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Teardown: Car Insurance - Telematics Black Box

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by Garywoo, Nov 25, 2015.

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  1. Garywoo

    Garywoo

    10
    1
    Apr 22, 2012
    Introduction:

    My car insurance company (Admiral, in the UK) contacted me and asked if I wanted to receive a 'box' that would monitor my driving and possibly reduce my insurance premium. I agreed. It only had to be kept in the car for 3 months and then returned, and since I only used my car for commuting, I didn't mind them effectively tracking me. After all they already know where I live and work.

    I received the unit pictured below:
    [​IMG]

    Two main components, the power adapter, and the circular "puck". The latter came with an adhesive pad on the back, and the manual noted to mount either flat or at vertically at 90 degrees with the arrow imprint always pointing forward. I assumed it contained at least an accelerometer and gyro to record my driving behaviour, as well as a GSM radio to send the data back to their headquarters for processing.

    Of course, being the inquisitive and aspiring electronics engineering nerd that I am, I had to take it apart! I waited until after the insurance company asked for me to send the unit back before taking it apart, in case disassembly produced some weird results and skewed my data, or there were some internal switches pressed against the case that could tell when the unit had been opened or tampered with (spoiler: there weren't any).
    Now let me state here, I'm pretty much an electronics noob. I understand what most of the components are and do on the boards, but I have some questions that I'll post at the end if anyone feels like teaching me something.

    I'm really posting this because when I originally got the unit, I did a quick search online to see if there was any info about this particular unit and what exactly was in it, but failed to find anything. Hopefully this post will be found by someone else like me in the future, who wants to know what's inside this box before they stick it in their car for 3 months.
    I know this is also the same box used by Bell Insurance, and presumably also Elephant, Diamond and Gladiator Insurance, as they are all within the same group, although I don't know if they offer a telematics scheme.

    Teardown: (Click images for full size versions)

    Puck PCB Top
    [​IMG]

    Puck PCB Bottom
    [​IMG]

    12v Power Adapter
    [​IMG]

    Notes:
    • Identifying marks hidden in photos.
    • Contains GPS and GSM units (datasheets linked below), and presumably an accelerometer/gyroscope and magnetometer (I'm unsure where these components are).
    • Large shielding can under the angular antenna, unfortunately i didn't want to risk trying to pop it off without damaging the unit. Would have loved to see under it.
    • Unit was powered up while taking these photos. Notice the green LED on the puck.
    • There is a quite a significant amount of bodging done on the power adapter PCB. Mostly diodes and a couple bodgewires!
    • Power adapter has a completely blank PCB backside.
    • Power adapter has 2x AAA rechargeable batteries under the PCB connected to the white JST connector on the top side. the device is always powered until they die. There is no off switch.
    • The power adapter has a switch on the centre pin of the 12v socket plug, allowing it to recognise when it is physically unplugged from the car.
    • Power adapter also has a USB socket for charging external devices, and a secondary 12v connector (black plastic plug on the bottom edge, under the USB socket) for an included optional 12v automotive socket on a short wire
    • Interestingly, the patent explains how the unit 'profiles' the car's electrical system (presumably electrical signal noise from the alternator) and recognises if it's being used in a different car.
    • The patent proprietor is listed as the insurance company, so I assume they actually invented this particular model.

    My questions are:
    1. Where is the processor? Under the can?
    2. Where is the accelerometer, gyro and magnetometer?
    3. Since the unit has a GSM radio, does it also need a SIM card? Where is the SIM?
    4. What do you think the 3 pin jumpers are for, on the top of the puck?

    Links:

    Patent:
    GB2498793

    Datasheets:
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2015
  2. dorke

    dorke

    2,342
    665
    Jun 20, 2015
    1.The Telit GE856-quad is the processor.
    2.Since they can GPS track your location and your advances ,
    they can time tag it and from that info get your speed info and acceleration etc.
    3.It doesn't have to use a sim-card,all your "user id" can be downloaded remotely to it before/after you get the device.
    4.Did you think about the fact they can actually record whatever goes on in your car?
    5.These 3 pins can be a download/upload/debug port etc.

    This kind of device is worst fear of the little's guy Big-Brother total control...frightening :eek:
     
    Garywoo and Tha fios agaibh like this.
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