Fleet Tracking Using Mobile Apps Versus Embedded Technology

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In order to provide the most efficient customer service, cargo delivery service or field services many businesses that own fleets of vehicles today use some kind of fleet management system to track the vehicles in their fleet. This guide to fleet tracking using mobile apps versus embedded technology aims to help fleet managers compare the two major tracking technologies and choose the one that works for them.

What Is the Ideal Fleet Tracking System?

With today’s vehicle tracking systems, it may be possible to, among other things:

•    Pinpoint vehicle location
•    Spot out of bound vehicles
•    Track employee efficiency
•    Send messages to vehicle
•    Improve adherence to schedules

Now vehicle tracking devices can take many forms. Most use GPS or GLONASS for vehicle location. But it’s possible to have other automatic location technologies work just as well. The information regarding location is stored. It can then be played back either with the help of specialized software, or it can be viewed online, on maps such as Google Maps.

Usually, the two major types of vehicle tracking solutions are ‘passive’ and ‘active’, and we’ll take a look at a comparison between them.

Brief Overview of (Passive) Embedded Fleet Management Technology

It has been traditional for fleet operators and managers to fit the vehicles in their fleet with passive information-storing boxes on board, similar to airplane ‘black boxes’. These boxes are run either on battery or on the vehicle’s power system. These on-board devices store data like GPS locations, fuel amount, tire pressure, altitude, temperature, vehicle speed, turn on headlight, batter on and events like door open or closed, or key off or on among other things. The key to these embedded boxes is the detailed tracking that is possible with them.

When the vehicle gets back to a garage or some other pre-decided point, this black box is removed and its data is downloaded into a computer. Specialized software is then used to read and evaluate the data. Alternately, you can download data automatically from embedded vehicle tracking systems and receive it through wireless transfer.

Brief Overview of (Active) Mobile Fleet Management Technology

Active fleet management technologies include mobile systems which are accessed from a hub outside the vehicle. These tracking systems track a lot of data similar to that which the embedded systems track. However, the difference is that in the ‘active’ systems, the information is sent in real-time to a computer for evaluation. This data transfer is possible through satellite or cellular networks. Active systems are therefore based on mobile apps and mobile technology.
While embedded fleet management has been the traditional choice of fleet managers, more and more companies are switching to mobile systems. Which is a better option? Each system has its pros and cons, so here’s a look at a comparison of the two systems for a better idea.

Embedded Technology versus Mobile Technology for Fleet Management

The technologies, software and products available in the market for vehicle tracking have been greatly influenced by the two types of fleet management technologies. Some of these accessories and applications are meant to be used with the embedded modem. Other applications and components are more device-specific and meant for use with mobile devices.

The choice for most fleet managers is between:
1. A smart on-board communications hub linked to more passive peripherals, and
2. A hub to which multiple smart devices can connect as to a router.

Here is a look at the benefits of each type of fleet tracking technology.

Pros and Cons of Embedded Technology: Embedded boxes on board the trailer or truck that you are tracking have a deep integration with the vehicle. The other vehicle systems to be monitored can be easily and completely integrated to the embedded box. So it is possible for very detailed tracking of on-board systems. It also gives drivers the opportunity to be more hands-free, since the box automatically records all the information that is required.

The problems that come with this technology is founded on the fact that if the technology changes (this is likely, given how quickly cellular technology changes), most of the embedded system will have to be replaced to keep up with the technology. In addition, embedded systems are not particularly cheap.

Further, as a consumer, you may not have the choice of the cellular service that connects your remote device wirelessly to the embedded box for data download. You will most likely have to purchase an extra service line for your embedded modem.

Pros and Cons of Mobile Technology: Mobile-based tracking systems on the other hand are more flexible and much cheaper at the same time. If you go with this technology, you can select your own wireless service provider. You already have an official phone that you are paying for, and you can simply use this line for tracking your vehicles. You also don’t have to worry about the compatibility of applications and devices, and you can change your wireless provider anytime without affecting the system.
These mobile systems also allow many other functions such as easy routing, SMS and texting facilities which eliminate the need for phone calls and other options.
However, unlike embedded systems, mobile systems are less integrated with the vehicle. Also, vehicles that are connected can move out of the range of coverage, leading to loss in communication at times.

Therefore mobile fleet management systems will need to be complemented with offline apps that can make the system more functional. And in fact, many modern mobile fleet management systems have smart mobile apps that allow offline functionality so you can track your fleet even when there is some Internet problem.

Verdict

Embedded systems have lower flexibility and higher costs than mobile systems. On the other hand, mobile systems with real-time GPS tracking allow you greater dynamic fleet management and more control over records, creating benchmarks, justifying billing and making informed decisions.

With the immediate connectivity offered by mobile fleet management systems, companies are able to offer more efficient services and increase their productivity. This makes mobile tracking a comprehensive tracking solution. However, embedded systems are still the choice for fleet managers who want high detail vehicle tracking. Both systems have their uses, and a choice between them will have to be made based on the requirements of the consumer.

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Robert Prime launched telematics.com in early 2013 and has over 10 years experience in the financial sector. He specialises in business startups and online marketing with a passion for new technology.