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Online Vehicle Tracking & Open Source Software

Vehicle tracking systems come with a range of features, with some offering only basic location services whilst others are able to provide in-depth data about every movement the vehicle makes. In order to access this latter type of tracker system data in the past, a computer or laptop pre-loaded with the compatible software was required. This meant that the services could only be utilised at one location, providing a rather inflexible management system.

The emergence of online vehicle tracking has changed the face of these devices; allowing fleet managers to access the full range of data online from any location provided they have a working internet connection.

Online Vehicle Tracking: How Does It Work?

The principle of using an online vehicle tracker is exactly the same as more traditional types of devices; the same data is produced and the unit needs to be installed in the vehicle in exactly the same way.

The difference comes with the software which is required to access the information and how this is communicated back to the user. The GPS unit in the vehicle still operates in the same manner, but does not route the data back via a network connection to one computer. Instead the information is sent to a secure and remote server, using the mobile phone network to do so.

The Benefits

Having the ability to track a vehicle or fleet online has paved the way for real-time tracking and the many benefits it delivers in being able to make on-demand management decisions. Providing real-time location information to fleet managers and private vehicle owners alike has significantly changed the way in which fleets are managed and stolen vehicles are recovered, with huge time and money savings for both business and vehicle owners.

Overlaying real time data with a street map allows users to accurately pinpoint the location of their vehicle, and may even provide them with satellite images of the surroundings. Many models include use of Google Streetview or similar as a feature.

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What to Look for in a Web Based Vehicle Tracking System

The amount of data generated by GPS tracking can become daunting so you should look for a system in which the information is presented to you in an easy-to-use and easy-to-understand format. The interface should highlight specific information for your unique business needs.

Make sure any GPS tracking solution you look at is easy to navigate; quality online tracking systems will also have a “dashboard” view that presents the information most important to you on one quick screen. In addition, some level of customisation is beneficial so you can tailor which information you want to receive with the ability to create alerts.

D.I.Y and Open Source Vehicle Tracking

In addition to software advances, the emergence of web-based tracking and micro, portable trackers has opened the way for a different type of vehicle tracking; open source software.

Open source vehicle tracking is an alternative to purchasing a GPS vehicle tracking system from a proprietary brand. With an open source vehicle tracking system you install tracking devices in the vehicles you wish to track and use free, open source software to interpret the data, display real-time maps and generate reports about driver behaviour, fuel efficiency and the rest.

While on the face of it an open source solution may sound like a good idea, before committing yourself to an open source vehicle tracking system you should carefully consider the pros and cons over a tracking solution from a reputable brand.

Open Source Vehicle Tracking Benefits

The benefits of such a solution derive from the fact that you aren't relying on a third party for provision of the service and you aren’t tied into a lengthy contract:

  • Flexibility
    Add new vehicles to the system whenever you like, change your settings, reports and alerts at will. You can also alter the software to meet your specific requirements without infringing on copyright.
  • Lower Cost
    Your only expenditures are on hardware and the cost of using a satellite communications network.
  • No contracts
    Move, sell or scrap your vehicle tracking system at any time with no complications or additional tracking costs to pay.

Open Source Vehicle Tracking Drawbacks

The problems inherent in an open source vehicle tracking system arise from the greater familiarity with technology required to set up and maintain such a system:

  • Lack of Product Support
    While you'll find support for some software in the form of user forums and FAQs, most will offer no support at all - it's up to you to configure and maintain the system. Without proficiency in programming and communications technology this can be at best daunting and time consuming and at worst downright impossible.
  • Instability
    Unlike a purchased vehicle tracking system you have no one to complain to, or seek recompense from, when things go wrong. Software updates which could wreck your system and bugs which lead to communication blackouts or lost data must be borne with stoicism.
  • Long Research and Set Up Time
    Again, unless you're already an expert you can expect an open source system to take a long time to research, put together and configure. Of course, you can pay someone to do this for you but this will eat into any savings such a system leads to.

Is Online or Open Source Tracking Right For You?

Online and web based vehicle tracking systems have opened the door for a range of possibilities and benefits for all users. If you're confident with the use of GPS systems and with tinkering of open source code then an open source vehicle tracking system could save you a bundle in monthly and set-up fees when compared with a paid-for service. If you're not, then you run the risk of lots of time and effort expended on getting the system to work with no guarantees.

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