How to Make a GPS Tracking System for Vehicle and Fleet Tracking
You are probably looking at GPS tracking systems for vehicles, likely because you want to:
- Leverage analytics to streamline operations
- Make remote operations more transparent and easy
- Instill new insurance models to lower risks
- Eliminate revenue leakage with connectivity
- Reduce theft
- Increase operational transparency
This list goes on…
But, what I am going to show you here is not just how to make a tracking device, I will also show you how exactly I helped billion dollar organizations and small businesses implement such solutions with zero risks.
That too in less than 5 months (from idea to product development to testing!).
When I got my first assignment on a fleet tracking solution, I’d to fail multiple times to know what would exactly work. And failures come with a cost!
After reading this blog post, you would not only be able to figure out your need but also become a subject matter expert to drive such initiatives with confidence. I wish someone had written this when I was starting.
Nonetheless, here’s your roadmap towards location based services and GPS vehicle tracking systems –
- What is GPS car tracking and how does it work?
- How to Make Your own GPS Tracking System?
- How IoT-based Solutions Work and Benefit Fleet Businesses?
What is GPS car tracking and how does it work?
It is important to know how GPS based car tracking work for vehicle fleet systems in order to build a system that can actually work for you. The location tracking with GPS is precise to 1-2 meters of the vehicle being tracked. GPS based car tracking systems also allow us to track:
- And, speed of the object being tracked
GPS based vehicle tracking wasn’t just another revolution for compliance and tracking, but was also a key component for location based services and analytics.
So, how do GPS based vehicle tracking systems actually work?
We have hundreds of satellites orbiting around our planet with time clocks perfectly synchronized (they are atomic clocks). GPS devices on the other hand don’t have an atomic clock, so they are pretty inaccurate and require continuous adjustment based on signals the satellite’s end. All of that happens within your hardware.
Now, your GPS device cannot request any information from satellites. The reason behind that is pretty simple – your hardware doesn’t have enough power to ask for information. What GPS tracking devices rather do is to fetch broadcasted location signals from these satellites.
When Satellites orbit around the Earth:
- They have well known orbits and location trajectories
- Push out information on their time and location
Now, when a signal is received on the GPS vehicle tracking system, your GPS hardware solution has a program in it that compares the incoming timestamp information. This timestamp information is then compared to a hardware clock’s time on to calculate the distance from the satellite.
All you need is three satellites broadcasting this information to your GPS located on your vehicle. This triangulation results in extremely accurate location information that is accurate down to 0.5-2 meters.
That’s how GPS tracking works.
But, you are looking for GPS vehicle tracking systems, right?
Talking on broad terms, GPS vehicle tracking systems can be of three types:
- Mobile app based GPS vehicle tracking: You consume and use information directly from mobile. Rather than creating another GPS based device, you end up creating a mobile app that uses GPS sensors instead.
- OBD II based vehicle GPS tracking: All vehicles manufactured after 2004 have an onboard OBD II interface in it. An OBD II based port is similar to a USB port that you see on your computer. It allows an external hardware to communicate with your vehicle and get information from it
- Hybrid OBD II based solution: In some of the large scale insurance and remote fleet management programs that I’ve been a part of, we saw cellular connectivity adding unnecessary expenses to these programs. That was increasing the risk index of the vehicle fleet tracking device projects. As most of the mobility programs already had a cellular plan in it, it was easy to have an OBD II type interface push information over Bluetooth low energy to a mobile app.
Now that you know what those three different type of vehicle GPS tracking systems are, let’s now look at the components that are involved in making these solutions.
Talking at a very high level, we have the following components that are a part of a GPS based vehicle tracking solution:
- A phone, or a hardware based GPS receiver
- A casing that holds your hardware
- Car adapter – You can actually have a design where you won’t even need an adapter
- Firmware that helps this hardware to work
- Direct power supply or an inbuilt rechargeable battery
- Cellular or BLE connection module
- Cloud application
What GPS tracking features people like to use?
Some of the features that GPS vehicle tracking systems bring to the table are:
- Fuel mileage optimization: We do see a lot of companies using algorithmic optimization for greener business operations when it comes to large scale fleet deployments. But how does miles travelled correlates with gas consumption, when there are more to fuel consumption. You would be shocked to see how much driving patterns, misuse and engine conditions impact fuel level consumption
- Theft reduction via Geofencing, action tracking and remote kill switch
- Remote fleet management
- Driving restricted to the restricted speed limits
- Creating a smart driving assistant
- Understanding driver fatigue
- Automotive Dead Reckoning
Building Industrial IoT with IOTA: Introduction and How IOTA Works
How can you make your own GPS tracking system?
A GPS tracking system is a combination of hardware and software components that puts you in the driver’s seat, of course, metaphorically. This means, your vehicles will be installed with cellular devices, plug-and-play port devices, and sensors that are connected to software that’ll monitor a driver’s behavioral patterns, track a vehicle’s health, run diagnostics among other functions. What’s more, you could also leverage emerging technologies like IoT (Internet-of-Things) and cloud computing to build intuitive, user-friendly software, but let me get to that in my final segment.
For now, let’s understand the dynamics of the hardware and software employed in a GPS system:
GPS Vehicle-tracking Hardware
First, you need to install functional hardware in your vehicles. The hardware component is responsible for transmitting the data to and fro between satellites and software. It uses an analog system to send and receive the data and digital pattern for displaying the information to the users. Hardware components vary from system to system. It also depends on one’s budget constraints and essential requirements.
Anywho, here’s a list of the main hardware components you’d need for a GPS system:
- Microcontroller units: A small computer on an integrated circuit for memory and I/O peripherals.
- GPS module: A GPS device built with tiny processors and antennas to receive the satellite data and timestamps.
- GSM module: A global system for mobile communication that works as a mobile device establishes contact with a computer.
- Relay circuit: An electronic control device integration with a GPS tracker to communicate with the vehicle’s engine.
- Display screen: A display screen for monitoring the location of vehicles.
The system establishes communication between satellite and device once the hardware is installed in the vehicles. With the Global Navigation Satellite System network’s help, businesses get important data about their vehicles. Among these, speed, location, and time are essential information. This data is transmitted through satellites to the GPS-enabled devices, and the fleet owners/managers can read the information from the installed devices at the monitoring locations.
GPS Vehicle-tracking Software
First off, it’s crucial to determine whether your business can make do with an off-the-shelf product or you’d need a tailored GPS tracking system. From my experience of interacting with fleet owners from the industry, I have discovered that most of them started with an off-the-shelf product only to find out it took a considerable amount of investment to sustain it. Although custom software development sounds like a big financial move, it plays a significant role in fetching accurate business insights about specific events.
However, there are a few examples of challenges organizations face when they opt for off the shelf software solutions.
- Unable to find off-the-shelf solutions that satisfy needs
- Inflexible with low agility of the ready-made solution
Freewire, an EV mobile charging solutions company, was facing similar challenges. We created a custom solution that uses connected devices via cloud IoT. FreeWire’s staggering growth is proof of the powerful technology stack powering their business.
The cloud-based web solution powers the entire back-office operations, fleet management, power delivery servicing, personnel management, and fleet maintenance. Our solution made it possible to deliver charging solutions at distant locations. We also worked with the hardware team to integrate hardware components with a cloud solution using Azure and AWS IoT. This solution provides insightful business data regarding their vehicles’ health status, delivery performance reports, usage statistics.
Say, one of your primary goals is to build a software that maps vehicle behavior at any given location. Telematics, for one, can be integrated to fetch data and graphically display it on a dashboard, giving users accurate statuses on their fleets.
Furthermore, route optimization can be used to address the fleet management challenges and calculate complex turnaround times to schedule deliveries and determine optimal routes. Users can also schedule trips, extract information on a fleet’s availability, and plan vehicle maintenance. As a result, this boosts productivity, reduces costs, and simplifies intricate processes.
In fact, businesses today are also opting for cutting-edge technologies such as IoT, connected vehicle concepts, and cloud computing to prepare for adversities like climate emergencies, temperatures, and malfunction in transportation systems. Let’s find out how you could engineer your software with these mechanisms.
How IoT-based system is revolutionizing the fleet management industry?
Let’s start with exploring how IoT-integrated apps function, dictate the behavior of connected vehicles, process data, and further present it in the UI layer. Here’s the graphical representation of the architecture:IoT devices exchange information with the cloud gateways that process it into valuable business insights, which is then reflected on the user’s dashboard. For instance, you may receive notifications on your smartwatch that, in this case, works as an IoT device. This system uses the internet through your mobile device, connects to the service provider, fetches information from the phone, and eventually relays it on the watch display.
Connected-vehicle systems employ serverless IoT architectures like AWS Greengrass to sync data with connected devices/vehicles, operate communication with other devices and vehicles securely, and execute the prediction-based implementations. This syncing and managing of information allows for separate operations such as acquiring trip data, ensuring driver’s safety functions, sending notifications, and more.
These fleet solutions are mostly used in assets on the move– be it trucks, ships, or any form of cargo. The integration of IoT systems enables communication between vehicles that gives you a heads up about collisions in parking lots and unpredictable accidents. Additionally, it saves you a ton of time and ensures your vehicles reach their destination on time as well as notifies late arrivals.
At Simform, we engineer software with low-energy bluetooth technology, radio protocols, WiFi-Direct, and Radio Frequency Identification that comply with IoT requirements and fit the requirements of an organization. Moreover, we also leverage sensors to generate detailed information in real-time. Some of the commonly used sensors are:
- Temperature and humidity sensors
- Proximity sensors
- Gas sensors
- AI and ML-powered sensors
- Level sensors
Whereas sensors play a crucial role in carrying out activities related to IoT, GPS, and AI-based solutions, software is the brain working behind the curtain. It contains the main business logic that runs fleet operations, transfers data to devices, collects and analyzes the data, reflects the accurate state of the entities among others.
In fact, to offer stronger IoT connectivity, we integrated cloud-computing solutions like IBM Watson and AWS IoT to our software projects. These tools are excellent in providing end-to-end solutions to maximize scalability, connect data and artificial intelligence programming, and support the conjunction between machine learning and multi-cloud facilities.
Furthermore, custom fleet solutions require robust integrations of APIs. Software developers or back-end engineers build a connection between a wireless device and a service provider to exchange data across devices, clouds, and wireless internet connections.
APIs are the data pipes that transfer data and join two intangible software-programming instances. Any web application using web sockets and web APIs can use the data to make its subsequent program. The functions of IoT-based APIs include connecting with the cloud, linking to the data interface and functions interface, communicating with the sensors, and executing tasks that involve high-level security risks, data transferring and fetching, and other critical functions.
In a nutshell, here’s why you MUST consider integrating these technologies to your custom GPS-based software. You get to:
- Track and monitor fleets running over distant locations.
- Equip vehicles with digital solutions to make customer-centric decisions.
- Integrate business intelligence to identify the availability of resources like drivers and idle vehicles.
- Monitor performance metrics and rectify performance-boosting challenges with data analytics.
- Address security concerns such as vehicle downtimes, reminders for services and penalties on specific routes, and insurances notifications.
- Determine overall vehicle maintenance tasks
- Monitor behavioral patterns with smart GPS-based systems via mobile apps.
Home Automation Using the Internet of Things (IoT)
The reason businesses opt for customized business solutions is its scalability along with the core business benefits. Popular benefits include optimized fuel consumption, time management, remote fleet management, scheduled deliveries, delighted customer experiences, and more. Making your own GPS-based custom software certainly gives you the freedom to add functionalities in the future as your business’s scope increases. Though it was an expensive and time-consuming process earlier, the latest technologies have made it cost-effective and welcoming. They are optimized to make it an effortless experience with reduced time-to-market.
Approach the right technical teams, seek knowledge and guidance from technology experts and feel free to reach out to discuss the process of custom software in GPS. You can also download our ebook on customized fleet management software and reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect on Twitter.