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Telematics – five things you need to know

Published on
Written by Police Constable Matt Huckson, Surrey Police
About vehicle telematics and using data in investigations
Going equipped
4 mins read

1. Vehicle telematics describes a vehicle’s onboard communication services and applications, which communicate with one another via Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers and other telematics devices.

Vehicles hold a vast amount of data, including:

  • the vehicle’s movements
  • the functions of the vehicle (for example, braking, accelerating, speed, doors opening and closing)
  • devices attaching to the vehicle by Bluetooth or USB
  • various other data sets

2. Think of a car as a computer on wheels or a digital witness. Almost everything it does is recorded. When a lot of things happen at once, the car will choose which information is more important to save. A lot of valuable information can be harvested from vehicles.

3. All vehicles are different. Some give track points and breadcrumb tracks. Some give call logs and Wi-Fi service set identifier (SSID) information.

4. If you jump into a car, connect to Bluetooth, start the engine and pick up a friend, the following pieces of intelligence could be detected via telematics:

  • driver door opened and closed
  • iPhone connected (plus possible contacts)
  • ignition on
  • possible track logs and route
  • vehicle and wheel speeds
  • vehicle stops (location)
  • calls logs
  • passenger door opened and closed

5. Be aware that vehicles overwrite data. If you think telematics may be useful in an investigation, reduce your interactions – for example, how often you open and close the door. Disconnect the battery and make a note of everything you have done.

Every force will have their own policies for when telematics can be used, so always seek the advice of a digital media investigator or your telematics single point of contact.

  • This article was peer reviewed by Sergeant Steven Lefebve, Kent Police. 
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