Vehicle Tracking Devices Always visible, always reliable

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Have you ever experienced the fear of getting lost in an unknown location because you didn’t know the way and it took you hours to find it due to shoddy di­rections given by route-ignorant pas­sersby? Ever waited impatiently for a courier to arrive, wondering exactly why it is taking so long to reach? 

Now, with the help of vehicle tracking or global positioning sys­tem (GPS) devices, you don’t have to rely on guesswork anymore. You will not get lost ever again or wonder anxiously about the whereabouts of your cargoes, logistics or couriers. No longer do you have to worry when or whether your goods will reach their assigned destination as you can now monitor them throughout their jour­ney. Most importantly, you can ensure wants to track it. the security of your belongings with It is an important device for those these innovative tracking tools.

By Saurabh Sharma

Saturday, September 19, 2009: What exactly is it?

A vehicle tracking system is an electronic device installed in a vehicle to enable the proprietor or a third party to track the vehicle’s location. This device has a built-in sender and receiver, which receives a constant signal from the service provider and, in turn, transmits a signal relating its current location to the person who wants to track it.

It is an important device for those in the logistics vertical, ensuring safety of their goods as the personnel assigned to convey them cannot deviate from the fixed route. Nor can they stop somewhere for too long a period without the knowledge of the trackers. The device is also equipped with a feature wherein the vehicle can be immobilised by the tracker if he feels it is going in the wrong direction. Furthermore, GPS devices provide speed alerts, minimise com munication costs and control fuel consumption. They also provide route deviation alerts, mileage tracking, real time road information, etc.

Delight of the device

The transport department plans to introduce GPS-fitted meters in au­torickshaws to avoid overcharging of customers by the drivers. Transport commissioner, R K Verma, says, “GPS­fitted meters will work by feeding in the starting point and the destina­tion. Once that is done, no matter which route the auto driver takes, it will only display the fare that would have been recorded for the shortest route between the two places. These devices will be controlled from a central control room.” The depart­ment has already commenced the process of incorporating GPS in all DTC buses and plans to finish instal­lation by 2012.

Most logistics and courier serv­ices enterprises have installed these devices as they help them in meeting customers’ needs. But the first ques­tion one may ask before making any major investment in such a product is, “Am I getting a good ROI?” The answer is yes. Om Logistics, a major logistics company, which has been using GPS devices since the last four years, has saved a considerable amount of money and time with the help of these gadgets.

“GPS devices have brought our costs down as we no longer have to constantly call our drivers to inform the clients about their whereabouts. Now, clients can themselves track their logistics online,” remarks S K Goel, vice president, Om Logistics. The company is currently using more than 1,000 GPS devices and is con­sidering to increase this number to match the size of its orders—10,000 consignments per day.

All major cab fleets operating in tier I and tier II cities have already assimilated GPS devices (imported from Singapore) in their vehicles. Meru Cabs has more than 3,400 cabs and a corresponding number of GPS devices. “These devices help in finding the precise location of the cab so when a customer calls in, the cab present in the nearest location is sent to him. This saves costs for the subscriber (the cab driver),” explains Nilesh Sangoi, chief technology of­ficer, Meru Cabs. At Meru, drivers pay an amount of money to the company (Rs 750) on a daily basis, in return for which, they may drive the cab and earn as much money as they can in a day. The tracking mechanism enables the company to locate drivers and redirect them to customers in their proximity range, reducing the cost for them as they do not have to move from one destination to another in a vacant cab for long, which leads to less consumption of fuel.

The other important advantage that these devices offer is transparency. Now, logistics companies do not have to fret about customer complaints as the latter are already aware of the exact location of their consignments. The driver cannot take undue advantage by making unnecessary stoppages. If, for some reason, the driver happens to get stuck somewhere, the customer will get to know about it as well and, hence, will not panic. Fewer calls to the company (from worried custom­ers) mean increased productivity as its manpower can then focus on in­creasing output instead of attending to anxious customers. In the case of cabs, these devices also provide safety and a sense of security to passengers as they know that the operating company is monitoring every metre travelled. Fur­thermore, drivers cannot overcharge clients as tamper proof digital meters are also attached to the GPS device.

Goel comments, “India has an enormous market for GPS devices. All that is required to enhance this market are quality products, awareness of the device’s benefits and strong backend support.”

Supply and demand

All these attributes clearly proclaim that the market for GPS devices has a promising future in the India. The GPS market is likely to record a market share of $35 million by 2009 end in the country. According to Sridharan Mani, director and CEO of American Meg­atrends India Pvt Ltd (AMI), “Logistic companies and BPOs will display the maximum demand for GPS devices.” The arenas which demonstrate the need for these devices are private transport associations, city and state bus transportation services, radio taxis, courier services, car rentals, goods carriers, emergency services (fire brigade/police/ambulances), municipal corporations, oil, petrol, natural and gas companies, vehicles carrying explosives and educational institutions.

Despite the massive demand, however, the GPS market in India is presently at a nascent stage as there is a dearth of manufacturers. Even the buyers’ market has ample catching up to do. Most manufacturers have initiated customer education programmes to disseminate awareness about vehicle tracking devices. “With our customer awareness programme, we are teaching companies how they can increase their efficiency by deploying GPS devices,” divulges Manmohan Kumar, vice president, sales-market­ing, BioEnable Technologies Pvt Ltd, a manufacturer of GPS devices.

BUYING TIPS

  • Look for GSM frequency band or CDMA frequency band. The bigger the better
  • Go for active tracking
  • Seek inbuilt memory. A larger
  • memory means more logs can be stored
  • The device should be equipped with a vehicle immobiliser
  • Check battery life. It should be 6-8 hours
  • Check accuracy level. It should be within 15 metres or less

Over the next few years, the vehi­cle tracking market is set to expand at a faster pace as it is need driven. Customers are urging companies to install these devices so that they can track their consignments. In the case of cabs, these devices are a must for the security and safety of customers as well as for transparency in monetary transactions. Now that the govern­ment, too, has decided to install these devices in buses and autorickshaws, the market for GPS is bound to grow by leaps and bounds.

Buyers’ guide

How does one go about selecting a GPS device? There are many such devices available in India—both in­digenously manufactured as well as imported ones. However, interestingly, while in most other electronic devices, imported products stand for fierce competition, domestically produced GPS devices score over their foreign counterparts on vital parameters. Mani states, “The imported ones are of low quality and have limited features. The major competition we encounter is with respect to pricing.”

Solution providers of vehicle tracking devices offer the option of active and passive tracking. In active tracking, the device sends a continuous signal on real time basis, with the help of a cellular or satel­lite signal but in the case of passive tracking, the track can be only be downloaded once the vehicle has reached its destination. The former is more suitable for logistics companies whereas the latter is desirable for personal usage.

Om Logistics is also opting for India made devices after testing others and is more satisfied with the domestic produce. “We tried many devices but none were up to the mark. Now, we are using GPS devices from Transword, a Pune based company and are content with its products.” reveals Goel. “Indian products are robust and cheaper and more suitable for the Indian environ­ment/market. Imported ones are costlier and unnecessarily sophisti­cated,” opines Kumar.

Garmin and Visiontek are GPS manufacturers, with expertise in making fleet tracking devices and are providers of vehicle tracking solutions as well. GPS fleet tracking systems al­low companies to track the location of their vehicles on any computer. Vehicle tracking solutions provide enterprises with a tracking device that manages their GPS fleet and offers them real time tracking as well as automatic vehicle locating abilities.

The chief features that a cus­tomer should seek in a GPS device are accurate tracking information, fuel monitoring, geo-fencing, person­nel tracking ability, two-way com­munications, multiple inputs, output control, reporting formats and flexible monitoring of fleet movements. Other essential issues to consider are the life of the device and the end to end solutions on offer. Most companies in India extend full support, that is, both the hardware and the services (the device and the tracking service are offered as one package).

The device comes equipped with a built in battery and a sim card holder. It can have external or inbuilt antennae and can also have code division multiple access (CDMA) and quad-band global system for mobile communications (GSM) 850/900/1800/1900 MHz. The memory of the device should be sufficient to store all the logs of the vehicle’s movement. While purchas­ing the device, the buyer must confirm the service charges to avoid confusion later. The prices of these devices range from Rs 10,000-45,000. 

 Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine

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