being used as much as others, you can check the possibility of assigning that tool to another job, where it might get used a lot more.

In this way, telematics allows you to get the most out of all of your equipment, and means that, whenever possible, you don’t have periods where your equipment is lying dormant where it could be used elsewhere.

How can this help me?

There is a whole lot more to telematics (had to stop myself from making this blog all about goal-line technology) but knowing what industries are using it and how they’re doing so might not help you here, if you are looking to hire for your next project. What you might want to know, is how can telematics work for you when you rent equipment from ARH for your next job?

Well, besides the points made earlier in regards to fuel consumption, emissions and equipment maintenance, there are a myriad of ways one might find use for telematics on the jobsite:

  • This is not limited to, but certainly includes reducing theft of equipment. Yes, that’s right, some devices now allow you to be notified whenever they leave the jobsite, meaning you can now make sure that everything is exactly where it’s supposed to be. Some systems even go one step further, as there are now pieces of equipment that allow you to shut them down remotely before any unauthorised use can take place.

  • Otherwise, by keeping track of how often a machine gets used and how much fuel it burns, as well as operating costs, it allows you to provide more accurate job estimates to consumers. If a job done previously is now similar to one did before, you can see how much that piece of equipment was used and make a decision based on that plus its labour fees.

  • Overall knowing where each piece of equipment is, how it is being used by its operators, and any habit that operator might have (including idling time) will equate to having a greater degree of productivity on the jobsite. In keeping up-to-date with the telematics data you are receiving, you will be able to keep right on top of everything and ensure you’re winning when the project is a game of fine margins.

So, are telematics ultimately useful?

You can bet your bottom dollar on it. A good, future operator will use telematics to their utmost advantage. There is no harm in keeping informed (even in using forensic-level detail) and in using this type of technology, you can match your know-how with know-what!

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