GPS fleet management is a system that is a product of the integration of three technologies. These technologies are Global Positioning System, cellular communications, and computers. What the system does is to monitor in real time the location of mobile assets. These assets could be any vehicle. The fleet that is referred here could be that of taxis, delivery trucks, battle tanks, and buses. The purpose of the system is to manage the movement of the mobile assets so that business expectations are realized in an efficient way.
At the heart of the system is the GPS unit. It is essentially a radio receiver that contains a microprocessor or a computer chip. Orbiting the earth is the GPS satellite constellation. These satellites are constantly transmitting their positions. The GPS is able to fix its position when four GPS satellites are in view. After getting a fix, the position of the GPS unit and the vehicle that is carrying it can be computed to an accuracy of 10 meters or even less.
The location of the moving asset that contains the GPS unit is transmitted to whoever is managing the vehicles using cellular communication. Older systems use SMS. Newer management systems utilize wireless internet via GPRS or 3G.
The manager uses a base station that is essentially a computer running mapping software. The base station constantly receives updates of asset location and shows where they are on the map. A typical map would show streets, building footprints and other information important to the business.
One important distinction of this management application over GPS tracking is the presence of additional sensors. For example, delivery trucks have sensors that reports every time the cargo door is opened. The trucks can also be equipped with RFID sensors. It enables management to monitor in real time when and where a piece of cargo was delivered. Another example is a sensor on a bus able to report the event of stopping in a bus station and how long a trip is between stations. The real time aspect of knowing where and what time an important event took place is the essence of GPS fleet management.
Back to the base, the events that are reported are being analyzed in real time on the computer. All sorts of optimizations are performed in order to maximize the use of the assets. Studies of the benefits gained when the application is used showed significant savings in operational costs. There are savings in fuel consumption and more importantly, when less fuel is used, potential pollution is averted.
The system is used by the US military to monitor the status of military vehicle formations. Just imagine a commander knowing where his forces are located all the time and being able to direct them using real time intelligence data. This is even better than playing all those battle tank war games on the computer.
The realization of GPS fleet management became possible because computerization is now affordable and more powerful. The system is a very clear example of using advanced technology to achieve both economic and environmental benefits. Because the military was mentioned in this article, acknowledgment should be given to them for they made GPS technology possible.