What is CAN in Telematics?

29.02.24 10:00 AM Comment(s) By stuartmclean

Telematics has brought revolution in the transport industry. Fleet management has become more efficient and effective with the latest technologies. In a digital world where vehicles are becoming more connected and smart, CAN stands as a prominent term.

If you are wondering what is CAN in Telematics, worry not; it is not a mere technical jargon for engineers. On the contrary, it is essential for vehicles to communicate digitally and how telematics work.

CAN is an acronym for Controller Area Network that is used in telematics systems so they can operate successfully. Let’s learn about the CAN bus and its role in telematics.

What is CAN?

A Controlled Area Network or a CAN bus is a robust transport bus for communication between electronic control units and microcontrollers.

CAN was initially introduced to save on copper. However, it is a message-based protocol that has diverse uses. The original purpose of CAN design was electrical wiring within various modes of transportation.

It is a communication protocol, a set of standards and rules so electronic components within a vehicle can communicate. It was designed and developed by Bosch in the 1980s to make electronic vehicles work efficiently.

Simplifying CAN:

Looks complicated? Here is an example of CAN in simpler words:

Think about a body and CAN as its nervous system. Now, imagine how it works for communication between the mind and the body. If the central nervous system is not working, it will not make connections with the body, which results in malfunctioning.

That is how the CAN bus works in the vehicle. All electric vehicles are interlinked with the system. The nervous system communicates the information to the body parts, and they decide to ignore or accept it. The vehicle parts receive information via Can and then work accordingly.

It controls and communicates with vehicle parts such as braking and engine control transmission. We can say that the CAN bus is the backbone of ECUs, helping them to share in real-time to ensure safe, efficient, and smooth operation.

CAN is an advanced system; therefore, unlike classic wiring systems that run on point-to-point wiring, multiple devices are interlinked to a single like. The smart architecture enables fast communication between central computers and ECUs, making them more reliable and robust.

How CAN bus works?

The CAN bus system makes communication easier without complicated wirings as ECUs cannot transmit data directly. An ECU transfers data through a CAN bus, and all ECUs of the relevant network accept it. Then, the ECU checks whether it is relevant or not. The data is sent in four frames with CAN. The frames are:

  • Data Frame: It is a frame to transfer data to other Electric Control Units (ECUs)

  • Remote Frame: It is used to request data.

  • Overload Frame: A frame that is used to report any time of error

Error Frame: It detects any error in the vehicle and reports it.

Significant Features of CAN

Few of the significant features of CAN bus are:

  • Solid and Robust:

CAN bus are designed to ensure efficient operations in harsh environments. So, when the vehicle encounters factors like harsh temperature, electrical noise, or vibration, it provides strong fault handling of mechanisms and trustworthy device communication.

Therefore, do not worry if you are travelling in freezing temperatures. Your vehicle can work appropriately with CAN in challenging situations.

  • Efficiency ensured:

CAN ensures the optimisation of bandwidth by preferring messages communication based on their importance. For instance, critical data is given more importance, including braking information and the status of the engine. It helps in timely response and transmission.

  • Following Standard:

One of the significant features of CAN is its standardisation and quick adoption throughout the transport industry. The standardisation has ensured efficient operations among various different vehicle components.

Standardisation also helps vehicle manufacturers create a compatible system and solve various problems.

  • Flexible support:

CAN is known to support data transmission speed on a vast range. It allows for adjustability among numerous transport applications and architectures. CAN easily meets and adapts to the communication needs of various types of vehicles. So, the transporter does not have to worry whether it is a small car or a heavy-duty cargo truck.

CAN bus role in Telematics:

So here is the question: what is the CAN's role in Telematics? The answer is simple! CAN data is tapped by telematics systems so they can transmit it to remote software remotely. It means the fleet managers can view all the data on screen and get remote vehicle diagnostics.

Telematics systems can gather data in two ways, i.e., through the On-Board Diagnostics port (OBD-11), and the second is through the CAN bus. The gathered data through the CAN bus is usually more reliable and trustworthy. 

It helps in getting better insights and putting together a comprehensive report. The Data that is captured and transferred to telematics via CAN includes;

  • Geo-fencing

  • Location of Vehicle

  • Accessing vehicle speed, braking controls, speed acceleration, and monitoring driver behaviour.

  • Diagnostics of the vehicle to maintain the vehicle's condition and avoid any unexpected breakdown.

  • Monitor the temperature in the vehicle so the sensitive cargo is delivered undamaged.


So that's all about what is CAN in telematics? CAN bus is undoubtedly a great addition to the latest technology of connectivity and intelligence. The CAN bus plays a crucial role in the vehicle industry, from uninterrupted communication between vehicle components to robust advanced telematics solutions.


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