We were thrown an interesting challenge recently. Can you help us track our snow-plough’s in real-time without needing us to spend a fortune?

There are plenty of approaches to tracking vehicles in real-time. Most we have seen are expensive, and complex. “We want simple, flexible and affordable” is what we keep hearing. We wanted to find an affordable way for any organization, big or small, to track vehicles in real-time. So we set about trying to find a way to solve this problem. We broke the challenge down into 3 parts:

1. Hardware

What data are we hoping to collect and how do we get that data? That is a first and important question. Let’s talk about sensors. A definition:

A sensor is a device that responds to a physical stimulus (such as location, heat, light, sound, pressure, magnetism, or a particular motion) and transmits a resulting.

Sensors inside a vehicle push specific data out usually via wi-fi. Mobile phones contain a number of sensors, and since most drivers have a phone in their pocket, they can be an easy and convenient way to communicate GPS location, speed etc in real-time. If there is a need to collect other data eg. quantity of salt left in the rear of the snow plough, blade up or down etc, that would require additional sensors.

2. Data

Sensors on-board the vehicle share data at fixed intervals (location as the truck moves for example). This data is then communicated via wi-fi to a data hub or integrator as we show in the diagram below

The integrator serves to collect all data feeds from every vehicle (In Esri’s world GeoEvent server serves this purpose). The integrator processes the data and pushes the data out to a mapping interface or dashboard for viewing (I am simplifying the process a little here). Note, our solution does not rely on any proprietary solution in this step, we have leveraged open source technology.

3. Dashboard 

How do we best view these real-time data feeds? Using our solution, we really don’t care. If you have an ArcGIS Online account, the Operations Dashboard is a nice way to map the data and provide summary information in a single dashboard type interface. If you have an alternate mapping solution we can feed the data directly here. We also provide an open source mapping interface.

Pushing the data into a GIS has a number of advantages. These include maintaining (and easily managing) historic data. Allowing questions like: “where was our vehicle last Tuesday at 10 am” to be answered, and much more.

See a demo of our solution below:

If you need a vehicle tracking solution, or are unhappy with your complex, expensive existing solution contact us. Let us show you our simple, affordable approach.

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