GPS fleet management is the product of three useful technologies. Global Positioning System, computerization, and cellular communication are by themselves independent technologies that have many uses. But when these technologies are integrated, a new product is created. This technology enables the real time monitoring of the location of assets. Fleet management refers to the fact that there are a lot of these assets that could be delivery trucks, taxis, buses, and military vehicles. The purpose of managing the fleet is to realize business expectations in an efficient manner.
At the heart of the system is the GPS unit. It is essentially a radio receiver that contains a microprocessor or a computer chip. Orbiting the earth is the GPS satellite constellation. These satellites are constantly transmitting their positions. The GPS is able to fix its position when four GPS satellites are in view. After getting a fix, the position of the GPS unit and the vehicle that is carrying it can be computed to an accuracy of 10 meters or even less.
The location of the moving asset that contains the GPS unit is transmitted to whoever is managing the vehicles using cellular communication. Older systems use SMS. Newer management systems utilize wireless internet via GPRS or 3G.
The manager uses a base station that is essentially a computer running mapping software. The base station constantly receives updates of asset location and shows where they are on the map. A typical map would show streets, building footprints and other information important to the business.
One important distinction of this management application over GPS tracking is the presence of additional sensors. For example, delivery trucks have sensors that reports every time the cargo door is opened. The trucks can also be equipped with RFID sensors. It enables management to monitor in real time when and where a piece of cargo was delivered. Another example is a sensor on a bus able to report the event of stopping in a bus station and how long a trip is between stations. The real time aspect of knowing where and what time an important event took place is the essence of GPS fleet management.
Feeding of real time information to the base computer has the potential of being able to perform immediate optimization of vehicle routing. There are already benefits realized by the system. One of them is savings in fuel because routing occurs on the shortest path. Of course when fuel is saved it also means less emissions dumped into the air.
The military understands the value of the management application. The commander knows where his forces are located all the time. If he has access to real time intelligence, he uses this knowledge to direct his forces to achieve the military target with the least cost.
The realization of GPS fleet management became possible because computerization is now affordable and more powerful. The system is a very clear example of using advanced technology to achieve both economic and environmental benefits. Because the military was mentioned in this article, acknowledgment should be given to them for they made GPS technology possible.
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