Tracking tech helps users reap fleet efficiencies

Fleet tracking gets the most out of a mobile workforce

Fleet tracking technology is not new, but it continues to develop to help organisations with mobile workforces ensure field service and sales is efficient and effective.

Navman Wireless has announced a number of updates to its in-vehicle hardware and backend Online AVL2 system, which utilises Google Maps to enable graphical management of company fleets. The enhancements boost interactivity and communication between mobile workers and their base.

The system is based around a core Qube module installed in the vehicle, a back-end application similar to a SaaS application. It has an installed client and in-vehicle hardware including a new turn-by-turn navigation console, the M-Nav 760, which provides integrated vehicle tracking, messaging and satellite navigation.

All support load has been taken off the client as Navman hosts the vehicle tracking server externally.

New features include a full touch screen, driver ID and built in Bluetooth for hands-free phone use. The device can also be removed from the vehicle and used as a separate, turn-by-turn GPS unit.

The system can track where a vehicle is and be used as a messaging platform to assign jobs and monitor when the ignition is on and off. This means drivers no longer have to return to base to pick up assigned paperwork and can go directly from home to their first job, says Navman Wireless's national sales manager Steve Bowden.

It will also tell you which vehicle is nearest to any given address.

The system also flags vehicles, yellow for "warning", red for "critical", where the ignition has been off for over a specified period, and it can track the exact time spent on site, to ensure accurate billing. Such functionality is useful not just for billing but also to ensure driver safety.

The system includes reporting functionality, allowing the user to slice and dice and deliver fleet data, says Ian Daniel, Navman Wireless's vice president, Asia Pacific and Latin America. Users can "replay a day" to look at a vehicle's route throughout a working day.

Reports can be exported to other common formats such as PDF.

Daniel says Navman Wireless is the first vehicle tracking company to have a global deal with Google to use its Google Maps system.

Now headquartered in Chicago, Navman Wireless has 240 global staff, 74 at its North Shore, Auckland, premises. It was part of the original Navman company founded by Peter Maire in 1986. Sold to US leisure and boating equipment manufacturer Brunswick, the company was then broken into three and sold in 2007.

Navman Wireless was bought out by management and investors, while the marine unit went to Navico and the in-car navigation unit went to Taiwanese manufacturer Mitac.

The company has an R&D centre in Silicon Valley with 12 developers as well as presences in the UK, Australia, Italy, Mexico, Thailand and several other countries.

This month, Navman Wireless also launched a privacy button, allowing some classes of users to turn off tracking while the vehicle is in private use.

Most analysts see turn by turn navigation migrating to the mobile phone, but there are some reasons why this may not be desirable in a fleet tracking situation, says Daniel. For instance, a phone might not be hard-wired into the system to track ignition.

Unlike the wired option, mobile phones can also be turned off and rely on phone batteries rather than power from the vehicle.

Daniel says the company saw the opportunity to expand aggressively through the global financial crisis. That involved getting "bodies on the ground" in key markets.

"The run rate is starting to lift." He says global revenue is now more than NZ$100 million.

Navman Wireless's system is delivered through channels and is able to be white labelled. For instance, in New Zealand it is delivered by Telecom as Locate+.

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