GPS Tracking Device (UPDATED JUNE 2022)
There are many types of GPS tracking device. Here we focus on their use in vehicles and industrial equipment.
GPS Tracking Device for Vehicles
Tracking devices are useful and inexpensive tools that help protect your vehicle. But buying these devices can be a daunting process. There are many models at different price points and with different features. If you want to know the location of your vehicle, a basic unit is enough. People use these devices to locate their vehicle in case of theft. For many people this is the primary reason to buy a GPS tracking device. It means they can track their vehicle if it’s stolen. They can alert the police when it leaves a geofenced area. Then, they can track its location until recovery. Some advanced devices even include an immobilisation function.
Telematics Australia are here to help you find the right device. We explain the features and benefits, the costs and the installation process.
Features to Consider
Real Time Tracking
This is the primary reason most people use a GPS tracking device. You can track the vehicle if it’s stolen, towed, or even in use by someone else who has a key. The GPS determines the vehicle location. The device updates you with its location through the internet. This is then displayed on a website or phone app. You can see the vehicle location, and speed. Many systems also show the current status of the vehicle. For example, parked, idling, or whatever. The same map can show the location of multiple vehicles. Some systems enable you to choose which map you would like to use. Options may include Google Maps, Google Earth, Open Street Maps (OSM) and others. Many devices can integrate with third party Fleet Management Systems.
Locate On Demand
Real time tracking is when the device sends its location every 10 seconds to two minutes or so. On demand tracking systems only send their location on request. They have less functionality, but still enable you to locate your vehicles at any time.
Most vehicle tracking devices have several software interfaces. You use these interfaces to track your vehicle and browse its history. You can also disable the vehicle, set geofences, and so on.
The vendor will usually provide –
- A webpage for your vehicle. This displays all the information relevant to your vehicle ,including the vehicle history.
- An app for iPhone and/or Android so you can manage your vehicle from your phone. This means you can see the location of your vehicles using a phone app. Handy for when you’re out and about. Also, the driver can use the app to receive alerts on their phone. For example, to locate the vehicle, or disable it in an emergency.
Vehicle location history is stored in a database for use as necessary. For example, you may want to see where a particular vehicle was at a certain time, or what speed it was doing. You can see the entire history of a vehicle on a map. Other information is also stored. For example, distance travelled, average speed, fuel consumption, and so on. The vehicle history can also be useful for log book purposes. You can see the distance driven by day, week, month, and other relevant information.
Alerts and Notifications
Many GPS trackers designed for vehicles usually include alerts. Drivers receive these alerts through their phone app. They are also displayed on the web interface. Some systems also support SMS or email alerts. Examples of real-time alerts include speeding, excessive idling, and possible theft. Some devices also include configurable alerts, such as when maintenance is due.
Geofencing is a special kind of alert triggered by vehicle location. To make it work, you predefine areas on the map. For example, a radius around a specific point, or an area marked on the map. The device alerts you whenever the vehicle crosses these predefined boundaries. Some geofencing systems include timing information. In this way the geofence is only active at certain times of day. Geofences are a good way for companies to control expensive unauthorised vehicle use. Vehicle owners can also use this to ensure vehicle security.
Reports and Dashboards
Most systems include reports and dashboards. These are especially useful for managing large numbers of mobile assets. They help you analyze historical information and use it to help future profitability. Some systems also support downloading data. You can manipulate this data to create reports that meet your own unique needs.
The most basic devices include hardware, a website to view vehicle location, and a phone app. This is adequate for tracking a single vehicle, but it’s not enough for managing fleets. Advanced systems include proper user management. This means you can create groups of users, and each group can have different access. This enables managers to see all vehicles under their control. Individual drivers may only be able to see their own vehicle. Authorised users can see the historical activity of the entire fleet.
Ease of Installation
You mount the simplest devices on the vehicle dashboard. From there they are normally powered from the cigarette lighter socket. You mount more sophisticated systems under the dashboard. Power comes from from the OBD-II port. This port provides power, and vehicle information such as the status of the engine (running or not). When you install the device under the dashboard you may need to install a separate GPS receiver. This normally goes in the corner of the windshield to ensure a strong GPS signal. We recommend buyers consider the ease of installation when choosing a tracking device. It’s especially important for fleet systems. In this scenario, moving units between vehicles is common.
Plug and Play vs Hardwired GPS Tracking Device
Almost every vehicle has an OBD-II port located under the dashboard. The main use of this is for vehicle diagnostics. This port can also provide power to tracking devices. To install the device, you power off the vehicle, plug in the device, and start the vehicle again. Within a couple of minutes it will be sending the vehicle’s live location. One benefit of this type of device is easy installation. It is easily removed for use in another vehicle, and can also receive engine diagnostics.
Plug and Play type vehicle tracking devices are quite easy to find and remove. A professional thief can locate the OBD-II port, unplug, and remove the unit. Also, it it is an enclosed box, so you are unable to connect more monitoring devices.
Hardwired: You wire these devices into the vehicle like a stereo system. They are much more difficult for a thief to find and remove. These hardwired devices need a three-wire connection including ground, power and ignition. You mount the device out of sight, under the bonnet, in interior panels, or under the dash on the driver side. Hardwired vehicle tracking devices tend to be more more and have more features. For example, you can connect some to a wiring harness and record extra inputs.
It takes 30-40 minutes to install a hardwired unit. It is not easy to move this type of device between vehicles, and requires vehicle downtime when you move it.
Some tracking devices enable remote disabling of the vehicle via a phone app. For example, you can connect the device to the fuel pump. The vehicle owner can then use the phone app to disable the vehicle. This function to prevent theft, or stop the vehicle from starting after it’s stolen or moved. It is a great security feature when you leave your vehicle unattended for an extended period. All you need to do is touch a button on your phone app, and no one can start the car until you enable it again.
Vehicle Alarm Connection
Many car owners rely on an alarm system to protect their car. These systems alert car owners who are close to their vehicle. But how about when you are far away from your vehicle? You cannot to hear the alarm. In cases like this, vehicle tracking devices can help locate the vehicle when it is moved. In some cases you can connect the device to the car alarm. When something triggers the alarm, the unit messages your phone. This means you can respond quickly.
Benefits of a GPS Tracking Device for Vehicles
Recover your Vehicle after Theft
Here are some statistics to consider –
- Three in four vehicles stolen are taken from the garage or the street outside
- 9,800 vehicles “vanished’ in 2019. This is an indicator of organised crime turning vehicles into cash
- 48,839 passenger or light commercial vehicles were stolen in 2018/9, an increase of 4% over the previous year
- 9,261 motorcycles were stolen in 2018/9, an increase of 9% over the previous year
- 48,839 passenger or light commercial vehicles were stolen in 2018/9, an increase of 4% over the previous year
- 2,193 heavy vehicles were stolen in 2018/9, an increase of 5% over the previous year
- Of the 48,839 passenger or light commercial vehicles stolen, 24% were less than six years old. 22 % were six to ten years old, and 53% were more than 10 years old
- 85% of passenger or light vehicles stolen were fitted with an immobiliser
- 18% of motorbikes stolen were unregistered or offroad bikes
Reduce Insurance Costs
A tracking device improves the chances of recovering a stolen vehicles. Most insurance companies will reduce your premium if you fit a tracking device. If you have one, you should contact your insurance company, and others, to see if you can get a better deal from any of them. You may be able to save hundreds of dollars per year in premiums. In the case of very expensive vehicles, the insurance savings in the first year may pay for your new device.
Monitor Driver Behaviour
Some models include an option to replay the entire trip. Trackable behaviour includes speeding, harsh braking, harsh acceleration and cornering, and so on. So, for example, you can see when a vehicle was speeding, or if a parking ticket was justified. In one case, driver monitoring reduced speeding by 97%. Fuel economy improved too.
This information is also useful if the vehicle is stolen. If the thief disables the device, at least you can see the route the vehicle has taken.
ISO Standard for Asset Tracking
Many vehicle or equipment suppliers include a GPS tracking device with the sale. These devices usually follow the ISO standard for asset tracking. This is ISO/TS 15143-3:2020 for data transfer from equipment to telematics provider. Standards Australia have published it here.
The Association of Equipment Management Professionals. (a US industry body) developed this standard. Komatsu, John Deere, Volvo, and Caterpillar all follow the standard, as do many others. Users of equipment from these suppliers can view their equipment in the same system. For example, in the same telematics system, or the same fleet management system.
The standard is XML-based. It includes data points such as current location, cumulative operating hours, distance traveled. It also includes fuel consumption. The asset tracker collects the data from the equipment. It sends the data via the phone network, to the supplier’s servers. The supplier’s servers convert the data to the standard format. They then forward it to to the customer’s fleet management system. Fleet managers can compare data from many equipment vendors. It makes it easy for fleet managers to run mixed fleets.
Limitations of the ISO Standard
The standard includes current location, cumulative operating hours, distance traveled, and fuel consumption. But some fleet managers need extra information. For example, run time, fuel consumption, temperatures and pressures, and fault codes. This information isn’t available via the ISO standard system. , hence the need to consider accessing data via the vehicles’ CANbus systems.
Equipment Data from CANbus System
CANbus is a standard used in vehicles for communication between microprocessors. These microprocessors operate various systems. For example, the engine control unit, the airbags, the brake systems and so on. Information within the CANbus system includes error codes, equipment status, and fuel consumption. It can also record engine RPM, odometer reading, engine temperatures and others. Many of these are not included in the ISO standard. Fleet managers use CANbus monitoring devices to access this information in real time. They get this data via the vehicles’ ODB-II port. They send the data, together with the vehicle location to a fleet management system.
Vehicle tracking devices typically cost between $100-$500. On top of this, there is often a monthly cost of around $20-$30. Some suppliers require you to sign up for a minimum period, and others are pay as you go. As with anything, the more you pay, the more you get.
Fleet Management Systems for Commercial Fleets
There are two main buyer types for vehicle tracking devices. Private owners install the device in their own vehicles. Fleet owners install them in large numbers of commercial vehicles.
Fleet owners have far more complex requirements than private owners. They usually need a comprehensive fleet management system. These systems include the vehicle tracking devices, but also have advanced functionality. They include advanced software to help with business requirements. These include fuel tax credits, fringe benefits tax, and other features. These systems help with efficiency, safety, labour saving and fuel saving.
Typical functions include –
- Route Optimisation
- Intelligent Access Program
- Chain of Responsibility
- Pre Start Checklist
- Electronic Work Diary
- Electronic Logbook
- Driver Coaching
- Crash Detection
- Mobile Workforce Management
Benefits of Fleet Management Systems include –
- Fuel tax credits optimisation
- Improved safety
- Reduced maintenance costs
- Increased return on assets
- Reduction in unauthorised use of vehicles
- Improved productivity
- Reduction in fuel costs
- Improved customer service
- Reduction in administrative costs
GPS Tracking Device for Industrial Equipment
What is Asset Tracking?
Asset tracking is the tracking of high value equipment. Asset tracking is often used by industries that have expensive and dispersed assets. Examples include logistics, farming, vehicle rent/lease, oil and gas, and mining.
Tracking devices are installed in equipment such as generators, pumps, and trailers. Power comes from the equipment’s power source, or by internal battery. The devices send their location through the mobile or satellite phone network.
The tracking devices provide accurate and timely information about equipment location and utilisation. Equipment owners can then better deploy assets. They can also identify under utilised assets, and move them to where they can be better used. Asset Tracking devices can also help improve maintenance processes. They can report equipment mechanical health, status (e.g. engine hours), and location. This ensures the equipment can be found for on-schedule maintenance.
Before asset tracking systems, equipment owners relied on paper based processes. Workers in the field recorded asset location and utilisation information. By the time it was available in head office it was usually out of date. Modern asset tracking devices send this information remotely and automatically. This leads to better management decisions, and better return on assets.
Benefits of a GPS Tracking Device for Industrial Equipment
- Real time GPS asset tracking with geofencing and instant notification is very powerful. It enables asset owners to notify police immediately in the case of theft. It also enable asset return in the case of unintended equipment movement. This results in better profitability and return on assets
- Location tracking help reduce equipment hoarding. This leads to lower total inventory levels and improved return on assets
- Since assets are easy to locate, staff can find them when needed. This results in better asset utilisation and return on assets
- Under utilised assets are easily identified and disposed of. Again leading to better return on assets
- Tracking asset usage by equipment type improves project costing accuracy. This results in improved bidding and profitability.
- CanBUS devices can track equipment usage via metrics such as engine hours. This means asset owners can arrange on-time preventive maintenance. This improves asset reliability and extends asset life.
- CanBUS devices can also track equipment status. This results in timely corrective maintenance and improved equipment uptime.
- Fuel usage tracking provides fuel use totals in various categories. These totals are useful for maximising fuel tax credit claims. This increases company profitability
BY MATTHEW PEARSON - VEHICLE TRACKING DEVICES EXPERT
LAST UPDATED 21 JUNE 2022
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