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Telematics is changing the way auto-insurance is offered in SA. With somewhere in the region of 12 million smartphones in use locally and alarming projections of penetration and usage, there is a phenomenon on the horizon that cannot be ignored – It’s called Telematics 2.0. Telematics 2.0 utilises smartphone based sensors rather than black-box devices used in the traditional Pay As You Drive insurance industry.

Leading vehicle recovery and driver safety services provider, Tracker, believes that while smartphone technology will be all it is touted to be, they haven’t thrown away the black-box device just yet.

Michael Nieuwoudt, Consumer Sales Director at Tracker explains, “Smartphone tech will be a key catalyst in the industry here in SA. Our research and testing has shown that optimal data is gathered when smartphone devices are integrated with the box, not as a substitute.”

Tracker has recently developed an iOS and Android-optimised driver behaviour app for the local market that transforms users smartphones into mobile and cost-effective telematics devices. The app performs the task of in-vehicle information gathering that improves driver interactivity in real time.  While the box delivers the slightly more accurate data of the two, the mobile handset adds a layer of engagement, which ultimately will put the power into the hands of the driver, literally.

Allaying fears of driver distraction, users can switch off the phone and the app will continue to run in the background. The app is designed to automatically start when the accelerometer goes over a specified speed, so the data remains robust. Interestingly for insurers, the app captures trip data to establish driver beahaviour then sorts you into the appropriate cover category. How many times you were speeding, whether you texted or called while driving, are all fed into the algorithm in the app and you are allocated a score, while also giving the insurer live, real time data.

Insurance customers are then clustered according to their score. This is where some people will be reaching for their constitution handbook thinking their personal freedoms are under threat.

Nieuwoudt clarifies, “Telematics apps provide an opportunity for drivers to have their own data on hand, so that they have peace of mind in their driving score. Eventually an app user can go to his or her insurer with the knowledge that they are accurately scored according to their own driving behaviour and skill. It also provides insurers the opportunity to improve customer engagement and service, while having the potential to make our roads safer.”

For the first time, communication from insurer to the customer is now far more open. In the case of an accident, not only does the telematics app allow you to take pictures instantly of the scene, it also gives you fields to capture details, which uploads immediately into the system and integrates directly into the insurers data. The insurer is then notified, resulting in an almost real time call to the customer from the insurer. The customer also has the functionality to call for assistance. To throw some more big data into the mix, the global telematics market is poised to grow exponentially in the future, with approximately 104 million new cars expected to have some form of connectivity by 2025. With whispers of steering wheel and voice controls nearing the horizon, the future seems a safer, albeit strange, place.