Which GPS device is right for your company?
The following document was designed to help you select which GPS product is right for you. Please review this document carefully and feel free to call with any questions. Babaco sells GPS products to cover a wide range of assets and budgets.
To communicate or not to communicate
Real-time – Real-time devices send location data to the server at predefined intervals and when specific events take place like a vehicle being turned on or off.
On Demand – These devices can communicate, however, they are sold with rate plans designed to let you pay once for a predefined number of locates. While you can find out the exact location of an asset in real-time, you will have to request the data using the website.
Data Logging – Data logging devices can collect and store a lot of data. Where a real-time device might only collect data every couple of minutes, data logging devices usually collect data every few seconds. These devices must be placed with the asset and then retrieved when you want to review where the asset has been. These devices typically plug into your USB port and use Google earth or other mapping programs to display the data. These devices record, location and time, speed, temperature and can differentiate between moving and stopping.
Satellite vs Terrestrial – GPS is really the wrong acronym. These systems are really automated asset locations systems. GPS only tells half the story. While GPS can locate a vehicle, an automated asset location system can transmit those locations back to a central location to be viewed by management or whoever is tracking the asset. Satellite communication tends to cover a larger portion of the world and is not dependant on cell towers or roaming agreements between carriers. Problem is that Satellite based systems have always been very expensive and the cost has tended to significantly reduce the amount of data that can be sent. Many satellite systems will only transmit data once an hour or even once a day in some cases to keep costs reasonable. Terrestrial systems on the other hand cost less to operate but they are dependent on cell towers to communicate and might cause data to be sent on a delayed basis. Data is typically not lost but stored until a network connection can be established. This tends to be less problematic for vehicles or assets that move as terrestrial coverage has improved significantly and a moving vehicle is apt to find a network often as it moves from place to place. If your asset tends to stop for long periods of time in rural areas, you might find that satellite tracking is a better option.
Can you see the sky?
Satellite Based – Most GPS devices require line of sight with the sky in order to function properly. Metallic objects cannot be placed between the GPS antenna and the sky. Glass, rubber and other non-metallic materials are ok within reason. This means that devices can be placed under dashboards so they can be hidden from drivers. Placing a GPS device under the dash can, however, impact the quality of the GPS readings.
Cellular Triangulation – After 911 all cell phones had to be traceable to a location. To do so, the phone companies came up with a somewhat accurate method of locating a phone based on signal strength using multiple cell towers. While this description oversimplifies how triangulation works, the important thing is that these devices can operate in places where other GPS devices cannot. Devices can be placed in side car trunks and can be placed in packages and then loaded in trailers. The cost to operate these devices is typically higher and the hardware more costly. Accuracy is not perfect, but it is good enough. These devices tend to be used in situations where asset recovery is crucial.
To install or not to install?
Out of Box – Some GPS devices can be used right out of the box. These devices have their own power supply and are typically used to locate things like packages and people. The problem with these devices is that they tend to be inaccurate and it is very easy for the results to be compromised by the employee.
Vehicle OBD Port – OBD based devices require no wiring and can easily be moved from vehicle to vehicle by simply plugging them into the vehicle On Board Diagnostic port. The major problem with OBD based devices is that a device that is easy to install is also easy to uninstall which means that an employee that does not want to be located can remove the device and replace it in most cases without detection. These devices tend to work better when the driver is not aware they are in use.
Installed – Installing a GPS device is the best way to get reliable accurate data. In many cases like with the DOT, devices must be hardwired or the data is not accepted. The major issues with installing GPS devices in vehicles is finding a good location to place the unit and making it as tamper proof as possible. Stay away from devices with external antennas, antennas that can be unplugged or unscrewed, wiring harnesses that can be unplugged and especially stay away from devices that allow you to remove the SIM card as removing the SIM card will cause the device not to operate and SIM cards can be used in a cell phones for data which could cause you to incur significant fees. When installing devices, also stay away from installers that use the fuse box as a source of power. These installs are the easiest to tamper with and tamper detection is difficult. All wires should be spliced into the harness and all splices should be zip tided and sealed.
Sensors – many devices will allow you to detect when an electrical state has changed. These sensor inputs allow you to detect things like doors opening and closing or motors being turned on or off. Sensors can be used very effectively to customize a solution to a specific industry. Tow trucks will use sensors to detect if the driver is operating the lift, taxi companies might use sensors to determine the status of passenger doors and sensors can even be used to send alerts when alarms are triggered and a theft is in progress.
Digital – Many devices can exchange data. GPS devices can be used to send temperature, routes, messages. Always pick a device that has many upgrade options as your needs might change and it is expensive to have to repurchase your GPS hardware because you need a new feature or two.
Monthly Fees – Any system that communicates on a real-time basis will have monthly fees. These fees cover network fees, access to the software, mapping fees and are usually based on how often the device communicates on a scheduled basis. Stay away from system where the price is not fixed. These systems can get very costly and place a lot of responsibility on the user. Additional fees may apply when adding sensors or terminals. Contracts are usually from 1-3 years and may have heavy termination penalties.
On Demand – Several products are sold as bundled solutions. This means you buy the hardware and then there is a limitation on how often you can use it before you are charged additional fees. These products are perfect for companies that do not require a history of where an asset has been and only need to know on occasion where a vehicle is currently located.
One-Time – These products log data and require not additional fees to operate. RFID falls into this category as well. Cheap tags can be placed on assets and readers can be placed at strategic points. RFID used in this fashion would detect every time an asset entered or exited a facility through a gate as an example.