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Telematics: Not just for vehicles…….

noun: telematics:

the branch of information technology which deals with the long-distance transmission of computerised information.

It this age of IoT (Internet of Things), we can consider the use of the Cellular & GPS based telematics device as having a wider application base than just connected to vehicles. If we look at what we have, a cellular modem, location, i/o, serial interface and battery options, then we can take these features and apply to ‘things’ out there in the wider world.

Some considerations:

Position (within the host)

The location of the device within the host is important, with most telematics devices having internal antenna we need to ensure that we give it the best chance of getting signal on both cellular and GPS. Imagine the device in the middle of an office, on the central floor of a concrete building, within in a photocopier, amongst a bank of other business machines. Somehow, we have to find a way to give it access to cellular and (possibly) GPS signals within a hot and noisy host. It maybe we have to use external antenna (on the outside of the host) and allow for the possibility that GPS isn’t possible (maybe using cellular based positioning).

Location (GPS)

Why would you need to know the location of a possibly stationary piece of equipment or machinery? Maybe not but the GPS location could be used as a form of identification or if it could be moved, then a theft or movement alert.

A recent request that we had was to understand the location of office machinery within a building and know if it had been moved to another floor, building or location. So that, when the service engineer arrived for planned maintenance, the device gave a location for the host equipment, rather than having to hunt it down and rely on the memory of the staff on site.


As most telematics units have input voltages that relate to vehicles (9-30V) then we may need to look at the power requirements of the host and how we translate this to a level suitable for the device. If mains we can use a suitable power supply hooked into the mains power. If no power then we could use one of the many battery powered devices, remembering there could be compromises in terms of available interfacing or reporting rates to manage battery life. If the host has battery power then, if within the acceptable range for the device we’re in business, if too high or low then we may need to look at step up or step-down voltage solutions.


In many applications we’ve seen the main requirement has been a serial interface, taking information and data from the host equipment and sending it OTA (over the air) to a server. However, given the event triggers built in to most telematics units, we can use these rules engines to generate an SMS, email or other server based response to a trigger. The trigger could be something as simple as the host being switched on or off, moved, unplugged, an alarm condition or a human interface, such as a button press.


Lastly, we need to consider what we actually want the device to transmit. How we use the features or triggers to our best advantage and get the right information, in the right format to the end point we need. In our office machine example, along with location, we took information from a counter, monitored a series of warning lights and a serial connection, used for remote interrogation of the service status.

All of this can be achieved with an off-the-shelf telematics device, designed for use in vehicle tracking but when its features and function are broken down into their fundamental uses and with a little imagination, the possibilities are endless.

What’s your challenge?

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