What is real time vehicle tracking?
Real-time vehicle tracking means that data collected by the GPS tracker in a vehicle is transmitted so that it can be viewed in real time, or live. They are also known as active tracking devices, as opposed to passive trackers which store their data internally to be retrieved at a later time by connecting the device to a computer.
How does GPS vehicle tracking work?
In their simplest form, GPS tracking devices are known a passive GPS trackers. These trackers use GPS receivers to calculate their position on the globe using the satellite-based GPS (Global Positioning System). They then record this information on an SD card or on internal storage, together with a timestamp. In order to access the data, the device needs to be recovered from vehicle and connected to a computer to download and view the data.
Real-time trackers or active GPS trackers differ from passive ones in that they can connect to the mobile data network (via GPRS) and upload their data to a web server. The GPRS network is the same used for 2G and 3G mobile data communications. This data can then be viewed by the dispatcher or fleet manager via logging in to a web interface or mobile app.
Subscription fees and Data Fees
If you have purchased a passive tracker, you can use it without any additional charges, but real time trackers will always incur some kind of subscription or data usage fee. Beware of deals that claim to have no monthly fee. Real time vehicle tracking devices use the mobile GPRS network in much the same way that mobile phones do – so a SIM card and an agreement with a mobile network provider is needed for each device.
Network changes are based both on the amount of data transmitted and the frequency of the connections. Some vehicle tracking solutions will update as often as once every 10 seconds, while others update data once few minutes, or even once an hour. The update frequency will have a bearing on the subscription and data costs, but more frequent data updated will give you more accurate data.
There will also be a subscription fee from the vehicle tracking service provider, who are providing the server space that the data is stored on, and also the software used to report on that data.
The total cost of a vehicle tracking device package will include the cost of each device plus installation, and an ongoing subscription charge per device, and a service charge for the server space and the software.
The main business advantages of real-time tracking systems are highlighted below.
Peace of mind of knowing the exact location of your vehicles at any one time
Follow the progress of your vehicles journey from the moment they hit the road.
Inform customers in advance of potential delays
Give your customers accurate estimated times of arrival
Verify overtime claims
Automatic timesheet reporting.
Report of engine idle times
Alerts and reports of instances of speeding
Breadcrumb trail of routes taken
Detailed and verifiable data to help resolve disputes
Accurate mileage recording for billing
Help to demonstrate that duty of care obligations for your workforce are fulfilled
Cut fuel bills and maintenance costs through encouraging efficient driving practices
Speed up emergency maintenance or recovery time during break-downs/accidents.
Historical data recording
Lower insurance premiums
More efficient route planning
Is it worth the investment?
Most real-time GPS vehicle tracking system providers offer the option to lease the devices, and many providers will offer to install the devices in your fleet free of charge as part of the leasing contract.
As a result, many business fleet operators are operating tracking systems that cost them as little as 30p per vehicle per day. Most companies see a return on investment within the first few months of using the devices – many citing lower fuel costs as a major factor.
These vehicle systems can help lower maintenance cost and identify inefficient driver behaviour such as speeding, which can be addressed through driver training.
Which real-time GPS tracking system is right for you?
The only sure-fire way to answer this question is to spend some time researching the market and offerings from various suppliers; you will soon discover the system that will suit your business needs the most.
Start by creating a list of the features that will be most useful to your business, and then get quotes from as many suppliers as possible that offer those features. As a rule of thumb, most suppliers will offer a basic package that is more or less the same across the board – the differences tend to occur in their premium services.
Many contracts might be scalable, such that you could increase or decrease the frequency and vehicle tracking accuracy of data transmissions without any need to install different hardware. It might be possible to test the water with a cheaper plan at first, upgrading to a higher accuracy plan at a later date if needs be.
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