Basic technologies for vanilla VTS In vehicle device
- A GPS and GSM / GPRS enabled embedded microcontroller withoptionalSD card / USB for storage capabilities is used for capturing the real-time location and transferring them to the server.
- The device operates on vehicle battery with necessary protection from voltage / current surge. It also has battery backup.
- In case of theft the vehicle can be immobilized remotely.
- Support for external antennas for better range and accuracy.
- Instant SMS and email alerts in case any undesired events or emergency situations.
- Web application is sued for live monitoring of devices moving around.
- Rich graphical user interface makes system usage a classic experience.
- It presents you with current locations, route trace, andtravel history of the vehicle.
- It also provides alerts in case of geo-fence violation (you can mark boundaries along a road or you can have a area-wise fencing) and overspending alerts.
Only vehicle tracking is not enough in most of the cases. Enhanced versions of VTS also provides following value added services to cater to specific requirement of transport fleet owners.
Can be used be daily travelers (bus or cabs) for authentication of travelers. Each passenger is provided with a RFID card and the VTS is installed with RFID reader. This helps in getting real time location information of each passenger. Location details of where a passenger was picked up and dropped are provided. This is a favorite of the BPO companies to ensure safety of ladies staff being picked up and dropped at night.
Fuel level sensor
Helps in monitoring fuel usage. The web application provides fuel usage statistics for a given period of time. Typical fuel sensors are not very accurate and usually this feature fails to provide good accuracy. Some further experimentation is being done in this area but most of the current implementation only provide an indication of fuel usage and practically cannot be used to detect theft of few liters of fuel.
Monitoring cargo temperature is extremely important for maintaining the food quality during transport. This solution is especially used when carrying milk, ice creams, fresh fruits and vegetables, and any load from cold storages. If for some reason the drivers happen to turn off the ACCOUNT (typically to save petrol) and the temperature rises beyond acceptable level, immediate notification is sent to the fleet owner. Also minute-by-minute temperature history is recorded in the device (and on the web server) thus ensuring no conflicts between the carrier and the customer. This solution is very popular in the cold storage logistics companies.
A camera can be integrated with VTS to periodically transfer still images to the web server. This helps in identifying the driver and no one can cheat vehicle owners anymore. Typically driver’s image is sent once a minute to the server thus ensuring that there is no proxy-driver. This solution is popular with the bus / taxi owners with large fleets which are in cities other than their home town.
Accuracy of GPS
Typical GPS receivers provide an accuracy of 10 to 15 meters vertically and about 20 meters horizontally. GPS receivers usually require locking of four satellites to get valid data. Accuracy increases with increase in the number of satellites locked. The quality of GPS signal depends on the state of atmosphere, both its upper (e.g. ionosphere) and the lower layer that influences the weather conditions. Sometimes, on cloudy and humid days the GPS receivers may have problems with calculating its position.
Start up time
When the device boots up after a power down cycle it usually takes a couple of minutes to acquire the coordinates. This is technically referred as ‘Cold Start‘ where the GPS receiver does not have valid almanac and ephemeris. It usually takes time to acquire valid almanac and ephemeris data. Once the data is obtained it is stored in RAM and can be further used to acquire data quickly. If power management is implemented and device wakes up after periodic time interval to capture locations, the time required to acquire locations is in 10’s of seconds. This is technically referred as ‘Hot or Warm Start‘; here the GPS receiver has valid almanac and ephemeris data stored in RAM and only communicates with the satellite to get coordinates.
No GPS connectivity in mountainous regions
If for some reasons the GPS receiver cannot lock required number of satellites, location data cannot be obtained, in such cases there is partial loss of data. There is no solution to this type of situations, as the source itself cannot provide required data; however, these are extremely rare.
No GSM / GPRS in remote locations
It is a well known fact that all the places on the planet do that have GSM / GPRS service available. In such case the acquired GPS location data are stored in the device and once GPRS network is available the stored data can be transferred to the server. This essentially means that the tracking device needs to have considerable storage capacity to store few 1000’s of location details. Some solutions offer GSM (SMS) to transfer the data in absence of GPRS connectivity. This helps in getting real-time data at places with GSM connectivity but no or weak GPRS signal. A few solutions also offer dual SIM functionality to ensure that connectivity hampered only in situations where none of the two service providers can offer any service. This is very useful in India!
Frequency of data logging
Data logging frequency from GPS module can be as low as 5 seconds to few minutes. Usually 5 seconds is required in very few cases. Data sampling rates typically varies for each requirement. Tracking systems usually can set this duration easily using web interface or SMS.
Geo-fencing is an extremely critical feature that all tracking solutions ‘HAVE TO‘ provide. Normal solutions offer circular geo-fencing that would raise alerts when the vehicle moves out of an area. However for containers or high value goods transport it is extremely necessary to have a boundary drawn across the road. This type of geo-fencing along with stoppage reports virtually eliminates any theft of good. Defining a geo-fence along a boundary can be a painstaking activity; no user interface can really offer an enjoyable experience to define a geo-fence adjoining to a road. In such cases, reference runs can be used for fencing the roads quickly and with minimum user efforts.
Heat, vibrations, dusty conditions loose connections and other open environment problems have an impact on tracking vehicles efficiently. It is extremely necessary to install a well tested / enclosed device, especially on India roads which are not only rough but also bumpy at times!
Cost of GSM / GPRS service
It is a myth that using GPRS for vehicle tracking applications is an extremely costly affair. However, various services providers in India provide with data plans specially meant for vehicle tracking applications with a monthly rent of as low as 50 RS (less than a dollar)!
GPS antenna wire cut or removed
When someone cuts a GPS antenna or removes it physically for bad intentions, the device can sense that quickly and notify the server via GPRS or GSM. The server application sends an instant notification to the concerned people in form of SMS. The device can easily distinguish between no satellites locked or no data at all, which nullifies the possibility of false alarms.
GSM antenna wire cut or removed
This is a very tricky situation where the device can do nothing but log the information along with date time stamp and whenever there is connectivity (antenna is connected again)sends it as an alarm. This type of sabotage cannot be detected in real-time, however the information sent later can be used for post-mortem analysis.
Power wire cut intentionally
When the power wire is cut the devices operate on battery. They send an immediate mains fail signal to the server which than propagates this information to concerned people. The modern day devices are intelligent enough to distinguish between power cut and engine off situations.
Temperature sensors tampered or wire cut
In temperature sensitive container monitoring if optimal or required temperatures are not maintained huge losses can incur. Drivers intend to turn off the engine to save on fuel costs. The temperature sensors can quickly sense that and send notifications to server. To avoid this, the drivers might cut off the temperature sensor wires. When something like this happens the device can sense the sabotage quickly and notify the server via GPRS or GSM. The server application sends an instant notification to the concerned people in form of SMS.