Developments in Vehicle and Insurance Telematics & Benefits for Safer Roads

During the past decade we have seen major developments in the vehicle and tracking industry. In a recent report on Crime as A Threat to Road Safety we mentioned that technology has played a significant part in reducing crimes such as hijackings and cash-in-transit robberies!

But what has changed? We decided to approach one of our road safety partners, Ctrack with a Q&A on developments in the industry and how these developments are making roads safer for fleet operators and the everyday road user.

We raised these questions with Nick Vlok, CEO of Ctrack.


Nick – how long have you been in the vehicle telematics industry? 

For 30 years,   in the early days we were supplying tachographs and on board computers to gather information on trucks and today this has evolved to providing advanced telematics solutions to customers all over the world for effective vehicle and fleet management.


What would you regard as the major difference between vehicle telematics today and when you got involved? In both fleet and personal use? 

From a fleet perspective the industry was very different prior to the mid-90’s in the absence of cellular communications technology,  analogue tachograph devices were installed into heavy truck fleets and we collected and reported on basic fleet information such as vehicle speed, distances and driver activity. 

All of this was very manual and cumbersome and the concept of real-time fleet management reporting had not been born.  Today, with cellular and satellite communications and GPS positioning, we have advanced far from this and are able to provide not just the speed a vehicle is travelling but the direction and view its movements in real-time on a map. 

The consumer market evolved in the late 80’s as a result of insurance companies requiring stolen vehicle recovery services as a pre-requisite to vehicle insurance.  The first devices were based on radio frequency and deemed as passive as they required the vehicle tracking company to activate them and use beacons and antennae to try and locate stolen vehicles.

Then, in the mid-90’s, stolen vehicle recovery was taken to a new level with the emergence of cellular communication in South Africa.  GPS/GSM enabled Ctrack, as the front runner, to bring new tracking technology to the South Africa market. 

Networks supporting radio frequency (RF) tracking were initially very limited and although they have expanded over the years their capabilities are somewhat different to GPS/GSM based tracking.  RF based tracking only provides the recovery team with an area to search whereas GSM/GPS tracking systems pinpoints the vehicle’s location.

From a commercial perspective, companies traditionally used fleet management systems to see their vehicle location on a map and safe guard against theft or hi-jacking.  Today, fleet management solutions are used to realise cost savings, operational efficiencies, and productivity improvements to name a few.  For this we need to be able to integrate our systems with our customer systems to enable high levels of analysis and reporting which is either done by the client or by our own bureau team – we are in the era of big data and we assist our customers in obtaining benefit from the rich telematics data available to them.



There is often the perception that telematics providers only provide a “tracking device” to locate your vehicle  - how wrong would this perception be?

If your tracking company is using the older radio frequency (RF) based tracking then this is true.  Such devices rely on the user to request their tracking company to activate them to transmit a signal and even then RF tracking only provides an area position making stolen vehicle recovery more difficult.  These devices have no other use.

In the case of Ctrack, the tracking device not only provides pinpoint vehicle location but has been developed to provide other valuable information about the vehicle status, how it is being driven and reports live information through Ctrack’s software applications. Using their smart phone, our customers are able to pinpoint on a map where their loved ones are - giving them peace of mind which is needed these days.


A new area that is growing very fast is the area of insurance telematics – do you believe this is going to continue and is your company well positioned to make a contribution in this field?

We have been developing insurance telematics solutions for more than five years and we have already become a formidable force in this area.  We supply leading insurance companies such as Discovery Insure locally and UK based CoverBox with technology that measures and reports on driver behaviour. 

The insurance industry is closely monitoring the impact of telematics on their bottom line and with the picture looking very positive we expect more and more insurers to integrate insurance telematics solutions into their businesses and Ctrack is well placed to assist with this.  This is likely to be the differentiating factor for insurance companies in the future.  


Do you believe that we as South Africans can hold our heads high with the standard of solutions we are able to provide to consumers?

Tracking devices have contributed towards a safer environment and Ctrack has been proud contributor to providing our customers high quality technology and supporting services through our call centre.  Further,   we are a proudly South African company in that we research, develop and manufacture in South Africa with a significant proportion of our production going to our overseas operations.


What are the major challenges to marketing your technology globally?

Establishing a global brand is costly and takes time.  We have made progress on this and believe we are one of the few companies in our field that is regarded as global. The advantage for Ctrack is that we have global input into our product development and so get recognised as a global market leader in our field.


We usually find that competition is healthy but some new entrants sometimes hurt the market – do you believe the same can be said about the vehicle telematics industry?

Yes, healthy competition is always welcomed as it keeps pressure on to continually innovate and provide new value to customers.  The market is made up of five big players, Ctrack included, but in recent years we have seen many smaller players enter usually on the back of imported goods, thus losing job opportunities in South Africa.

Unfortunately, some competitors, in certain instances, even go as far as offering incentives and ‘kick-backs’ to sales people at a dealer level, which makes it difficult for us to reach customers sometimes. The knock-on effect of these incentivised deals is that customers are often swayed into opting for a package that doesn’t come close to meeting their real tracking or fleet management requirements.



What are the major qualities needed for a provider to maintain a healthy and credible reputation in this industry?

Firstly, trust is paramount – you need to show your customer that you genuinely care by ensuring a total commitment to service and customer satisfaction.  Every touch point within the organisation needs to live this.   And, secondly you need to build confidence by providing quality and a reliable product.  At Ctrack we deliver on this through our Positive, Wining and Caring attitude. 


What would your best advice be to ensure that clients do not get “burnt” by the wrong provider?

Take a bit of time to understand the differences between tracking technology as you are ultimately entrusting your provider to safe guard you, your vehicle, your family or employees for at least a 36 month period.  Also, look for experience and track record – hello peter is always a good barometer to see the number and nature of complaints the different companies are getting.   


How important is it to keep spending on research and development in the vehicle telematics industry?

This is a given.  Realising our vision, to be a leading global telematics provider, is dependent on continuous research and development.   We bring to market a continuous stream of intelligent solutions that have been developed to make a real difference in our customers lives from safety enhancing features to software applications that help companies save on operational costs.   


Do you believe that this industry has much to offer in the efforts to make our roads safer? Why would you say so?

Definitely, Ctrack systems are all about enhancing safety.  And specifically for road safety, we have provided insurers, like Discovery locally and Coverbox in the UK, solutions that assist in measuring and providing feedback to customers to create awareness around better driving habits.  Companies, with large and small fleets, use our systems to monitor driving habits and use this information for driving training and feedback purposes to promote safer and economical driving.  The South African Police Service use our technology in their 10111 call centre for fast deployment of emergency response.  In addition, Ctrack offers some very affordable support services such as roadside assistance, towing, SOS panic, medical assistance and home drive for added safety and security.   


[A word of appreciation to Nick Vlok, CEO of Ctrack for the assistance provided]


Also view:

Fleet Management, Logistics and Road Safety

Vehicle Telematics, Accident Investigation and Fleet Management

Insurance Telematics and Road Safety


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