The advent of commercially available GPS devices has revolutionised how the general public navigates around the country. In-car satellite navigation systems have almost replaced the paper map (now that the directions given are considerably more accurate than the early models, that is!) and the use of GPS systems for commercial vehicles has changed the way fleet management works.
Optimum routes can be programmed into a vehicle tracking system at the beginning of the working day, leaving the driver to concentrate on operating the vehicle rather than trying to find locations on a map. However, vehicle tracking systems are expensive to install and there are a couple of free versions available on the Internet, but do they have a practical application in a commercial environment?
Google and Locatea.net have introduced free GPS tracking systems. Google’s ‘Latitude’ is a free access system that shows people using the software their location to within a few metres anywhere on the planet, as well as the location of any friends and family who are also signed up to the system. Latitude is an extension of the immensely successful ‘Google Earth’ application and is a fun way of keeping in touch with friends and family across the globe. However, it does not really have a practical business application as the data supplied is limited only to location.
Locatea.net is similar to Latitude, giving locations of everyone who signs up to the system but again doesn’t really have a practical business application. The other major drawback of the free systems is that they are voluntary systems, making it very easy to exclude yourself from the system should you wish to. They are more useful as a fun aspect to social networking – probably more applicable to people using Facebook and MySpace rather than as a business tool for fleet management.
Paid vehicle tracking systems are far more practical for business applications and completely different to free packages. Vehicle tracking is specifically designed to allow fleet managers to manage and control fleets of vehicles and is a tailor-made solution that provides far more accurate information than a free system. A paid system also produces additional information that can be invaluable to the efficiency of the fleet and cut costs. GPS tracking enables the rapid recovery of stolen vehicles, particularly if the system incorporates a silent alarm that connects directly to the central police database. It can also tell fleet managers about unofficial ‘out of hours’ use of vehicles, give ‘Overspeeding’ reports and maximise route efficiency. All of these can help in maintaining a level of fleet management that ensures the safety of vehicles, drivers and the general public and reduce the amount of excess fuel consumption caused by speeding.
Vehicle tracking systems are also covered by after-care contracts and systems support. The system’s software can be updated regularly by the provider and both hardware and software is covered by a warranty, keeping the system operating smoothly and reducing running costs. With free systems updates are more ‘generic’ and less frequent. Although mapping software may be regularly updated on free systems, they lack the other additional features that are more orientated towards business users and are therefore of little practical use in a daily business context.
For businesses, paid GPS tracking systems are an asset that can save the company money and ensure that reckless or speeding drivers do not tarnish the reputation of the organisation. A tailor-made system that is specifically designed to meet your business requirements is a worthwhile investment and far more effective and practical than a free GPS tracking system.