What is it?
Basically telematics is the use of computing and wireless telecommunications. The aim is to convey information efficiently across large networks. The internet being a good example. However, lately telematics has come to refer to its application in the automotive context. Usually you will find combined information retrieval, GPS and tracking all packed in under the one title.
It's not unusual to find 'telematics' used to describe systems like remote sensors etc. but the car has it.
How is it used/where can you find it?
There are different applications for telematics in cars. You can use it for simple tracking. A GPS receiver in a car that periodically logs the position. The next thing you can do is have realtime tracking to a central command centre receiving information across the cell phone network for all of a companies vehicles, a technique known as fleet management. It doesn't stop there, with telematics system in your car, you can have access to the internet from the driving seat.
At the moment, the most common use is anti theft devices. When your car is stolen, you call the police and have them switch on the tracking device which lets them know the location by sending out a homing signal or just advertises its location using GPS and GSM.
What is the future?
Imagine that you a just driving through an intersection and some stupid w****r jump the lights and smashes into the side of your car. After bouncing of a lamp-post and embedding youself in a shop window, the car dashboard lights up and a voice come out of the radio speakers asking if you're OK. It's the emergency services telling you they're on their way and what injuries do you have and do you know what happened?
Another part of the future is Cooltown. Technology being pioneered by HP that will steal back the meaning of telematics. Cooltown will allow mobile phones with GPS trackers to access information in the local area automatically or allow emergency services to find you easily.