All about GPS tracking

, posted: 4-Apr-2011 06:00

During a catch-up dinner some months back with Kelvin (chiefie), David (cisconz), John (johnk) and our better halves, John mentioned that the electrical company he worked for had just installed GPS tracking in all of their vans.  Our discussions ranged from how the units work, if it's possible to disable the units, to some of the more positive benefits of having GPS installed.   Some of the ideas we bounced back and forward I am going to detail here.

I'm well familiar with this topic as one of our clients specialises in GPS tracking.  In its most basic form, GPS tracking consists of two parts:

  1. A tracking unit - a unit is installed in your vehicle and this calculates your current real-time position and relays it back to a server and
  2. A server - this stores the GPS location with a date and time, and allows for this data to be plotted on a map, plus other useful reports, such as how far you've driven around today.

At face value, this all seems very big brother - a boss being able to see exactly where his workmen are at all times sounds like snooping, and to a degree, it is - this, however, is only a small part of the benefits of tracking your vehicles.  In a business, staff and vehicles tend to be big expenses, so it makes sense to report on both.

map During development of Argus, I volunteered my car and had a GPS tracking unit installed.  It is a small box hidden in the car, and it reports back periodically to my client's servers.  Unless you were told, you would have no idea that it was there.  It is still in my car to this day for the following reasons:

  • Security - my car alarm is hooked into my GPS, and should my alarm go off, my partner (she is included in-case my cell phone is flat) and I are sent a SMS message within 2 seconds with my car's location.  A couple years ago, before I had the alarm wired in, my car was stolen from the Botany Town Centre car park and dumped 200m away.  At that time, I was able to find my car within minutes (rather than waiting days for the Police to find it), and had the alarm been hooked in, I would've been alerted within seconds (a lesson learnt the hard way!).  This really is a must have if you have an expensive bike, custom car or boat.
  • Accountability - during busy days of back-to-back meetings, sometimes I will not remember who I've met with.  By using some of the reports the next day, I'm able to backtrack where I've been, and this helps trigger my memory.  From an electrician's point of view, it can prove that you were at a remote location with the arrival and leaving times, should a dispute from a client arise.  I also use this feature often when possum shooting with mates - it allows us to see where we've been shooting, what time we arrived, and what time we left - unfortunately it doesn't help with our .22s' accuracy.
  • Safety - the GPS unit has a variety of relays which can be plugged into your car, for example, a crash sensor could trigger a SMS message to a loved one with your current location, if you are unconscious and unable to respond.
  • Peace of mind - having the facility to know where you car is at all times is very reassuring (good idea for parents with teenagers who take family car). 
  • Productivity - there are gains to be made by analysing common routes, and combining them together to save on fuel and other vehicle costs.  I know of a customer who observed his workmen going back and forward multiple times a day between a supplier and a building site.  By better planning a job, they were able to make one trip to the supplier, get everything they need, and get the job done quicker.

(these are just a handful of the benefits)

For business owners thinking about getting GPS tracking, you need to get your staff onboard, and outline why it is a good idea.  I highly recommend against covertly installing tracking in your company vehicles - all it takes is one report left carelessly on a desk, or a tracking screen left up on a laptop and your staff will quickly figure out what's going on.  Nobody likes being followed without their knowing, and the best way to destroy any employer-employee trust is to track them behind their backs.

I'm glad I had GPS tracking installed and recommend it for both personal vehicles and business fleets.


Blatant plug: Contact the clever guys at Argus Tracking if you are keen to have a chat about GPS tracking or to have it installed.

Other related posts:
Cyber attacks on NZ small business
How one database query can fix HOP cards
Review: Navman MiVUE680

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New Zealand

I'm Nate Dunn, and I work for 3Bit, and am a moderator here at Geekzone.

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