Geotab - the fleet maagment system designed for the millennium.

Dec '99 News

South Africa is well known for its leadership in the development of electronic vehicle security, tracking and fleet ­management systems, and here the latest resource management solution, Geotab, is no exception. Geotab as a company, has well known Basil Papalexis as Managing ­Director, bringing with him the vast knowledge gained in launching the highly successful Netstar vehicle tracking system and his period as MD of VESA.

Geotab is aimed both at the large gap in the market which lies between the traditional tachograph and the high-end (and high cost) active vehicle tracking and recovery ­systems, as well as for vehicles (fleet cars and bakkies) which would not justify such expenditure. Basil’s philosophy is simple. Other system manufacturers have made the mistake of ­trying to use a sophisticated system to carry out two ­completely different tasks, namely, fleet management and vehicle tracking/recovery. Geotab is, on the other hand, a low-cost dedicated resource management tool, with active satellite-based tracking, but with passive reporting and ­mapping. Obviously, a major cost-saver is the fact that there are no active transmissions from the system.

While tracking with Geotab is not active, it in fact serves virtually the same purpose, as the detailed mapping and violation reporting, linked to both vehicle and driver, ensures that company rules are adhered to. It keeps drivers out of unsafe areas, limits their casual or excessive stopping and can be used to keep control of company and private mileage. For many companies added value is the ability to keep track of overtime and the well-known deception of slowing down deliveries to claim extra pay can be monitored and controlled. For the over-stressed executive, Geotab can be used to keep track of your business mileage for tax ­purposes, or it can be used as proof of mileage covered, where the company pays for official mileage. Passive reporting has also been proven to be highly effective in reducing ­accidents and theft, through supervising the activities of the driver.

Geotab is based on the use of a compact (modem-sized) on-board computer (64 KB) which is linked to a satellite for tracking and position information. Because the satellite provides most of the data (speed, time, etc) installation into the vehicle is straightforward and takes less than an hour. Unlike other systems Geotab is easily transferable to another vehicle. The OBC is activated by a driver ID tag, which is in itself a security device, as the vehicle will remain immobilised until the correct device is detected. The tag transmits its ID to the OBC, thus linking both the vehicle and the driver for all records. Note that Geotab allows the fleet manager to track both vehicles and drivers. The tag itself has the same memory capacity and is used to transfer data back to a central computer (Pentium-based PC). The Geotab downloader, provided as part of the system, is used to ­automatically download all the data, and operating in the background, does not interfere with other work being done on the PC.

The memory capacity of both the tag and the OBC are individually adequate for about two weeks normal oper­ation, or 10 000 km on a heavy vehicle, but downloading for ­drivers is normally done at the end of each shift. The large memory capacity allows Geotab the flexibility to be used on vehicles operating long hauls up into the rest of Africa, and a full mapping capability is provided right up to the equator. If additional memory capacity is required for really long trips then the driver can be issued with two tags.

Once data has been downloaded, the fleet manager can use the Windows-based software supplied to compile any form of report or graph, as well as being able to zoom in on detailed map information down to street level. Total flex­ibility in the software design allows for exception reporting (on specified violations such as speed or over-revving) or any other information required, including trip schedules, customer visits or distance covered. While vehicle and driver information is the core objective of Geotab, added value reporting, such as frequency of calls on specific customers, is easily obtained from the comprehensive database. Geotab makes use of Excel to generate graphs and the user can combine other business-related data with that obtained from Geotab, so as to establish cost and productivity ratios for example.

One of the advantages of Geotab over the conventional tachograph (with which it is cost comparable) is that the exact location of violations such as speed, are known. ­Remembering the recent spate of bus accidents, the fleet manager can determine whether the driver has driven fast on a relatively safe straight highway, or on a dangerous mountain pass. In the same way as active tracking, the driver knows that if he violates the rules he will be caught, and what use is the realtime information if the driver is in ­Zim­babwe! If you really want to double check on drivers then you can issue them with a receive-only mobile phone, then call them occasionally and log where they say they are, checking against the logged data later. By the way, Geotab can be customised to monitor activities such as cargo door or petrol cap opening so that the legitimacy of events are monitored by time and place.

If Geotab were to continuously record it would obviously create an enormous amount of mostly irrelevant data. To get around this decision, algorithms have been built into the vehicle unit software. An example is their orientation algorithm which will reduce data capture on long, straight roads and automatically increase the frequency when the vehicle enters turns.

Geotab is itself a brand new company, which is owned by well-known Sanji Security Systems, in turn part of the Gerber Goldschmidt Group which has a turnover inter­nationally in excess of $1 billion. The electronic subsystems for Geotab are manufactured locally by Sanji in its SABS ISO 9001 certified plant and the development itself, like many state-of-the-art security type solutions, was entirely local. Besides the local and southern African markets, the company is already exporting to Australia, a major advantage for many of these countries being that the system operates without any additional infrastructure, such as a cellular network.

The cost of installing Geotab is minimal, while operating cost is a mere R240 per vehicle per year, in return for which both map and software updates are provided. As the biggest claim in regard to vehicle assets is accidents, Geotab helps reduce these by influencing drivers to behave less aggressively, and several insurers are now providing discounts on proof of installation, once again reducing the real cost of ownership.

Geotab has such a wide range of features and so many applications that it would be impossible to address them all in a short article. Representatives from the company itself can best tell you how the system can be tailored to meet your requirements, in fact virtually any requirement.

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