3 Keys to Managing Data from Telematics Solutions

Telematics usage is exploding in logistics and heavy industry and beyond. But to truly benefit, your company needs a plan to manage and analyze all the data telematics solutions provide.


By Robert Neely

Big data is happening everywhere in business these days. One of the biggest growth areas is data collected on the road. 

Telematics—GPS services that record data from vehicles in the field—are popular in logistics and transportation industries. Because of Department of Transportation regulations about electronic logging devices (ELDs) and insurance companies seeing telematics as risk reducers, telematics have become more and more common. 

This isn’t just happening in transportation industries. Any industry with vehicles in the field can embrace telematics. This could be human services companies that help people move around as part of their mission, retailers that deliver materials to different stores or even to customers, heavy industry companies that have to move large loads from one place to another, and much more. As the economy continues to become more on-demand and consumers want more things delivered to their door, the use cases for telematics systems will continue to multiply.

The growth in telematics systems means a growth in data. Now, companies are able to record and access data about GPS locations, driver behavior like speeding and sudden stops, time spent idling or within certain geofences, usage of vehicles outside of work hours, and much more. Many telematics solutions also offer cameras with recording capability as an add-on, opening the door to even more data storage and collection.

That data can provide a lot of insight into your business and a lot of opportunities for measurable benefits. Some common ROI areas include:
* Less fuel usage
* Safer driving
* Better insurance rates

We’re in a growth cycle of telematics usage at the moment, and so it’s no surprise that we’re also seeing a spike in telematics solutions. Between our project on logging industry efficiency and our conversation with other clients in the automotive industry and beyond, we’ve heard of a dozen or more telematics providers on the market. Many are startups with big funding. And some big players—notably Verizon—are buying up companies in a quest for market share.

This breadth of solutions can create some problems. Each one offers a slightly different feature set, and it can be hard to find the right level of benefits at the right price.

But the bigger issue is getting locked into one provider for all your vehicles. This leaves you at their mercy for pricing, features, and more. And it creates a difficulty if your company expands by purchasing another company that has vehicles using another telematics solution, or if you have different needs for different types of vehicles that one telematics provider can't meet.

The good news is that there are solutions to these problems. Here are three keys that will help you manage data from your telematics solution now and in the future. 

1. Know what you need to measure

Most telematics providers offer a wide array of reports, which is great. But having a lot of reports doesn’t necessarily help your business. You have to have the right reports that can lead to ROI. So for telematics data to benefit your business, you need to know what you need to learn from your data.

The answers will be different for each company, but it’s helpful to think through these different areas:
* What do you need to know about your vehicles?
* What do you need to know about your drivers? 
* What do you need to know about your locations? (This could be both where your vehicles are located, and about what’s happening in certain geofenced locations.)

These three categories will help you understand what kinds of data you need to collect and analyze. It’s an important first step.

2. Pick a platform with flexibility

Knowing what data you need to collect and analyze helps you understand what telematics solutions could be a fit. But there’s one more key factor we would encourage you to consider as well—how flexible the platform is.

This flexibility should include:
* Creating custom reports that fit your existing business processes
* Connecting these reports to ROI measures
* The ability to combine telematics data with your other data sources

The last item is really important. It’s great to have telematics data from your vehicles. But when you connect it to your ERP so you can easily see where a customer’s product is at any given moment, or when it is delivered, it becomes far more powerful. This is just one example of the benefits of connecting your data.

Some telematics systems offer pre-built integrations with ERPs and other systems. From our experience, most of them offer API access that allows you to either send data to another system. But the contractual issues around API access are different from provider to provider, and the level of support offered for integration products can also be wildly variable.

It’s worth putting this issue on the table during your selection process and making sure that you have API access when you need it from the beginning, so that you don’t have to wait for support or new contracts when it’s time for your business to benefit from a data solution.

3. Integrate multiple providers into one data warehouse

Once you have flexibility in your data solution, you can unlock the power of telematics data by creating a data warehouse. This could include data from multiple telematics providers as well as other types of data.

Having your data in one place gives your business immense power to use data to make strategic decisions, predict business changes, and more. This kind of big data solution is what companies in just about every kind of industry are looking for. Your telematics data can be an integral part of this.

Conclusion

Telematics is an exciting new frontier in business, and telematics data can provide immense benefits. But you need a data management and integration strategy in place to fully experience the benefits of this powerful tool.

So as your business moves toward telematics, keep the data side of the solution on the forefront of your decision.

Robert Neely
Robert Neely is Worthwhile’s Client Strategist. He focuses on aligning web app solutions with business strategy, industry realities, and user experience.
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