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The role of modern telematics and data-driven technologies in businesses

Article provided by Netstar

During a Business Show :: Africa 2022 webinar, Mike Anderson (NSBC Founder & CEO) and Francois Stols (Netstar’s Principal Technology Consultant) got together to discuss the fascinating role of modern telematics and data-driven technologies to make businesses more efficient, safer and greener.

Francois Stols has always been involved in technology. In the last two decades, he has focused more heavily on multimedia. He founded and managed a company that developed the first DSTV decoder for MultiChoice and then he joined Netstar as the chief technical officer (CTO) and has recently retired from this position but still acts as a technology consultant for Netstar.

The use of technology and vehicles in the SMB segment

Based on a study done by the National Small Business Chamber, the amount of telematics used by small businesses is only 20% compared with the use of large enterprises being at 63%, The use of telematics-based technology in the SMB market is underserviced. The reason for this could be that the technology was too expensive and complicated but in recent times, it has become more affordable for small businesses to take advantage of it in managing their vehicle fleets.

The history of track-based technology (telematics) in vehicle fleets

Telematics started 25 years ago with radio frequency devices in a car. This helped people to find the vehicle through the use of sophisticated tracking equipment in recovery vehicles. During this time, there was not a lot of intelligence and the focus was mainly on the recovery of the vehicle, and was driven by insurance agencies.

A few years later, global position system(GPS) technology and GSM technology were combined and put into devices and you could then put a dot on the map. This technology also become more affordable and more information about the vehicle could be tracked and used for route planning, enterprise resource planning (ERP)

and human resource (HR) systems. This led to a more holistic view of the cost of the fleet and how the fleet was operated. 10 years ago, additional sensors were added to telematic devices and now suddenly we could measure the driver’s behaviour. This has led insurance companies to be able to use this information to better manage the risk in their books and offer the customer a pay-as-you-drive or pay-how-you-drive products.

Then looking back in the last five years, data storage has become cheaper, computers have become more powerful,  and cloud architecture made it possible to launch big data models which made the experience with telematics richer for customers.

Recently, the focus has moved back to safety and security, especially cargo security. There is also a lot of focus on video technology. As for South Africa, due to the need to secure our vehicles, we have become global leaders in telematics technology and some of the technology used global has been developed locally.

Currently, the evolution of telematics is being driven by big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, video analytics, IoT, edge computing, and data enrichment.

Two challenges facing the SMB vehicle owner

Challenge 1: Vehicle and driver safety

Crime statistics have shown a marked increase in commercial and consumer vehicle hijacking. But, how can telematics assist you with this? They offer

  • Situational awareness: Know where your drivers and vehicles are on the roads and if they are heading into dangerous areas.
  • Driver behaviour monitoring and scoring: You can track how your drivers are driving and if there is a change you can contact them to see what is happening.
  • Response services: There is a multitude of stolen vehicle recovery(SVR) companies and roadside emergency companies.
  • Dash cams: These have started to play a big role in ensuring the safety of your driver and vehicle.
  • Predictive analytics: This can help to keep you out of trouble so you don’t end up in a situation where your driver and vehicle’s safety is compromised.

Challenge 2: Cargo and vehicle security

Analysis of data has shown that during the beginning days of hard COVID-19 lockdown, hijackings had dropped but now it has returned and is exceeding pre-COVID-19 levels.

Telematics can help with cargo and vehicle security by fitting tracking units in trailers as well as the vehicle and further hiding the devices within the cargo. To help prevent truck looting, telematics companies have set up bureaus that watch the social media chatter and the telematics data from vehicles and then share this information with their customers.

Benefits of telematics for small businesses

By installing telematics into your fleet you will be able to improve your return on investment on your fleet. You will get data on:

  • Where your vehicles are and that can help you to serve your customers better.
  • How your vehicles are driven and be able to save on fuel, maintenance and repairs. There have been reports that customers’ fuel bills have been reduced by 10-15% through the use of telematics. One client also recorded that accidents have been reduced by 70% and claims by 30%.
  • Who was driving your vehicle and this can ensure that you train and debrief your drivers better.
  • When your vehicles are being driven and how many are parked or idle. This will allow you to assess what size of fleet you need to have.

Macro challenges for vehicle owners

One of the macro challenges for vehicle owners is that in the last 10 years, the fuel price has increased by 84% and it doesn’t look like it will get better soon. With vehicle telematics, you can reduce your fuel cost by having better reports on driver behaviour, lower excessive idling times, integrate speed limiters, and detect and manage fuel theft. The one aspect which affects fuel cost the most is driver behaviour and this is a core product offered by most telematics companies.

The next macro challenge to consider is carbon emissions. Lately, people have been fixated on thinking green and being better citizens by preventing CO2 emissions. And by reducing fuel consumption, you automatically decrease CO2 emissions. One way telematics can help with carbon emissions is that it can give a report and this may be needed in future when you need to submit your actual carbon emissions over a certain time frame. Also, there are pressures internationally to become carbon neutral as a business but if you run a fleet you can’t be carbon neutral so you would need to purchase carbon credits. Telematic companies can help you with this by using your telematics data and help you to trade in carbon to keep your fleet carbon neutral.

Lastly, road safety is important as there has been an exponential rise in road fatalities. Telematics is a big player in this area, especially around driver behaviour. Telematics helps managers to monitor drivers’ behaviour. Third-party companies offer incentives for good driving behaviour like the Vitality Drive offering. You can also do better route planning for the fleet, and you can better manage AARTO management and infringements.

A glimpse into the future

Predictive analytics is an important part of the future of telematics. With big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence, telematics can assist in predicting the future of your fleet. This may give you useful insights like how likely it is for your driver to have an accident, which routes your vehicles should be taking, and how can save on your fleet costs. In one study, predictive analytics was used to look at when vehicles will need to go for services, when they will be out of warranty, and which dealership would be the best to assist the customer.

Another trend is autonomous vehicles but this may only happen sometime in the distant future but there have been some advances. Automated intervention systems that help to prevent drivers from crashing. There are telemetry-linked trucks which are being tested and may become a reality soon. The key for autonomous vehicles becoming a reality is big data and hyper-connectivity and this is starting to take place so watch this space.

Netstar is a proud Partner of the NSBC