Vehicle management using GPS … my experience so far.

I have recently added vehicle management to my own car! and let me tell you about it … it is an interesting experience but the system has some way to go before it is truly useful.

I was investigating representing a new fleet management service from mainland Spain in the Canary Islands. The islands are a strange place for fleet management services and I knew the market would be difficult. The territory is obviously fractured and the islands are not very big so most commercial vehicles have a relatively small area of operations compared to mainland based vehicles.

On the other hand the Canary Islands have excellent mobile phone coverage (fundamental for fleet management) which extends into the ocean surrounding the islands so that both land based and water based vehicles could use such a system, and given the number of vehicles of both kinds a fleet service can start to make sense.

The installation in my 1978 Triumph Spitfire was relatively simple. The approved installer found a suitable connection point by splicing the cable from one of the dashboard illumination lights and we stuck the two antennas (GPS and GSM) on the dahsboard where they are hardly noticeable. The device is not very large and we stuck it out of view inside the car close to the passenger side.

These are the kinds of information you can pull up from the fleet management system online; positions over digital maps and detailed reports of vehicle movements (right-click to view larger image):

Position of a vehicle Vehicle navigation report

My conclusions so far are positive but there are significant posible improvements:

  1. 1 minute position updates are not enough for the islands where the roads are very winding so it should be possible to select the time between updates. Some of my trips do not make any sense because the 1 minute update times skip many turns, exits, etc.
  2. The response is too slow, for some reason this version of the on-line system is too slow and this discourages its use! I am not sure if the problem are the service provider resources (PC, connection speed, etc), or the number of users, or the application speed.
  3. It needs to be possible to stop the display of positions in the online application, and thus to save those “messages” from the mobile device for later. If an authorised users decides to not track a vehicle for certain periods (like outside working hours) it should be possible to do so and to save the contracted messages as a result.

I would suggest that there should be a way to select the update time at least down to 30 sec. Since there are a limited number of positioning messages agreed per month between customer and provider then if the messages run out so be it … Of course this means that the customer should be able to save messages so that the device can be set to record positions more often as the customer needs. It is not the same driving to germany on the highways than driving in the mountains in Gran Canaria! and the level of detail needed here is much higher.

Those are my thoughs for now, the system continues to work fine and i am generally happy but unfortunately there have been no takers yet!

Happy positioning!
Ignacio Romero

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