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Telematics industry to ditch black boxes for big data

Date: 23 March 2018   |   Author: Jack Carfrae

The telematics industry is set to move from its current status of supplying black-box-style technology to a wholly software-based operation, specialising in remotely serving up data sourced from different vehicles. 

A senior industry source has predicted that the rise in vehicles fitted with telematics as standard will eventually negate the need for hard-wired aftermarket systems in their current form. Instead, there will be a new requirement for software that can amalgamate differently configured information from various manufacturers and present it to fleet operators in a single format.  

Speaking to granitekitchen, Beverley Wise, sales director for UK and Ireland at  TomTom Telematics, said the move towards connected cars would cause telematics providers' primary role to change from supplying, fitting and operating the technology to sourcing, managing and presenting the data to fleet operators in a practical format.  

"With the advent of autonomous vehicles and driverless cars, many more manufacturers will be producing and fitting telematics at build, and every manufacturer will probably have a different platform that they work off," she said.

"If you are a fleet or a company owner and you have a number of manufacturers within your driver base, how do you get that data, manage it and show that you are compliant? You won't want it from 20 different sources; you'll want it through one source. I think that being able to aggregate the data from many different sources is the stuff of the future." 

Wise said the telematics industry was already able to remotely extract data from different sources and display it in a single form using existing technology, as many providers already do with elements such as vehicle maintenance. At present, this typically requires a physical link to the vehicle, though that is not expected to be the case in future.  

"Already we have hardware in vehicles that can take that data, whereas it will come directly from the manufacturers  in time. It will be a gradual thing, as more manufacturers put telematics in at build," she said.

However, Wise stipulated not every company would have the ability to display results from different vehicles effectively. In order for the concept to work, she said providers would need to be adept at sourcing data, but would also be required to present the results to end users in a palatable form. 

"It is big data and management of big data. You need to have a technology company that has the capacity to do that, but also to be able to give you the information. Because it's fine taking the data, but you don't just want to output data on its own - you need a clear output, leading to information that people can take action on." 

She suggested her firm, at least, was already in a position to operate in such a manner, as it currently extracts data from multiple sources, such as dashcams and maps, as well as from traditional telematics units. 

"We are already able to take data from manufacturers and provide that to our customers. We're already set to do that with the amount of data we take from cameras, manufacturers and probes - all the information we take for our mapping,"  she said.

Wise did not suggest the industry's shift from black box provider to data manager would happen within a particular period of time, but said it would more likely be a gradual change.  

"I couldn't say exactly when it will happen. This is futuristic stuff; it isn't going to happen next week. It could be five years, ten years, it could be 15 years, but I think that's probably where the business will end up. Not just our business, but telematics  generally, will become much more about managing data and the flow of that data, and being able to turn it into meaningful information,"  she said.

Wise added it would not be telematics companies themselves that would dictate the change in the industry's primary role, but rather the vehicle manufacturers, and the move towards autonomous and connected technology.  

"It's not the telematics companies that are driving this change; it's very much the autonomous vehicles and the way the technology in general is heading."