The Evolution of Vehicle Telematics: How we Got to Now

Telematics – the remote monitoring and collection of vehicle data – is nothing new. Through the use of location, speed, and engine computer data, telematics helps to reduce fuel and maintenance costs, improve coordination and scheduling, and helps with safety and compliance. With all these great benefits, what took so long for this technology to arrive? Public Global Positioning System (GPS) and commercial vehicle navigation systems have been around since the 1980’s.  However, modern telematics includes much more than these early location tracking systems. How did we get to telematics today? Let’s take a look at how the convergent evolution of GPS, vehicle On-board Diagnostic (OBD) systems, and wireless networks have come together to form modern telematics.


The roots of telematics started with vehicle location tracking. The GPS network of satellites started as a military project in the 1960’s with growing precision as the technology improved and more satellites were added.  Though the initial commercial use case was airline navigation, other applications quickly emerged.

On-board Diagnostics

Location is one thing, but telematics also involves the transmission of other kinds of vehicle data. Engines are incredibly complex systems. Over time they have made growing use of electronic sensors and computer systems to coordinate various sub-systems and optimize performance.  This data can also be used to identify when something is wrong.

Wouldn’t it be nice if vehicles had a simple interface to give you all the data they have? That’s exactly what On-board Diagnostics (OBD) systems do. OBD systems interface with the vehicle’s built-in sensor systems to report on vehicle status and problems. Initially these systems had proprietary interfaces that could only be read with specialized equipment from the vehicle manufacturer. This data was great for repair technicians, but the many different interfaces and data formats left the market created a fragmented market. In an effort to help reduce emissions through standardized reporting, the state of California started to push the industry toward a single specification. In 1996, a standard system, called OBD-II, was mandated for all cars manufactured in the United States, creating a market for interfacing with these systems. OBD-II included the SAE J1962 connector that is still in common use for passenger vehicles today. Similar systems were later required for some commercial vehicles as part of Heavy Duty On-board Diagnostic (HDOBD) specifications   These systems evolved from providing simple “check engine” messages to supporting dozens of sensors or more with detailed diagnostic information that includes everything from fuel usage rates to cylinder misfires.

What can you do with all this data? OBD data was originally designed to be read by technicians who had physical access to the connector. Telematics takes this data and sends it remotely so the technician does not need to be physically there. Remote access to this data is not only convenient for identifying issues, but it can also be used to help prevent the need for major repairs in the first place. Rather than waiting for something to break, telematics can be used to identify when a its time for lower-cost, routine maintenance.  A central dispatcher can keep an eye on a large fleet and schedule pro-active maintenance appropriately – when it is needed but before its too late. As an added bonus, telematics data often includes speed an acceleration data that can be used to identify bad driving habits that no only lead to more wear but increase accidents.


Wireless Networks

Generating a lot of telematics data does not do much good if you can’t economically send it anywhere. The third piece that has evolved considerably to enable telematics is wireless networks. Initially vehicle location systems relied on two-way radio networks that were restricted to specific areas. As cellular data networks evolved, vehicle location systems started to work anywhere in the country. These systems were initially large, power-hungry, had spotty coverage and were expensive. The mobile phone industry helped to miniaturize components, make coverage near ubiquitous, and significantly reduce prices. As the electronics became smaller and mobile data networks became more commonplace, it started to become cost effective to put dedicated mobile data radios in vehicles and accessory devices.  To better service he growing market for Internet-enabled devices, commonly known as the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile phone providers are now offering specialized wireless network services optimized for these devices like LTE-M and LTE NB-IoT.

Today, a complete telematics system with GPS, OBD interface, and nationwide coverage can is no more than a few inches in size. The main reason it isn’t smaller is because it would be too hard to plug in! Many vehicles, especially high-end commercial ones, now have telematics as a standard option built-in. As new technologies like drive-by-wire and autonomous driving are introduced, vehicles are producing more and more data. Manufacturers uses this data in aggregate across models to look for design flaws and to make improvements.  Many manufacturers now provide software updates that can improve performance without any physical changes.

Interested in learning more about Telematics and how it can help improve your fleet’s efficiency and safety? Greg Arlen, Tenna’s Director of Product, hosted a webinar on this topic with Construction Executive where will be digging into Telematics’ many benefits and where this technology is going. Watch webinar on demand.

Industrial Asset Management – Today, Tomorrow and Beyond

Technology is reshaping the world of asset management (and the world at large) faster than anyone could have anticipated. To get an idea of where our industry might be headed, Tenna asked three experts to share their ideas on upcoming changes that will rock our industry in the near and distant future.

Today: Positive Impacts of Asset Management to Key Stakeholders

As an experienced asset manager, George Heck offers an in-the-moment perspective on the current state of digital asset management. He defines assets not only as machinery, equipment and trucks, but also inventory items that are used and re-used on infrastructure jobsites and projects.  Therefore, proper accounting for all assets in order to prepare accurate estimated bid proposals requires the willingness and discipline to adopt the correct asset tracking platform for the business.

An asset management strategy should include provisions that will effectively net the most utilized asset base with the greatest return on investment to provide future work. Asset management should be implemented on a field level to capture the true costs of assets as they enter a project and are tracked throughout the project. They can then be evaluated for future use elsewhere within the organization or disposed of completely.

This base level is where a comprehensive asset tracking platform can create the efficiencies in collecting the crucial data, whether through manual process or by autonomous means. Key areas impacted by accurate asset management include specific project or jobsite profitability, but this flows upward into specific areas of accounting, procurement and eventually into cost projections in estimating future work.  Successes achieved with effective asset management can include:

  • Reduced spending on unnecessary assets (equipment and truck) rentals or purchases
  • Reduced spending for inventory items currently on project, but not accounted for
  • Reduced spending on repairs of under and non-utilized equipment and trucks
  • Increase of cash for disposing of certain under and non-utilized equipment and trucks
  • Reduced insurance cost dependent on the amount of reduction in asset base
  • Reliable and safer equipment being properly utilized to maintain cash flow levels

Increased automation of data into an asset management system allows companies to focus on the core strengths of building infrastructure projects.  Digitization of the daily and weekly construction processes will continue to increase and be part of a system of continuous improvement, including more integrations with different software tools for accounting, real-time market valuations and disposition.  A combination of accurate and efficient asset management will yield recognizable returns from the jobsite office trailer into the executive decision-making suite.

Tomorrow: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT)

Autumn Braswell, Chief Operating Officer for iQor, predicts that AI and IoT are beginning to converge in a way that will radically reshape the entire business landscape. When used together, the two technologies can provide an unprecedented level of support that allow businesses to unlock the full value of IoT and remain competitive. IDC, a global marketing intelligence firm, estimates that more than 80 percent of IoT spend through 2020 will be on B2B applications and use cases, becoming a primary driver of digital transformation.

One challenge with IoT-enabled applications is their ability to deliver service, product, customer support, business and operational data at a faster rate than ever. With so much data coming in, companies need new processes for gathering, analyzing and comprehending it all. Investing in AI will enable businesses to realize the full potential of IoT by housing the ability to make sense of the data and draw new insights that can be used for a competitive advantage.

For example, IoT will have a large impact on customer service, particularly in the areas of understanding where failures stem from, identifying customer issues and determining what product components need to be replaced. By applying AI technology to all the data and insights generated by IoT, businesses will be able to accurately predict product failures, the number of calls a specific call center will receive, and other service-related metrics and act accordingly.

Scott Amyx of Amyx Ventures agrees that disruptive technologies rarely work in isolation. In fact, he points out that it’s the convergence of technologies that drives up the innovation curve to a near-perfect 90-degree slope.

IoT plays a critical role in several ways, starting with the ability to quantify inanimate and animate objects to build a real-time data matrix of the world. From the environment and natural resources to buildings, cars, cities, homes and people, IoT will generate incredible volume, variety and velocity of data. That data will then feed the neural networks to understand patterns and create probabilistic predictions of future scenarios. That, in turn, will inform businesses, governments, and other organizations to make real-time, fact-based decisions that drive up optimization, productivity and efficiency while squeezing out cost and mitigating potential risks.

In addition to the symbiotic relationship between IoT and AI, the shift to distributed and decentralized computing networks is also driving the move to a fully connected world. For example, the long-established television paradigm of distributing network-created content to the masses via broadcast and cable is rapidly giving way to real-time streaming and user-generated content in a many-to-many distribution model. In the world of computing and data, we are seeing a similar shift from centralized (on premise servers, data centers, cloud) to decentralized. Not only is data being generated on decentralized IoT, it is also being stored and processed locally (wild fog).

Specialized AI chips are enabling decentralized machines and gadgets to run AI algorithms locally without ever needing to make API calls (Lambda functions to AWS) or roundtrips to process, store or disseminate. Meanwhile, wireless sensor networks are now being used to access distributed computational power, memory, storage, bandwidth and features of edge devices to perform jobs. All of which has huge implications for telecomm business models, cloud computing giants, privacy, data ownership and security. Working in unison, IoT, AI and blockchain will create a hyper-connected world that where every action and inaction will be quantified down to the iota. Think the Matrix – minus the human batteries.

Beyond: The Future of Humanity

According to Scott, the fourth and subsequent industrial revolutions will be both good and bad, depending on which segment of the population you belong to.

Advances in technology are about driving down costs. Over time, everything from genome sequencing to hard drive costs shrink to a tiny fraction of what they used to be. This benefits society by providing a much larger benefit for the same relative purchasing power, allowing us to consume more and enjoy more leisure as productivity frees up more time and resources. Impending technology disruptions will also create unimaginable new industries and jobs that we can’t begin to fathom today. Who would have thought a decade ago that Snapchat, an AR photo filter/chat app, would be worth billions while employing engineers to create AR filters for selfies?

But there are always two sides to every story. In this case, the imminent net job loss from artificial intelligence, robotics and the fourth industrial revolution is already impacting income inequality, leading to a rise in populism and nationalism around the globe. AI-driven cyber-physical automation is expected to displace 50% to 80% of the human workforce by 2030. As the pace of convergence of exponential technologies reaches a near-vertical slope, the trend of human displacement is unstoppable.

For the structurally unemployed and underemployed, this portends a bleak future with limited options. Only those with highly specialized Ph.Ds. in fields that create, train and maintain AI, robotic and advanced scientific and technical systems may have a place in the world of hyper-automation. Furthermore, as AI continues to master new niches, it will amass a superset of capabilities that will not only replace tasks but holistic job functions. Sooner than we can imagine, no senior executive, policymaker or subject matter expert will be safe.

A bleak picture, perhaps. But in his second book, “The Human Race: How Humans Can Survive in the Robotic Age,” Scott offers hope by proposing a vastly different, out-of-the-box solution called the Human Currency. A global economy and a cryptocurrency based on human-to-human empathy services, Human Currency will build the needed resiliency and sustainability into the system to ensure the viability of the human race for centuries to come.

Without question, the future will look very different from today. In the meantime, you can count on Tenna for cost-effective asset management solutions that will help your business will thrive in tomorrow’s industrial world.

Tracking Your Assets Live – A Closer Look

Tenna’s current Dashboard provides a view to your Assets and the Sites to which they are assigned, or “allocated,” at a glance.

In our upcoming release, we are diving further into your Live Data, a huge improvement to see not only where your Assets are allocated, but where they were last found, and with GPS cellular products, where they are now.


See where your assets are now with GPS Cellular.

Easily locate your assets’ current location, and watch your assets move and update in real time.

Using QR, RFID, or BLE?  See last known location.

Even without having Tenna’s GPS Cellular products, you can quickly dive into the last known location update from QR, RFID, and Bluetooth-tagged assets.

Learn equipment updates in the office or on the go.

See your specific alerts marked as High, Medium, or Low-Level priorities, and get alerted by email or text message for those that you wish, or assign them to your colleagues for action and resolution.

Gain context with Notifications and Geofences.

Tired of wondering when your assets entered and left your project sites? Whether you are using QR, RFID, Bluetooth, or GPS Cellular Trackers, get the updates from your Trackers or your Team’s scanning by using Geofences.

Quickly switch back to Site Data for Dashboard View.

Don’t worry. Our classic Dashboard View, or “Site Data” as it will be termed in this Tenna 3.3 Update, will still be available for your access anytime, anywhere.