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So where next for OBD based telematics devices?

In my last summary of the OBD products we have available to us, our overall view was to use these great devices in their simplest form, a simple install plug-in tracker, ignoring the CAN interface, as this is complex to integrate with differences between vehicle manufacturer, model and manufacturing year.

(read it here: https://simplesolutions-uk.com/news/telematics-obd )

However, things move on, so we thought we’d take a look at what’s coming and the possible uses of these devices, against a background of more vehicle manufacturers offering ‘connected car’ solutions.

Looking at what’s out there currently, in terms of connected car, there are some great end user gadgets and features. These are useful for the general public end user (and indeed the vehicle manufacturers) but getting access to these for the fleet and wider telematics industry is difficult, if not impossible.

So, maybe we can look to emulate some of these features by the use of the OBDII plug in cellular connected device, not only for new vehicles but also retrofit to older vehicles and where the option isn’t available from the manufacturer. Giving back the control of the device and data to the telematics supplier and a consistent solution across the whole fleet.

Design changes:

Smaller size

With the advances in technology, OBD telematics devices will become smaller and offer a lower profile. This helps with installation as the often bulky body of most current devices can be both difficult to install in an area without obstruction but also can be easily displaced by movement in the cab. Smaller profile devices will help avoid these issues and are starting to become available now.

Lower cost

The market has long complained about the cost of OBD devices not only against their hardwired equivalent. The use of newer technology, wider use and better design is now starting to rectify this, we can now see costs starting to lower on the new devices and look more in line with hardwired devices. Not forgetting the natural advantage of the plug-in device, lowering the install costs and therefore the solution cost at a whole is significantly lower.

Application focused design

Design based on specific use cases such as fleet and insurance telematics, where certain features are added or removed to meet cost or application requirements.

Additional Features:


Adding Bluetooth or BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) options to the telematics OBD device allows for peripheral devices to be connected or to connect, such as BLE for keyfobs to indicate change in driver mode (i.e. private vs business miles etc.) or standard Bluetooth devices to connect to Smartphone apps, transfer information and data.


The OBD device has connectivity for its own use, so why not offer that to the occupants of the vehicle and turn it into to mobile hotspot too, sharing the 4G connection, emulating the feature offered by many manufacturers now as a build option on new vehicles.

The in vehicle WiFi could also allow other peripherals to be connected to the device, assuming that they offer client or access point connectivity options.

GPS or CANbus based speed

For most applications GPS speed may be good enough but for some applications details of vehicle indicated speed may be required (such as insurance telematics and driver behaviour management) in these cases there are options available for both sources of vehicle speed.

The question still has to be, just how much use are the new features to the telematics industry, do we need them and how will we use them? Are they just gimmicks, or will they add the ‘value add’ we’re all looking for?

The biggest requests we still see are for the device to ‘peep’ into the CAN interface and access the information held in there, odometer, VIN, fuel level, fuel usage, warnings, TPMS and temperatures. Unfortunately, we have to disappoint clients on some of these and explain the limits of what’s available and why (read the previous blog article for more information). However, the new available features are bound to start clients thinking about how they can be used and what value will be added to their application.

We’d like to know your views on this subject:

  • What’s stopping you using OBDII plug in devices?
  • What would you need them to do for you?
  • What do you think of the current and future feature set and how would you use them?

Need more information or help? get in touch, we’re here to help, share our experiences and help you get the most from your hardware.