Armed with today's mobile and cloud-based technology, commercial vehicles like new trucks or vans no longer need expensive PC hardware, and the availability of consumer mobile devices with increasingly sophisticated capabilities means that smaller fleets are embracing commercial telematics.
Most commercial fleet operators in numerous industries around the globe are already using smartphones as service access devices to monitor their vehicles remotely.
Now commercial telematics service providers are increasingly adapting their core applications -- including track and trace/route planning, driver behavior and fuel management solutions -- to run on consumer-grade smartphone and media tablet devices.
"With GPS and accelerometer functionality, plus the power and flexibility of a sophisticated computer, smartphones and tablets are already important platforms for telematics applications," said Gareth Owen, principal analyst at ABI Research.
As sensors continue to develop, and new technologies such as voice and gesture recognition improve further, smartphone and tablet-based applications will become even more compelling for fleet telematics.
Commercial telematics providers such as Telogis and XRS Corporation are becoming device independent and are making their solutions available on consumer-grade smartphone and tablet devices -- as well as the typical ruggedized, customized mobile and tablet PC devices.
Another significant trend is that ruggedized mobile devices increasingly being based on a smartphone OS such as Google Android, rather than Microsoft Windows.
For example, the Zonar Technologies new 2020 remote terminal is based on a modified Android platform which gives fleet operators the flexibility to use applications from third party providers as well as from Zonar.
There are also an increasing number of specialist providers, such as GreenRoad, who are focused specifically on developing lower-cost Android and iOS based telematics solutions for consumer-grade smartphone and tablet devices.
Although there will always be a need for fixed terminals which cannot be switched off in certain specialized verticals, such as oil and gas or mining due to safety reasons, ABI sees the trend towards using consumer-grade devices accelerating strongly in the future -- particularly as truck OEMs are forced to open up their vehicles to third-party applications.