What is better Mobile telematics or OBD? Comprehansive analysis
Mobile Telematics vs OBD

Mobile Telematics vs OBD (On-board diagnostics): Why mobile is best?

On-Board Diagnostic devices, or OBDs, are losing ground amongst modern drivers, transportation companies, insurance firms, and all other consumers of vehicle and user telematics data.

We are in the era of mobile telematics and Telematics SDKs as a way of recording more accurate real-time driver data.

With new analytics products and services, businesses can more accurately meet new challenges. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to generate more in-depth insights from data when the device collecting it is outdated. When it comes to vehicle telematics, location data for asset monitoring is no longer enough.

Modern mobile telematics can record a much wider range of more useful data. Everything from driver behaviour to geo-analytics, to the ability to use this data for AI and predictive models. OBDs are not advanced enough to collect all of this; whereas smartphones have dozens of sensors and can therefore provide the detail that companies need about drivers and vehicle movements. Smartphones and the sensors they are equipped with, can do that, when the right app runs in the background to collect and process that information.

What are On-Board Diagnostic devices (OBDs)?

OBDs are also known as vehicle GPS tracker devices, often traditionally fitted to cars of younger drivers insurance, or on lorries, fleet vehicles, transportation and logistics companies, and for a wide range of other reasons, even for market research. 

The majority of businesses that rely on vehicles would find telematics useful, and in a data hungry world, more than ever are turning to this source of information for new insights and oversight. Not unlike flight recorders, these are supposed to work in the same way, so that there is accurate and sustainable telematics data, with a wide and flexible information range. 

Until smartphones came along, OBDs were the only way of accurately collecting this data. However, since smartphones have become so popular, OBDs are no longer seen as the best way to collect driver and vehicle location and behavior data.

Why are Mobile Telematics better than GPS tracking device?

OBDs are not advanced pieces of technology. Generally speaking, they’ve not developed much since emerging onto the market, keeping features and functionality fairly limited, regardless of manufacturer or other services plugged-into the devices. Unlike phones, neither the software nor hardware are updated often. That almost always requires getting a new device. Whereas, with smartphones, software is frequently updated, and consumers change devices every 1 to 2 years, which means the sensors are always improving.

ZenRoad
Telematics app to track driving behaviours​

With smartphones collecting mobile telematics data, the amount of information they can collect, store, process, and the accuracy of that far exceeds OBDs. Smartphones are affordable and everywhere, with even the cheapest having dozens of sensors. Software is updated frequently, and consumer habits means new devices come out to keep the pace of innovation moving forward quickly. 

Phones come with large amounts of memory, are capable of processing high-frequency data (up to 60 times per second, which is incredibly useful for accelerometer data), and most come with a whole range of positioning features, including GPS, EGNOS, GLONASS, WAAS, and higher-end, more modern iPhone and Samsung devices now have Galileo, to further enhance positioning accuracy. 

We take a look at what this means exactly and how it benefits those who need this data, including drivers, fleet managers, urban planners, researchers, and food delivery companies. In particular, we want to help you understand the myths and facts surrounding using mobile telematics compared to OBDs and similar devices.

Myths and Facts about Smartphones vs. Telematics device

Unlike OBDs and similar devices, smartphones can be anywhere within a vehicle. They could be in a pocket, bag, or holder. For safety and to adhere to laws in most countries, they shouldn’t be where a driver can grab and use a device. Modern algorithms filter and calibrate smartphone data in order to understand vehicle and driver movements, behaviours, and location. The quality of sensors and processing power help to collect large amounts of accurate data, regardless of where the device is within a vehicle.

Wherever the driver goes, so does a smartphone, which means they provide incredible insights compared to OBDs

  • Smartphones can provide a single telematics solution for all company’s assets including light vehicles, vans, scooters, motorbikes, ground staff, trucks, Businesses don’t need to worry about buying individual telematics hardware devices for all of these vehicles and assets.
  • For market research companies and insurance brands, it unlocks valuable life-style data.
  • Processing power and data set enable us to detect a type of transport (vehicle, public bus, train, ferry, etc. and role of smartphone owner in a trip (driver/passenger).
  • As with any software product, any schedule, tags, sensors around (car bluetooth, wifi, etc.) and other tools to tag on-duty trips, and specific vehicle trips, are available as customisable options.

Mobile telematics is distributed via SDK, so every company can install it into an existing mobile app. Mobile apps and smartphones are effectively work tools; therefore there is no chance a driver working for or on the behalf of a company would leave it at home.

Private customers very rarely leave phones at home either. Smartphones are an essential part of modern life, and wouldn’t be left at home any more than keys or a wallet. Plus, when GPS is built-into an app that results in customers benefiting, such as through lower insurance or market research rewards, there is nothing to be gained from switching GPS off. Customers are already used to apps that work with the help of GPS, so this isn’t unusual for people.

OBDs can only transmit data collected using GPRS, with a handful of more advanced devices sending it through 3G. This isn’t always done in real-time, however. Sometimes it’s when a black box device is close to a receiving station or operational base. Mobile telematics enables us to use this capabilities, and that unlocks many possibilities regarding data set, data quality, and many other benefits.

Whereas, with a smartphone, collection and transmission are possible in real-time, so that there is a constant record of where a vehicle is, how fast it’s going, driver behavior, and everything else that mobile telematics-powered apps can collect and transmit.

Another advantage of mobile telematics compared to OBDs is the way data can be used. It can be integrated with a range of apps and systems, making the data especially useful for a range of customers, such as fleet managers, urban planners, researchers, and food delivery brands.

It’s immediately available around the world. Despite GPS tracker, with mobile telematics you don’t need to wait months to launch a product. No device export duties, no logistics, no delivery, telcos. Just download the app – and enjoy high quality telematics data.

Mobile telematics is a SaaS-based solution. Companies don’t need to buy any telematics devices, no associated cost with devices (installation, maintenance, telecom cos). Compared to OBDs, it’s 90% cheaper.

Despite hardware telematics, SDK is a software solution. To make any changes you need a couple of hours. For the devices – it might take months.

Taking everything into consideration, mobile telematics, and Telematic SDKs, compared to OBDs, are more accurate, collect more useful data, and will continue to benefit from the advancement and continued development of smartphones.

Read more how we help companies to turn any mobile apps intro telematics application for on-demand mobility, transportation or insurance companies

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