Vehicle tracking systems come in many forms. Ultimately, the type of system you use will depend on what your business aims to achieve, the type of data that can be reported from a specific device, and the ease of the installation process. Currently, there are four main options available to businesses looking to install telematics to their vehicles. These are:
- Plug and play devices
- Hard-wired devices
- GPS tracking apps
- Telematics integrated cameras
Plug and play devices are self-installed by the user and powered by the vehicle’s on-board diagnostics (OBD) port or cigarette lighter. Because plug and play devices are fitted by the user, they usually require no installation fees; removing hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds when installing telematics to a larger fleet. It also reduces the amount of time your vehicles are off the road – most self-fit devices can be installed in under a minute. Having the ability to quickly remove the device and install it into other vehicles make the self-install option highly attractive to businesses that regularly change their vehicles or use vehicles on short-term leases. Historically, the self-install device was considered inferior to its hard-wired counterpart due to its lack of vehicle diagnostic features – however some vehicle tracking companies have now developed plug and play devices which report on vehicle and battery health.
However, self-install devices aren’t for everyone. In some vehicles, the OBD port is not easily accessible therefore the devices must be hard-wired to the vehicle. In other cases, some businesses such as those operating HGVs, plant and machinery may opt for hard-wired devices to lessen the likelihood of tampering or the removal of the unit by thieves. Hard-wired devices are also much easier to integrate with other fleet management solutions such as dashboard cameras or tachographs – although many involve installation and removal fees.
Many vehicle tracking companies now offer a mobile app in order to monitor the data transmitted from self-install and hard-wired units; however some businesses now offer GPS tracking apps which use the mobile device as the telematics unit. Mobile phones can easily be transferred between vehicles – although the data you can receive from them is limited because the phone is not directly connected to the vehicle.
More recently, we are starting to see vehicle tracking devices that are combined with dashboard cameras in a single compact unit. In contrast to traditional dash cams, these devices transmit video data to the cloud alongside the usual GPS, driver behaviour, vehicle health and collision data. Some of the most advanced telematics integrated cameras also integrate with tachographs, route optimisation, and route scheduling systems. These units are also beginning to provide Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS). ADAS features include audible alerts when a vehicle is travelling too close to the vehicle in front, veering from its lane or if the driver is micro-sleeping.