Mobile apps are driving Indian telematics

The auto telematics market is not new in India. In fact, India is one of the fastest evolving telematics market − rising fuel prices, road fatalities, vehicle theft and fuel pilferage being its primary drivers.

Despite massive demand, the adoption rates of telematics devices have been low owing to the lack of consumer awareness and an extremely price-sensitive market. However, carmakers and telematics service providers (TSPs) foresee a meaningful increase in the fitment rates in the next few years. This is because of the increasing penetration of smartphone-based solutions, decline in cost and legislative practices being formed by the new government.

So, where exactly India is located on the global roadmap for vehicle telematics? According to Vivek Beriwal, senior analyst at IHS Automotive: “Automotive telematics in India is currently at a nascent stage and, as such, has huge growth potential.” Beriwal claimed that automotive telematics in India, until recently, had largely been confined to fleet management and mobile asset tracking solutions but it has now started to gain traction in the passenger vehicle segment as well.

“While an increasing number of state transport corporations (STCs) today are embracing telematics to track their fleet in real-time, even small fleet operators as well as owners of private vehicles have begun to appreciate the various benefits of using telematics – lower fuel and vehicle maintenance costs as well as reduction in vehicle downtime,” he added.

Indian way of doing telematics

The Indian telematics market works quite differently than its relatively developed counterparts such as in the US and Europe. When it comes to telematics, Indian suppliers have yet to arrive on a general consensus about any particular set of services or products to be given to customers. This is largely owing to the differences in urban and rural economies.

For example, the majority of the fleet management services applications are confined to “vanilla tracking” services. These services use on-board GPS to triangulate a commercial vehicle’s current location and then relays that to a server. The advanced services like preventive maintenance, driver behaviour profiling, in-cab coaching have yet to arrive.

On the passenger vehicle front, most applications currently use smartphone, mobile device and USB dongle driven telematics modules with embedded telematics still some years away. There are few volume automaker brands currently selling vehicles with advanced services such as automatic collision notification function that can summon emergency assistance if the vehicle is involved in a crash leading to deployment of airbags or shutting off of the fuel pump.

Honda, meanwhile, is offering a smartphone app that can share the vehicle’s location with the driver’s family and friends, provide a detailed trip analysis, issue regular service alerts, send notification alerts on the smartphone about the vehicle’s health, help locate the vehicle in a crowded area, etc.

Telematics in India from a consumer’s perspective

Telematics solutions rank much lower in the wish list of Indian customers but there is a positive acceptance of telematics and connected car applications. A recent report on Indian Telematics Market from 6Wresearch, highlights the Indian telematics market, which is expected to reach $113.7M (£87.56M) by 2018, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 22.8% from 2013-2018. It is expected that as the awareness of telematics grows and infrastructure throughout the country strengthens, sales of telematics solutions will continue to increase.

However this does not mean the road ahead is free from hurdles. India comes with its own challenges of government regulations, road infrastructure, ecosystem of players, etc. The advancement is a little conservative in comparison to any other developed nation but the innovation in automotive space is phenomenal. The car manufacturing ecosystem has progressed to a point that it is no longer limited to car, it is extended to consumer durables, insurance players, health and monitoring of vehicles, telecommunications and much more.

Sirish Batchu, head of infotronics, Mahindra & Mahindra, said: “The Indian telematics market is relatively a value driven market and in its early stages of adoption of technology. Primarily, the commercial vehicle segment is on rise and has more penetration areas when compared to personal car segment.

“There is a growing consumer awareness due to the technology exposure and experiences in the personal space like smartphone connectivity, access to connected apps and value added services.”

The government is also planning to bring in policies towards the development of technology. Carmakers and the third parties are gearing up by developing the relevant and compelling connected car features that can be offered to the customers. 

In terms of the future, Batchu feels: “There are more integration of technology and services and enablement of more on-demand services in the auto-telematics sector. Also, the industry is moving towards the enablement of ride sharing as an integral part of telematics. Relating to this there are developments happening in the field of fuel monitoring, fuel theft and stolen vehicle tracking etc. Emergency/breakdown services, eco-routing, dynamic traffic information, early warnings related to vehicle health, etc. are going to escalate in auto segment.”

Therefore, ever-rising cases of vehicle thefts, fuel pilferages, crime against women, etc., will continue to underscore the need for real-time driver behaviour management. This coupled with the government’s renewed focus on passenger safety and security will provide much needed fillip towards proliferation of telematics services in India.

Telematics for improved driving and safety

As an Industry expert, Ritukar Vijay, Hi Tech Robotic Systemzelaborates: “In India, 400 people are killed every day, costing India around 3% of GDP.” This is a serious situation at hand which needs immediate attention. It is really commendable that Indian government has started realising gravity of the situation and has already set a target of reducing road accidents by 50% in two years. With current available safety systems in India, which are only monitoring vehicle, this target seems to be out of our reach.

According to Vijay: “There should be an advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) in place. A system with contextual awareness inside and outside the vehicle providing – forward collision warning, pedestrian collision warning, lane departure warning system in sync with driver attentiveness etc. to prevent the accidents and road rages. We are trying to get these assistive features starting even in India in coming future.”

So, the telematics market in India is on an upward curve, all because of mobile communication, connected apps and live updates which had made it possible to regulate any system or automobile in real-time.


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