July 5, 2019

Cellular Blackspots

What is a blackspot?

In telecommunications, a blackspot is an area of poor or no communication coverage.

Why does it matter?

If you are using systems that rely on the mobile network to communicate it is good practice to be aware of any blackspots in the areas you operate in, so you can understand the potential exposure your business has (from the trivial to the critical) and plan what to do about it.

Smartrak’s tracking devices cache events on the unit until it comes back into coverage. This means that for fleet management issues such as understanding how efficient your use of the fleet is, or the number of kilometres driven between jobs, blackspots are not a dramatic issue. But caching isn't a solution for health and safety cases, where you need to ensure staff are safe at all times. In these situations, real-time response is required. Therefore, understanding blackspots, their locations, and how they affect your business is critical.

How do you identify blackspots?

There are several ways you can identify blackspots:

You and your colleagues will usually have a great deal of local knowledge to draw on, which provides a rough idea of where you don’t have mobile reception. That’s a great starting point and should be drawn upon when planning your implementation and your blackspot risk mitigation strategy, but this isn’t reliable enough for you to form a full understanding of your exposure.

The second step involves reviewing the coverage map from your network operator (in Smartrak’s case, we use Telstra in Australia and Vodafone in New Zealand). You can rely on these to provide an accurate picture of whether you will have issues with blackspots.

Finally, if you are already using Smartrak hardware and want to understand if your fleet is currently operating in blackspot areas, we can run our own 'Smartrak Blackspot Analysis', which has been done for several of our customers. This calculates the latency between the event generated by the Smartrak unit (in-vehicle or handheld) and reception on our servers. We can then plot this on a map, supplying the most accurate representation of when your fleet’s coverage is within operating areas.

You know you operate in blackspot areas. Now what?

While identifying blackspots is important, it’s only the first step of the journey. You now have to come up with a way of dealing with them. There are no silver bullets in addressing blackspots, but the good news is there are a number of ways you can reduce the risk your employees face when working in areas of poor telecommunication coverage.

For most of our partners, the answer is a combination of business process (ensuring pairing of workers working together in some areas), communication (ensuring your employees are aware of blackspot and what that means), training (how to react if something happens in a known area of poor coverage) and technology (satellite communications to take over when cellular coverage is not available).

If Smartrak has worked with you to undertake a blackspot analysis, the chances are we can help your organisation identify vehicles that are spending the most time in poor coverage areas. This will help you understand whether adding satellite communications to your existing hardware setup would be a worthwhile undertaking. Your Customer Success Manager also has experience in assisting our partners in dealing with blackspots, we encourage you to call on their expertise and experience to ensure a comprehensively supported implementation!

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