ERM’s StarLink Tracker Looks to Bolster Telematics With WiFi

ERM Advanced Telematics is rolling out its StarLink Tracker with WiFi, a hardware unit integrating vehicle tracking, driver behavior monitoring, theft prevention, Bluetooth and 4G capabilities.

StarLink, which took about a year to develop, can be installed using a smartphone, which communicates through Bluetooth to configure the product and perform any required adaptations.

Weighing about a quarter of a pound, the unit can create a WiFi hotspot in the vehicle capable of connecting up to eight devices and supports wireless connectivity for additional ERM and third-party products.

In addition, StarLink boasts a GPS/GLONASS/Galileo location module with the ability to navigate inside underground parking lots or in mines, and hosts internal management of up to 500 driver IDs.

The unit’s 4G capability is designed to enable broadband communications applications like music and video streaming, while Bluetooth capability further enables users to connect mobile devices and set connected vehicle settings without cables.

Rounding out the feature set are internal antennas, emergency button support and a built-in data logger.

The StarLink can also include a CAN Bus interface, letting users receive alerts on the information transmitted between the various sensors and the vehicle’s computing units.

A company release notes that the product was aimed at vehicle fleet management companies, vehicle manufacturers and importers and car insurance firms.

Telematics technology is expected to play a major role in the development of connected cars and autonomous vehicles, with major telecommunications businesses like Verizon investing heavily in the space.

In March, the company merged two recent fleet management acquisitions, Telogis and Fleetmatics, with its own telematics business to form Verizon Connect, a single brand that spans connected-vehicle services for large enterprises, small businesses and consumers.

Research firm Berg Insight predicted last year that the number of active fleet management systems in North America would nearly double to 13.5 million between 2016 and 2021. Verizon’s acquisitions have made it the global leader by size, according to Berg. Its competitors include specialists such as Omnitracs, which Qualcomm sold in 2013, and Trimble.

Meanwhile, the increasing demand for connectivity, safety, autonomy features — not to mention increasing insurance premiums — are expected to drive a higher number of applications of telematics insurance per vehicle.

The nascent insurance telematics market is currently in a phase of strong growth, which is expected to accelerate in the coming years.

According to a report released earlier this month from BIS Research, the global automotive telematics insurance market is estimated to reach 169 million units by 2022, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of just under 50% over the next five years.

A January report from Berg projected the total number of insurance telematics policies in force would increase from an estimated 7 million policies at the end of 2016 to reach 35.2 million policies by 2021, representing a CAGR of 38.2%.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.


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