Applying design thinking in trucking telematics


The Telematics space is certainly not new, and the technology is definitely evolving in a positive way, with more sophisticated sensors collecting and reading large amounts of data, location based technologies being developed both in out of the telematics space, it seems like there’s only up from here, but there could be one very important thing that is lacking…

With most of the telematics advancements happening on the sensor and data side, we have to remember that all this information is useless if it cannot be rendered properly for intended users. Simplifying large amounts of information is something that many industries need while displaying this information properly to multiple users both on the front end and the administration side.

This is where a designer’s mindset or “design thinking” can play a big role in the telematics product development lifecycle . Moving away from the problem focused product mindset to a solutions driven approach, generating actions, testing, then correcting through smart user experience and user interface design. By exploring your core users in depth and defining their needs clearly you will expose business, marketing, product and innovation gaps that will enable you to create truly special experiences with real business results.

There is real ROI (Return on investment) when adapting to an improved UX/UI process. Here are a few examples.

ROI on good UX/UI
– Increased user productivity
– Decreased user errors
– Decreased training costs
– Savings gained from making changes earlier in design life cycle
– Decreased user support

ROI from a sales perspective
– Increased sales
– Decreased customer support costs
– Savings gained from making changes earlier in the design life cycle
– Reduced cost of providing training
– Good user experience becomes a point of pride and a differentiator from competitors

As the telematics space advances in the trucking and other industry there are specific trends and needs emerging in the enterprise and the owned and operated space. Fleet managers are asking for richer data that’s flexible with the ability to make important decisions quicker while drivers want familiar hardware and user experiences that feel more natural and engaging.

A few areas to focus on in crafting better product development processes and UX experiences are; making sense of contextual information, customized views for your user sets, hardware design and keeping your products open for innovation.

Contextual information

Building efficiencies into every corner of the telematics experience is paramount for every fleet manager or independent owner. Getting in more deliveries, defining the fastest routes, properly managing cargo and avoiding breakdowns and fines ultimately means an overall better experience for drivers, less headaches and unwanted costs for fleet managers and increased revenue.

Data is king… But what good is it if you are not projecting it properly at the right time. Understanding all conditions at any given point in a journey and synthesizing that data into a more proactive user experience on the front end, means displaying key information at the right time which eliminates lost opportunities. There is a huge opportunity for designing adaptable interfaces that make sense of complex decision making algorithms and data sets while adapting in real time. Interfaces that are more proactive rather reactive, will adjust over time to specific locations and conditions give drivers and managers relevant viewports at the right times.


While offering the right contextual information is key, it’s important to remember the end users of the telematics products and services. Fleet owners want richer data with the ability to make quicker, more accurate decisions, while drivers want comfort and familiarity.

For fleet owners having the ability for each user to create their own custom views can offer different experiences when interacting with complex or more simplified data depending on the task or managers needs. Engineers and technicians should be able to drill deeper than the fleet managers, exposing a more comprehensive level of predictive maintenance data.

Drivers require and are asking for a higher levels of customization. The drivers world is becoming more demanding, with more information to track all while driving and being as safe as possible. Being able to add and subtract info modules on and off screen and adjusting the size and priority of each module creates a truly custom fit for each driver.


Many telematics companies also develop their own hardware dashboard solutions where others on focus on developing software and sensors. Creating and innovating proprietary sensors will always be apart of the telematics world but there truly is no need for manufacturing dashboard interfaces.

Using familiar devices like an Apple iPad or a Samsung Galaxy Tab with native or even a web app OS solutions would bring a level of ease and comfort to the drivers, offering more portability as well as creating a development environment that is more open and nimble. Displaying your applications and data on a tablet devices also offers companies the freedom to develop their systems in a more agile / rapid fashion, gathering usability feedback as the system is being used. More importantly it will offer the freedom to design interfaces that are customizable that truly adapt to users needs in real-time.

Using established hardware / tablets also offers the flexibility to take advantage of emerging technologies that are continuously being developed by companies like Apple and Samsung. This will help telematics companies save on custom hardware development and focus on adapting to user needs, deploying new features and staying ahead.


True innovation comes when you reimagine your product experience from the inside and out, software engineers to the end users. Allowing your development and design teams to create in a more collaborative, open manner armed with end user and engineering research allows all teams to start with a “why”. Why are we doing this and for whom. From there new efficiencies and innovative ideas will flow giving way to enhancements in software, hardware and the overall user experience.

Up to 15% of software development initiatives are abandoned and at least 50% of a programmer’s’ time during the project is spent doing rework that is avoidable. A proper UX process upfront would help to prevent the majority of this wasted time and cost and allow for new and innovative ideas to be developed.

Source: Susan Weinschenk

One area of innovation I can see the telematics space advancing towards and one we are very excited about is A.I. and audio interfaces or (The interfaceless interface). Companies are starting to explore A.I. already but with the integration of more predictive machine learning models, reading data from an entire fleet over time would generate patterns and expose gaps that designers and engineers can build on. Machine learning would also be able to give operators and fleet managers more detailed predictions or suggestions in real-time. I would image this data could become quite valuable over time and could generate new revenue models for certain companies.

The introduction of optional audio interfaces on the operator side could mean instant diagnostic and geo feedback for drivers without touching a single device. This would bring a new level of safety and control to telematics and could be a game changer. With that said audio recognition technology has a long way to but looking forward to the endless possibilities.

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