The ABC’s of GPS Fleet and Asset Tracking

The major driver behind adoption of GPS tracking solutions is to ensure assets and fleets perform efficiently, optimally, and safely. GPS fleet and asset tracking refers to the method of tracking physical assets and vehicles using GPS technology.  Assets and vehicles can be tracked globally using hardware that combines the GPS technology with cellular and/or satellite phone technology.  The hardware is usually referred to as tracker or tracking device. The tracking device is installed on vehicle or asset that needs to be tracked. This device then collects and transmit tracking data via a cellular or satellite network, to a central station.  In most cases, this central station belongs to a GPS tracking service provider, which usually hosts the tracking application.  The data is then made available to the user through software that offers details about the position, location, and usages of the vehicle or asset. The software is made available through a variety of options such as web interface, mobile platforms, and/or integrated, with other asset and fleet management systems.

From a software perspective, these solutions are offered in both the software license and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model.

GPS Tracking

GPS Fleet and Asset Tracking Ecosystem (Source: Wikimedia)

Hardware

Every GPS tracking system starts with the tracking device.  There are mainly three types of GPS trackers:  OBD trackers, hard-wired trackers, and asset trackers.

  • OBD trackers: These trackers plug into the vehicle’s on-board diagnostics (OBD II) port and obtain power from it. The OBD II port is available in most cars and trucks manufactured since 1996.  Apart from GPS location, these trackers are also able to gather additional information such as ignition start and stop information, engine diagnostics, etc.  These trackers are easy  to  install  and  do  not  require  professional    Since these draw power from a vehicle’s electrical system, they do not require batteries.
  • Hard-wired trackers: Like OBD trackers, these trackers are also well-suited for vehicles, as these draw power from the vehicle’s electrical system. Hard-wired trackers are connected to the vehicle’s power, ignition, and ground. Unlike OBD trackers, these covert trackers are not plug-and-play and usually require professional installation.
  • Asset trackers: While the above two are well-suited for vehicles, asset trackers are mainly used for non-powered assets and powered assets that may remain idle for extended periods. Examples of such assets include:  trailers, containers, heavy equipment, generators, vehicles, boats, and other large equipment. These trackers usually do not update location information as frequently as vehicle trackers. These incorporate a long-life battery, and some versions also offer the ability to be configured with an external power source. Some asset trackers also include the capability to monitor parameters such as temperature, pressure, and humidity; These trackers are mainly used for containers carrying shipments that needs to be monitored. These trackers are placed inside the container and use cellular triangulation as a backup to locate the container since GPS signals may not penetrate a container’s metal walls.

From a software perspective, these solutions are offered in both the software license and software-as-a-service model.

Market Momentum

While GPS tracking solutions have been around, the market has picked up in the last few years, mainly due to the advent of cost-effective cellular tracking. The hardware costs for GPS tracking continue to decline due to techno-logical advancements, as well as the rise of low-cost Chinese manufacturers in the space.

As the cost of sensors is also going down, affordable trackers are now availabletha along with the GPS location can track parameters such as temperature, moisture, etc. These trackers continue to gain popularity.

With a lower cost of entry for new customers, SaaS has also significantly expanded adoption of GPS tracking solutions. SaaS is already an established model in the GPS tracking market. Nearly all suppliers offer a SaaS version of their offerings.

ARC has recently published a global market study covering the GPS Fleet and Asset Tracking market.

Inderpreet Shoker is an analyst with ARC Advisory Group. She is a member of both the field device research and the Asset Performance Management (APM) teams at ARC.