GPS Tracker Comparison

GPS Tracker Comparison

Compare GPS Trackers
GPS Tracking System
Finding the right GPS tracker can mean thousands toward your ROI.

GPS Tracker Comparison

There are a wide variety of GPS trackers on the market today. Almost anything can be tracked but not everything can be tracked well. Understanding the basics of GPS tracking technology will help you make a quicker and better decision for your asset tracking needs. Being familiar with the industry terminology and technology will actually lead to an increased ROI. If you are looking for a fleet safety tool but realize you can also benefit from productivity data, you can find a GPS tracker that can help in both areas.

Let’s get started.

 

Vehicle v. Asset Tracking
 
Vehicle Trackers

Vehicle tracking provides a consistent and generally protected environment inside the vehicle. Devices don’t need to be IP67 rated like asset trackers which are more expensive. Vehicle GPS trackers typically use cellular communication due to a desire for more data, at a lower cost, because satellite coverage is not needed. Vehicle tracking services typically update every few seconds to no more than 2 minutes depending on the monthly cost. More data means a higher monthly cost.

Asset Trackers

Asset tracking can be done with satellite tracking systems or cellular GPS trackers depending on where the assets operate. Frac tanks used in the oil and gas industry generally use satellite trackers. Skid steers in urban construction almost always use cellular GPS trackers. Customers generally choose to receive more data at a lower cost; even if they cannot track an asset live 100% of the time. All GPS trackers have dead spots where they cannot communicate for some reason.

Backup Batteries

Backup batteries (BBs) are often requested and needed for unpowered assets. GPS devices require power from the asset or from a battery to operate. Assets, such as trailers, often sit without power for extended periods until connected to a tractor where power is restored. In these cases, a backup battery is needed. In vehicles, GPS devices receive constant power from the car battery.

In vehicle tracking, backup batteries are less important. BBs don’t enable the device to function as normal. BBs put the device in a reduced performance mode so the battery lasts longer. Customers often think BB will enable them to track the driver after they remove the GPS tracker as if it were still installed. BBs range from a CR2525 watch battery to lithium ion batteries. Vehicle trackers typically use small BBs which generally show you where the employee tossed the GPS unit out the window but not much more.

We sell all of the above options and have seen every scenario over the last 16+ years.

Tracking, Telematics, Diagnostics
Tracking

Vehicle location and speed data. Where an asset went, where it stopped and how long it was there.

Telematics

Data provided by the vehicles computer network and sensors (excluding engine data). This includes RPMs, accelerometer data for jack rabbit starts, harsh breaking, and reckless driving. It is the data used in accidents. Read more

Engine Diagnostics

Data transmitted by the engine through the OBD or J-Bus port generally consisting of fault codes and status data. There is a wide range of data available and GPS companies claim to offer these if they provide one data point out of several hundred. Ask good questions.

Installation & Tampering

 

There are essentially two types of installation used today; 3-wire and plug and play. The 3-wire installation is considered more reliable but it isn’t if the plug-and-play installation is done right with a Y-harness. View more on installations. 3-wire installations can be done on small to mid-size fleet trucks by most anyone that can install a car stereo. On bigger trucks and equipment it is best to use a trained installer or mechanic. Learning to install and troubleshoot the technology can save your operation a lot of time and money.

Tampering has been an issue for over 16 years. Tampering occurs with plug-and-plan (P&P) and 3-wire devices about equally. OBD devices that are installed without a Y-harness (moves GPS into the dash) are the most likely to be tampered with. Companies that sell devices requiring 3-wire installs will tell you OBD devices are always an issue. We sell both and the tamper rate is about the same. Tampering stops when you put your foot down. Read more about introducing GPS trackers to employees.

Equipment Considerations

 

Several equipment considerations such as backup batteries and communication networks are discussed in other areas of this blog. However, there are other things to consider in the physical design and construction of the GPS device itself.

First, all GPS trackers are not made equal. Significantly more engineering goes into some devices like the Geotab GO device. Other GPS units are almost “dumb” in comparison and everything else is in between. We sell them all so we are communicating facts as we know them, not opinions.

GPS devices vary in construction quality. Some have thinner plastics and others more robust internal components. A good GPS chip set means faster acquisition time from a cold start and more accurate coordinates in tough environmental conditions. Some devices do well in heat where others shut down in the Arizona sun. Ask for the technical specification sheet and the warranty on the device.

Warranty Considerations

If you think about GPS trackers like a cell phone you will be able to easily understand the general conditions. In short, most have a limited warranty period if you are not on a perpetual lease or rental. Second, if you break it you buy it. If it breaks, you keep paying for the service until fixed. If it fails due to manufacturing the device is replaced and you are responsible for the service cost to swap the unit.

Backup Battery Size and Type

Lithium ion batteries are the only real choice for a battery due to durability and long-life. The size of the battery in milliamps determines how long the battery will last based on the draw from the GPS unit when asleep and when it wakes to transmit without constant power. Since batteries don’t last forever be sure the device will use off the shelf batteries to keep your cost down. Having to special order custom batteries drives up the operational cost. If you can replace the batteries you will save big money on service work.

ELD & Dispatching
 
Electronic Logging Device (ELD for FMSCA compliance)

ELD is a big deal which is coming at certain industries fast and furious. Selecting the right GPS tracker means you will also get ELD options, if and when needed. Those fleets not yet AOBRD compliant by December 17 2019 will be in violation and taken out of service.

Read the full 126-page ruling here.

Dispatching

Dispatching is the process of sending stop or route data to a driver. Most ELD devices will offer some type of dispatching as an additional service. If you need both getting a GPS tracker that offers both will be significantly more convenient than two systems, which aren’t integrated, from two vendors.

Cellular v. Satellite

 

There are really two types of communication technology used for GPS trackers, satellite, and cellular. Don’t confuse GPS satellite with communication satellites. GPS satellites broadcast a radio wave like an FM radio station and you cannot “talk” back to it. Cellular and satellite communication generally talks 2-ways but satellites can be 1-way.

Most GPS trackers use cellular networks to move GPS and other data from the vehicle, to a cell tower, to a server, to the Internet. Because of the low cost, most fleet operators use cellular. Understanding the carrier used and the coverage footprint will enable you to know when you will receive “live” tracking data. Cellular is also more reliable because it can communicate with the towers more easily due to the radio frequency used.

Satellite communication is more of a specialty technology used when assets are operating in very remote areas where cellular service is not an option. Communication satellite signals do not penetrate objects such as trees or buildings and costs significantly more than cellular. Satellite systems also manage battery power differently which leads to less detailed track data.

Cellular networks generally use GSM or CDMA technology. Verizon and Sprint use CDMA and are generally being phased out and replaced by 4G or LTE service which also SIM cards. GSM is the international standard and is easily identified by a SIM card. SIM cards offer some flexibility but you cannot take a GPS device from one vendor and use it on another vendors website.

Log, Update & Refresh Rates

 

Understanding the relationship is important to sort out the information from various sales reps. Unfortunately, most sales reps in call centers don’t understand these concepts so you will have to prompt them to explain each in detail so you know what you are getting.

Log Rate

The frequency which the GPS tracker logs the position of the asset. This varies from a few seconds to once per day.

Update Rate

The rate at which the log data collected is transmitted to a cellular or satellite communication tower.

Refresh Rate

The rate at which the website refreshes and displays newly received log data.

Integration

 

Integration refers to the sharing or movement of data between applications, databases or services in order to increase the overall use and value of data already paid for. If you have a need to utilize the GPS tracker data in other areas you want to be sure the GPS vendor offers APIs. APIs are an industry standard method of moving data via the Internet in a secure manner. Read more

Selecting an Asset Tracker

Selecting an Asset Tracker

Selecting an Asset Tracker

Understanding the features, cost and communication method is essential to selecting an asset tracker. Asset trackers vary features and one key feature might dramatically improve your ROI. The first step to getting it right is to make a list of the features you must have and the features you would like to have. Find asset trackers that have the “must have” features and work from there. Getting everything in writing and demonstrated is also important. Your concept of a feature might very different from that of the sales rep.

 

Getting What You Need, Will Save You Money

There are several things to consider when investing in a GPS system to track assets. Thinking through these factors will ensure you make the right choice. You will notice that price is not a consideration listed. When dealing with $250,000+ equipment or $10,000 utility carts, the price difference between a $200 asset tracker and a $400 asset tracker is irrelevant if you get what you need.

 

Rugged Construction

Obviously, the environment for tracking heavy equipment is quite harsh on electronics. At a minimum, you want an IP-67 rating. Asset trackers should least be weatherproof, dust proof and designed to handle the high vibration found on equipment. Few units are designed to withstand pressure washing from less than 3 feet. When selecting an asset tracker get the technical specification sheet available for all devices. View GO Rugged

 

Backup Battery

A common feature requested is a backup battery. A backup battery can play a key role but batteries have limitations ranging from a last gasp transmission to a reduced reporting profile so the battery can last longer if the main power is disconnected. Get a clear understanding of the battery size and expected performance so you can make a good decision. Selecting an asset tracker without a backup battery means the device must always have power to function. If constant power is an issue, focus on the size of the battery and how the device performs when running on battery power. View System

 

Right Data

Ultimately the selecting an asset tracker means getting the data YOU need, not what the sales rep wants to sell you. Having a clear understanding of what is required from the data and what data you would like to have before you shop for an equipment tracking system will make your buying process more efficient.

It is important to keep the list of required data as short as possible. The more required data, the fewer your choices. If engine hours are required, almost any equipment tracker will work. If you need engine diagnostics codes from a CAT, Komatsu, Case, John Deere or Bobcat, the choices are very limited and often expensive relative to less capable asset tracking systems.

Equipment tracking might be part of a bigger fleet management program. Therefore, the data provided by the equipment tracker may need to look like vehicle tracking data and be in the same interface. A system like the GO System enables fleet managers to see similar data, in the same interface and set the same alerts and reports. This convenience saves time in more complex fleet environments. If the requirements are simple and static, an independent system which is lower in cost might do the trick.

 

GO RUGGED WORKS WITH GO SYSTEM AS AN INTEGRATED FLEET MANAGEMENT PLATFORM – READ MORE

 

Sample Asset Tracker Requirements:

  1. IP67 rated for durability
  2. Backup battery to aid in theft recovery
  3. Location data to indicated productivity and aid in theft recovery
  4. GPS position every 10 minutes when in motion to indicate productivity
  5. GPS position every 24 hours when ignition is off for inventory & field service
  6. Tow alert movement without ignition, indicating theft
  7. Zone violation alert between 8 pm and 6 am Monday Sunday
  8. Engine hours for routine maintenance and tracking billable hours

 

Installing Asset Trackers

Installing an asset tracker or equipment tracker can be a challenge or as simple as slapping it on the top, depending on your intended use. The type of material and angle have a lot to do with getting good GPS location information. GPS trackers have a directional antenna and facing the antenna toward the ground or putting up against the metal frame will degrade the GPS signal. For instance, putting the GPS unit in the engine compartment is often not going to work.

As an anti-theft device you would want to place it in a location that is not obvious. The challenge is that where you want to hide it, it may not get a GPS signal. GPS signals are blocked by metal so be sure to test the location before putting everything back together. One idea is to put the GPS device in the light housing. Customers have purchase amber light housings on eBay for $20 and hid the GPS inside.

Put the GPS system in a location where it is not likely to get pressure washed. The driver is not going to know or pay attention to the IP67 limitation (debris and moisture rating) of not pressure washing from less than 3 feet. The driver might accidentally wash it from 1 foot forcing water into the unit which will not be covered by warranty.

Protect the connections by soldering the connections and then putting heat shrink tubing over the connections. Ideally the connections are out of the line of fire of pressure washing. You may need to build a shield or put the unit and connections behind something to protect it.

If have a need to track heavy equipment (yellow iron), skid steers, ATV, utility carts, trailers, train cars, cargo containers, generators, boats, motorcycles or just about anything, contact Fleetistics. With 16+ years of asset and vehicle tracking experience, Fleetistics provides a complete line of solutions to meet your needs. 855-300-0527 or www.fleetistics.com.

Sherp ATV vs Argo Hydratrek

Sherp ATV vs Argo Hydratrek

Search and Rescue – Sherp ATV and Argo Hydratrek

 

This is a comparison between the Sherp ATV and the Argo Hydratrek. There is more to a rescue than just getting there. Getting there in a timely manner, keeping rescue workers from being fatigued in route, having the room to carry the needed equipment and protecting the patient in transport are all important factors. Fleetistics believes there is little benefit to the Argo platform other than price for search and rescue operations.

 

1. Neither vehicle has suspension but the trailer low tire pressure in the Sherp can be lowered which makes the ride smoother.

2. The Argo uses tracks and propellers. Propellers are very limited in real operations other than a clean lake. They are subject to water debris and almost never used in the demo videos. The paddle wheels on the Sherp never get clogged by water debris.

3. Hydratrek has a Max payload of 2500 lbs, the Sherp 2,000. The Sherp has an amphibious trailer which can transport more hear and supplies.

4. The Hydratrek has 6-8 tires to maintain plus tracks, the Sherp has 4.

5. The Hydratrek max speed is 14/5 mph on land/water vs Sherp at 27/4 mph.

6. The Argo has an open cockpit and no hardcover to provide protection. The Sherp has a hard top and the top can be removed on the pickup version for unique situations. Protection is important for patient care and responder fatigue.

7. The Argo product line cannot be adapted in the field to the conditions or terrain. The Sherp can inflate or deflate the ultra low-pressure tires to match the traction and driving surface needs.

8. The Argo track system is more expensive to maintain than the Sherp’s 4 large tires.

9. Any track system is less reliable, there are simply more moving parts and points of failure. If a track breaks in the field, fixing it may be impossible. Tires can be patched to get you home.

10. The seating in the Hydratrek and all Argos is limited. The videos clearly depict the few seats available and the lack of patient space. In an emergency the Sherp can transport 11 people! 2 in front, 3 either side in the area and thee on the rear floor.

11. The Argos angle of attack uphill is about half that of the Sherp at 3′. The lower angle of attack makes is more likely to get stuck exiting a river, over a frozen lake, crossing a log or traversing rocks. View the Argo on ice

12. The track system is as tough or tougher on the environment for a zero turn. Even traveling straight the large footprint is comparable to the Sherp low-pressure tire.

13. The Hydratrek cost about half that of the Sherp starting at $119,00.

14. Patient care conditions overall are far better in the Sherp. The enclosed back provides seating for rescue workers with a stretcher between them. The shelter keeps the sun, wind, rain, tree limbs and bugs off patients and responders. At -30F getting an IV started in an Argo will be almost impossible since exposed to the elements.

15. The ground clearance of the Argo is much lower than the Sherps 23″. This and 63″ tires prevent the Sherp from getting hung up in deep ruts.