What is the best way to connect a Connected Car – Does it matter?


The answer is “As many ways as there are to get power or variations of the data you need for your business”, single wire, OBD, CLA?

The answer is “As many ways as there are to get power or variations of the data you need for your business”, single wire, OBD, CLA?

The telematics industry has been very good at creating devices to suit specific niche business needs trying to keep costs down. So nothing new there. The issue then is adaptability to different business needs over time left wanting. In summary the connectivity to power or data is:

Direct Connect to the vehicles battery or anywhere else in the wiring loom an installer auto electrician can find. Drawback is the high cost of installation that can cost more than the device itself as device costs have fallen through the floor in recent years. This has been popular for the commercial fleet operator but kept their costs higher but still viable. Issue is no vehicle data but primary use has been GPS tracking only in the main but with newer more sophisticated units enabling of driving style with accelerometers being added. But no information about the car itself and yet it still gets called Vehicle Telematics. Rather than Driver Telematics?

Direct OBD plug in somewhere inside the cabin. It’s very convenient and often makes for a simple self-install. That’s great and can give all the data you could ever need, provided the device is advanced enough to get it from the vehicle or create it. Many can’t and are simply a GPS tracker. Key drawback is that quite often this can be behind a side panel or in the console that can’t be closed once installed or creates a safety issue with the driver’s feet or knees under the dash. This keeps installation cost down but frequently ends up with the cost of an extension cable to get it connected safely but the plus is an auto electrician is no longer required. Bigger units with backup batteries are particularly prone to safety protrusion issues. Battery backup up is vital for fleet and insurance purposes as well as the solid mounting location that an OBD port can provide. It was however never designed for a permanent connection only for diagnostics in the garage.

Cigarette lighter plug (CLA). It’s a great source of power but since there is only one in a car unless we add one of those not so cool CLA multi adaptors to drop in your console. So for the CLA it’s a competition with the other stuff we have needing power e.g. Smartphone or multiple of them in your car. This power source is great for GPS tracking even for accidents as long as the device is securely mounted which could be ok if directly plugged. It’s a point solution and also has no association with the vehicle. So depending on the business needs can leave holes in your data much the same as Direct Connect. Drawback is accidental disconnection as the CLA’s are not all quiet the same and the plugs can “grow away” from the CLA with normal vehicle vibration.

Hybrid plug in via cable provides for a variable connection approach where the device is agnostic to how it plugs in. Use an OBD, CLA cable or Direct Connect as the business requirement demands.

That’s not the real question for a business though and hence back to the original question.

What is the best way to connect a Connected Car – Does it matter?

Yes, it does. It’s the data you need that’s critical, the form of connection will then be self-defined.

There is a wide range of devices, quality and complexity just make sure you know the data answer first not the other way around.

Once committed to a connection type your data collection will be limited to either the life of the device or the upgrade cost of the connection type across the fleet. The recommendation from insurance actuarial experts I have discussed this with highly recommend capturing as much data as you can possibly afford as reverse engineering is far more expensive and business opportunity may also be lost.

Key questions:

  • What data is needed?
  • Will the device provide it all?
  • Will the device protect the data and ensure transmission?
  • Do I need a solid mount for the device?
  • Can I find viable mounting positions?
  • Do I need a professional install – Auto electrician or Mechanic

Key attributes of viable device:

  • Data collection with increasing level of data sophistication;
    • Power only Direct Connect or CLA (GPS Tracker or GPS Tracker and Accelerometer data).
    • OBD – power only features plus limited car data eg temperature, VIN odometer.
    • OBD advanced – the above plus with more advanced units numerous trouble codes for repair and maintenance to make the vehicle truly connected.
  • Low profile device that can be easily positioned out of sight, out of the way from feet and knees, inside panels, under dash.
  • Slim profile OBD cable.
  • Can connect to any of the following to enable changes to use over time.
    • Direct Connect
    • OBD
    • CLA
  • Optional - Be connected to the vehicle computer without OBD

DTA spent considerable time reviewing and using a variety of devices in many different vehicles and selected its partner Aplicom and its "A" series for its core offering for the in vehicle computer to ensure customers are not caught short for data opportunities while keeping the costs as moderate as possible. We can also adapt our Helpten platform to other devices that may already be in the field preserving your investment to date.



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