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AVLNEEDS - the real requirements for gps tracking

Updated 0830 Tuesday 11th July 2006

Robin Hi ! I've put up this "AVLNEEDS" page to provide you with some "food for thought" based on the many enquiries I've had related to GPS tracking over more than 10 years. It's important to select the right solution to meet the real requirement.

I've seen too many examples to count of new business ventures adopting a solution which seemed "a good idea at the time". It's important to see things from the customer's point of view. i.e. why does he want a GPS tracking solution ? what does he hope it to do for him ? how much might he pay - including operating cost ? Don't confuse user requirements from technical requirements.

In my experience the vast majority (95% or more) of customers want a solution that will answer their question, "where has that vehicle been - every minute of the day, every day ?". Also, they will occasionally want to ask, "where is the vehicle now ?".

BBCTV Centre GPSS has been used like this and in many other types of system: like taxi or minibus systems, where the requirement might be expressed better as, "where are they all now ? - every minute".

Other requirements might be for security or anti-theft. e.g. "tell me if it is broken into, then keep me updated minute-by-minute on where it is". The user might not be sitting in an office using a desktop PC: he might be armed only with a smart mobile 'phone, or in his own vehicle equipped with a Laptop or Car-PC - maybe even giving "chase" to a target vehicle - maybe from in front :-)

But let us return to the 95% case: Why does this type of customer want the system ? The most typical customer has one or more business vehicles, such as vans or trucks, and wants to ensure that they are used efficiently and with honesty - more about that subject soon ;-) The customer might be a transport company who has just signed a contract with a new client - maybe to deliver their products in a particular region of the country. He must put 20 vehicles and drivers onto the job immediately, to ensure they do not "let the customer down". However, he knows that by monitoring vehicle movements in detail, the work can be reallocated between vehicles in the weeks ahead, resulting in fewer being needed for this particular contract. Another common motive is to verify the honesty of the driver - particularly if he is suspected of "working numbers" on his employer. "Fleet Management" is a term often used for this type of solution. Note that the driver may not know he is being tracked.

GPS/GSM AVL hardware The lowest cost solution for these common requirements is probably a small piece of hardware hidden in the vehicle which stores the GPS data continuously. i.e. a "GPS logger". The easiest way to retrieve the data into a PC running GPSS in the office is probably to use the mobile 'phone network. The same hardware product will usually support several modes of use, including simple "dial-up" operation, to collect stored data and see where the vehicle is now, and other modes, such as regular SMS message reporting. The STEPP unit on the right is from our AVL page.

One of the most common mistakes I've seen is people, usually new to the remote tracking market, assuming that the best solution will involve an automatically updated map page on a web site. There are certainly some situations where such an approach makes sense - such as providing thousands or even millions of people this information. e.g. "where are the boats in that trans-Atlantic yacht race now ?". If you want to see a really strange example of web page based tracking, checkout the bottle tracking page. final bottle In my opinion, the main reason that people consider this approach is that they did not know of the alternatives. e.g. installing the software and maps on the customer's PC and letting him communicate directly with the remote hardware. This will often result in reduced operating costs - both for the user and the solution provider. Many customers may prefer not to have others providing him a service: the information displayed could be sensitive, and the customer may prefer to be completely self-sufficient.

GPSS chase near GG bridge Here are a few examples of real requirements matched to technical solutions:

- but there are countless other specialist applications, including where the object tracked is not a vehicle, but something more difficult such as a person, animal or bird.

Here are some links to related pages:

Direction Finding For the main page covering GPSS remote tracking, see the AVL/Chase page.
For GPSS based tracking from a smartphone see the GPSS on Pocket PC page.
For ORBCOMM Low Orbit Satellite communications, see the ORBCOMM page.
For Inmarsat-C satellite communications, see the INMARSAT page.
For Thuraya satellite communications, see the THURAYA page.
For use of other radio communications, see the RADIO page.
For phone-to-phone tracking, see the Where R U page.
For use of GPSS with GSM SMS, see the SMS Page
For tracking based on GPS and RDF, see the Radio Direction Finding page :-)
For a strange example of web based tracking, see the Bottle Story page :-)

As I said at the begining, this "AVLNEEDS" page is simply "food for thought".