Telematics can be an invaluable tool for contractors who want to track and monitor key assets more effectively, like heavy equipment and vehicles. The rise of smart technology and other Industry 4.0 tech has made these systems more accessible and powerful, encouraging contractors to invest.
However, implementing telematics can be costly and time-consuming, and not every system will provide the specific benefits a fleet owner or logistics professional needs. Knowledge of these factors will help any contractor make more informed decisions when purchasing telematics for heavy equipment.
System features are one of the most important factors for contractors wanting to purchase telematics equipment. Not all providers offer the same options, and pricing for equipment and devices can vary significantly depending on what a particular contractor needs.
More complex telematics systems can also be more expensive to purchase and maintain. If a contractor just needs the ability to track assets in real-time, functionality beyond GPS- or RFID-based tracking may make the system more expensive while not providing much additional value.
These are some of the most common telematics systems and the ones a contractor is most likely to need:
1. Real-time location tracking: Most systems offer GPS-based tracking that allows fleet managers to monitor the location of assets in real-time.
2. Alerts: Automatic notices trigger when customizable conditions are met — like assets moving after work hours or faster than local speed limits or scheduled maintenance alerts.
3. Asset and driver data reports: In addition to real-time reporting, most systems will also offer reports or dashboards that sum up recent events and patterns of usage. Contractors can use this information to track driver behavior, asset performance or machine health.
4. Asset diagnostics: Telematics systems can integrate directly with important vehicle or asset systems like engine control units (ECUs), providing them with access to data from sensors and monitoring devices. This allows the system to provide important information on vehicle health and performance to system owners — alerting them automatically when faults are detected or maintenance is needed.
5. Customer service: Dedicated customer support lines provide assistance with telematics system operation, troubleshooting and maintenance scheduling.
The specific data points that asset telematics will track can vary from system to system. Providers may offer monitoring for a wide range of data, including information on seatbelt usage, emissions, dashcam footage, fuel consumption, fuel efficiency, idling and performance.
Selecting a telematics system that offers the features a contractor needs will help them avoid overspending or selecting one that isn’t a good fit.
Contractors should also consider synergy and integration with existing technology. A business that takes advantage of IoT monitoring may want to investigate how the two systems could share data or be configured to supply information to the same dashboard.
Businesses that take advantage of digital twins may want to investigate how additional data provided by telematics may allow them to more accurately model construction sites, buildings or business operations.
Purchasing vs. Renting Telematics for Fleet Management
Often, telematics providers offer the option to either purchase or rent the equipment. While buying a system comes with some advantages — permanent ownership of the hardware and more control over telematics maintenance — renting may be a better option for some contractors.
As with construction equipment, renting can be an effective way to close asset gaps that emerge when systems fail, require maintenance or need replacement.
Suppose a rented telematics device stops working or needs maintenance. In that case, a contractor may be able to more easily procure a replacement or even request one from their provider while the rented equipment is being repaired.
Professional vs. Self-Installation
If a contractor isn’t purchasing new equipment with telematics systems that come pre-installed, they, their team or a third party will have to connect it to each asset they want to track.
This installation process can be involved and time-consuming. Any mistakes the contractor makes can negatively impact the telematics system’s performance or damage components.
Also, the asset in which the telematics system is being installed will be unavailable during this time. Troubleshooting can cause it to be unavailable for longer.
Professional installation is generally less risky but will be more expensive. The cost will typically depend on the system’s complexity, the number of vehicles or assets, and the contractor’s location — installation service rates can fluctuate significantly from region to region.
As with self-installation, the contractor will also need to prepare for significant downtime and loss of productivity while the system is installed.
A professional installer can likely work faster than someone without telematics experience, but all installations will take time.
Equipment Telematics System Security
The growing threat of cybercrime means contractors should also consider how telematics may make their businesses less safe. These systems generate so much data and are typically connected with other essential components, making the overall network more challenging to secure.
Contractors should consider how they’ll keep their telematics secure and how their provider addresses safety issues.
When shopping for a new telematics system, contractors should ask about the importance of security in the provider’s design process. They should also ask about how data is kept safe at the device firmware level, while it’s in transit and when it’s stored in the cloud.
Contractors should also ask about the steps they can take to keep their telematics systems and business networks secure. Providers may be able to help end-users configure them in a way that protects these systems from an attack.
Keep These Considerations in Mind When Buying Telematics
The potential benefits of a telematics system make the technology a good investment for contractors. However, not every one is the same. Varying features and payment options mean companies should carefully consider available offerings.
Contractors wanting the simplest and cheapest system should consider a rented telematics solution that primarily offers GPS tracking. Businesses in need of analytics, behavior tracking and other complex solutions may need more expensive systems. Researching needs and options before investing in telematics will ensure the system is the right choice.