Bluetooth OBD (ELM327) - Get vehicle data via smartphone

Powerful combination: Mobile telematics & Vehicle data

On-Board Diagnostic devices (OBDs), also known as vehicle GPS trackers can, for companies still using them, are invaluable sources of driver data. We combined mobile telematics with Bluetooth OBD

What is OBD?

OBDs have a long history because they’re a proven and reliable technology. Companies with fleets and insurance companies wanting to monitor driver behaviours in order to check compliance with policies use them because of the quality and stability of the data. However, over time telematics apps started to make inroads into the market, reducing the popularity of OBDs as companies started to move over to a cheaper alternative.

Developing new technologies to transfer data unlocks new opportunities for OBD manufactures to bring costs down, such as replacing the GSM module with Bluetooth. Therefore, there are two types of OBDs on the market:

Standalone OBD

A telematics device with SIM cards built-in. These work autonomously and collect data, transmitting it using through GSM to a telematics platform.

Bluetooth OBD

A telematics device which doesn’t have a SIM card. It also collects the same sort of data, which is then transmitted using Bluetooth to a user's smartphone, and then through to a telematics platform.

Compared to legacy (standalone) OBDs, Bluetooth OBDs might sound like a more useful solution. However, there are a few reasons why companies haven’t adopted this technology as much as they could.

In order to sync the data, Bluetooth OBDs require the driver to open an app and manually transmit the data between OBD and smartphone. Companies using these devices do send drivers regular reminders to sync the data. However, people receive so many notifications that doing so seems like one task too many, and driver often ignore them.

As a result, the company that needs this data (e.g. insurance, transportation, etc.), receives it on an irregular basis, making the collected telematics data less useful. It won’t be in real-time, which also means the company receiving it won’t know where the drivers are, and therefore they won’t be able to make useful real-time operational decisions.

Is there a better solution
for real-time vehicle data?

Yes, there is. At Raxel, we have developed a telematics SDK extension that automatically interacts in the background with Bluetooth OBD. 

Combining Bluetooth OBD with Telematics SDK solves all known modern telematics problems. With this SDK, the driver (user) doesn’t need to do anything.

Data is automatically synced between the Bluetooth OBD, smartphone and telematics platform. Everything runs fully automated without the driver needing to open or use an app. When you combine high-end hardware with a sophisticated mobile telematics app, drivers and those who need the data will get the most accurate real-time driver and vehicle information possible. The data collected will be far more accurate and useful than if it only came from an OBD.

Data transmission is consistent, unlike the manual method, which requires a person to remember to take action — the outcome: regular and consistent driver and vehicle data.

Benefits of combining
Telematics SDK & Bluetooth OBD (ELM327)

#1: Cost savings with Bluetooth OBD (ELM327)

Bluetooth OBD
Compared to traditional OBDs, this model is far more cost-effective. Based on clients we have worked with, we can do price comparisons to show which approach is better for vehicles, the data being collected, and company balance sheets.

Companies that combine Bluetooth OBD (ELM327) with mobile telematics SDK can make huge cost savings, while also collecting and processing a much broader and deeper range of data, as the table above shows. It’s around 4x cheaper to collect telematics data this way compared to legacy OBDs, especially since companies don’t need to worry about installation/deinstallation, extender cable, telecom, maintenance, and other associated logistics costs.

#2: Accurate and rich data

Combining OBD data with mobile telematics, through an SDK, provides drivers and those relying on this information with enhanced data.

Now with these data collection sources combined, the overall usefulness and value of the information being collected increases enormously compared to relying entirely on traditional OBDs. The Bluetooth OBD is collecting high-quality data about the vehicle, whereas the smartphone and with its dozens of sensors is collecting the most useful data possible about location and driver behaviours.

#3: No telecom, and less pain points

Legacy OBDs need to have a SIM card installed, which means a separate contract is needed for the device to transmit data, otherwise they won’t work. Not only does this add extra cost and complexity, there is more setup and paperwork involved; not to mention the cost.

Also, with Bluetooth-based OBDs, there is no need to worry about having them certified as vehicle-related devices. Both GPS and GSM OBD modules need to go through regulated paperwork in many countries, which can take weeks or even months.

It also helps that they are small devices, and therefore can fit into any location within a vehicle, so there is no need to make them fit into more difficult locations. It’s also possible to connect an OBD to a CAN-port with additional accessories.

#4: Flexible and easy updates

Compared to traditional OBDs, the cost of replacing or upgrading an OBD when it transmits data via a telematics SDK is far cheaper. In Singapore, for example, everyone who owned a telematics device needed to replace them when the 2G network was switched off and replaced with 3G.
That sort of thing isn’t an issue with a mobile Telematics SDKs, or with a combined mobile telematics SDK + Bluetooth OBD (ELM327) solution. Replacing or upgrading is cheap and easy compared to the six or so months it can take to get a new hardware telematics device. There is no need to replace Bluetooth OBD if your country changes a connectivity network, as what happened in Singapore in 2017 

#5: Improved sensors and data collection

Modern OBD devices don’t have very powerful sensors to collect location and driver data compared to constantly-evolving smartphones. When a Bluetooth OBD (ELM327) is combined with a Raxel Telematics SDK solution, users and companies benefit from the best of both worlds. Multiple sensors collect far more data than traditional telematics ever could, making older devices outdated and almost obsolete.

Smartphones come with dozens of sensors, and they’re developing more powerful ones through constant R&D iterations. Making a combination of a Bluetooth OBD and Mobile SDK is the most forward-thinking and future-proofed way to collect useful and actionable telematics data.

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