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Commercial Telematics Market Sees Significant Shift Toward Hardware-Agnostic Solutions

According to research findings by ABI Research, converged devices such as tablets, are driving the market with global shipments forecast to reach more than 5 million units by 2020. Moreover, the introduction of converged devices creates the opportunity for the emergence of new business opportunities in the application space.

The adoption of converged devices opens the door for entire application ecosystems and the emergence of dedicated commercial telematics application marketplaces, says Dominique Bonte, managing director and vice president, ABI Research. Key advantages of utilizing converged devices, such as tablets in commercial vehicles, include the ability to employ automated vehicle inspection in rental car fleets, signature capture for delivery fleets, as well as aggregating crowdsourced data and generating community feedback.

Leading telematics service providers (TSPs) actively exploit the opportunity to cumulate crowdsourced data as a means to provide drivers with updated information on rest stops, traffic jams, road works, and other critical driving information. But the information exchange is no longer limited to solely smartphones and tablets. In fact, wearables are now offering consumer vehicle OEMs the opportunity to combine biometric and diagnostic data onto the same form factor. Typical vehicle data that could be made available on smart watches includes fuel consumption and level, driving behavior scores, and transport metrics.

Apple recently partnered with Telogis to bring telematics applications for gamification and allow drivers to compare their driving performance, truck-specific navigation, and compliance to its iOS platform, said Bonte. This illustrates the growing importance of converged devices for improving safety and productivity, a realization of which the mobile industry is becoming well aware.

Yet, there are downsides to consider when utilizing converged devices in commercial vehicles. The drawbacks include potential safety hazards caused by driver distraction and increased exposure to cyber threats. As such, plug-and-play On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) dongles are gaining momentum. It is currently the most affordable solution to offer basic features, such as tracking, diagnostics, and driver behavior monitoring.

Canada-based fleet management and asset tracking vendor, Geotab, is a leader in the OBD-based hardware space and remains heavily focused on on-board diagnostics to offer plug-and-play solutions to small and medium fleets. Additionally, Novatel Wireless recently acquired telematics vendor DigiCore with the goal of creating a vertically integrated technology company covering modules, hardware, and professional services targeting fleet management, usage-based insurance, and asset tracking and monitoring markets. The two companies had already been successfully partnering on OBD technology before the official acquisition.

While OBD-based hardware is both a flexible and low-cost solution, the window of opportunity is limited and integration between the hardware and software providers is still a necessary component, said Bonte. Converged devices are a great way to bring telematics to commercial vehicles in a more scalable and seamless manner.

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