If part of your business involves having to deliver packages to customers, a vehicle tracking system is useful so that you can tell your customers the status of their packages, and then provide better customer service as a result. You can also keep track of drivers and vehicles this way.
There are various different types of vehicle tracking solutions out there, most of which are sold on a subscription basis, usually daily or monthly. Installation and setup is often relatively straight forward (although it depends on the product) and you may be able to do this yourself. Handling as much of the vehicle tracking solution installation and setup as you can yourself will make it as cost-effective as possible.
Vehicle tracking solutions involve three specific components. The first is that you have tracking unit hardware, which is a box installed on your vehicle / delivery vehicle that reports that vehicle’s positions to a central server.
The second component of the vehicle tracking solution is the tracking unit software. This is necessary for the tracking unit hardware, the box installed on your vehicle, to function. It is common that the software is supplied pre installed when purchasing the unit.
The third component of the vehicle tracking solution is the server. This can include a physical computer server and/or server software; the server receives positions from the vehicle’s box (the tracking hardware), then displays them on a map when you, the system user, request it. Depending on the system it may also offer additional options such as reports detailing where the vehicle has been over the last day / week etc, along with providing reports on average / top speeds.
You can buy these three parts as a commercial package, or you can develop them in-house if you need greater flexibility or are looking for a more cost effective solution.
Although vehicle tracking began in the shipping industry, on a large scale, it can now be scaled to your own particular needs whether large or small. In addition to being able to keep track of vehicles, these systems can also help prevent theft of the vehicles in question or recover them after a theft has occurred.
Most vehicle tracking systems use the GPS Global Positioning network of satellites to determine the vehicle precise location however other very low end systems rely on Cell IDs (performing a triangulation to determine the position from the closes mobile/cell phone masts).
Choosing your system
Most vehicle tracking systems today charge you a monthly subscription for a service that includes the use of mapping software, inclusion of hardware, installation (unless you can do this yourself) and the tracking service itself. In some cases, if you pay for hardware units as they’re installed, they will continue to work for the life of the vehicle at no extra charge. The type of subscription you choose also depends on how often you want updates; for example, some companies may want five-minute updates of their vehicles, while others may want 30-second updates. The complexity of the update also matters, in that some can tell you whether or not a vehicle is functioning properly, along with the speed and direction it’s travelling in, and even the status of any load it is carrying.
Active, or passive devices?
If the devices you use for your vehicles are passive, the information is not transmitted to you real time. Instead, this information is stored until a certain “trigger” event happens, such as a key turning on or off, or a door opening or closing. Once the vehicle comes back to a predetermined point (such as back to the building), you can then download data from your hardware, usually via wireless download.
By contrast, if you use an active tracking device, the same information is collected but the data is actually transferred to you in real time. This allows you to keep track of your vehicle(s) much more closely. Of course, active devices are usually somewhat more expensive. Still others use both active and passive capabilities together, such as collecting passive data if the network is suddenly not available, but “catching up” and transmitting stored data along with real-time data when the network is available.