In a previous article – Can satellites help when there is no cellular coverage? – we discussed the benefits and restrictions of using a satellite modem and weighed them against the requirements of the role, the risks being managed and mitigated, and other aspects of aligning business process and procedure to compensate. This article walks through the concept of self-managing the risks in more detail, based on the end user’s own knowledge and understanding of their territory.

Over time, as well as looking at the information available from communications partners, staff can identify geographic areas where cellular reception is going to be problematic. Using the Smartrak EyeQ platform, you can then set up geofences. Geofences allow a variety of locations to be mapped and have a range of attributes – speed limits in a depot, hazardous roads, areas of risk, etc.

By simply defining the areas with poor cellular reception that your staff travel through, you can create a system for your team, manager, OH&S, etc, where staff are, or their last known location. If they need to be contacted and can’t be reached, you can run a report that shows the last known position, or that, that position was entering a geofence that was designated as ‘entering a black spot’. If they are overdue, the right people can be alerted to the fact that they are in a specific area and direct assistance accordingly. This is not as effective as having an emergency device that is satellite enabled, but it allows a better outcome than doing nothing and hoping for the best.

It’s a simple process: the geofence records entry time into the zone then the exit time, effectively keeping staff movements visualised in the system. For example, if they entered the zone at 7:45 AM and emerged at 8:10 AM, their event data (change of direction, speed, etc) is captured and cached in the AVL and will be uploaded on reconnection with the cellular network. If a staff member missed an appointment or their manager was expecting a call from them as per protocols for lone drivers, you can see that they would normally exit 20–25 minutes after the 7:45 AM entry. If they have been over an hour, then they may have broken down or had an accident. At this point, assistance via other staff or emergency services can be considered or instigated.

In the previous article, we discussed the in-vehicle solution as well as the portable versions. My preference is for the portable unit as it is a separate secondary device that can be used in emergencies and also if I am away from the vehicle. It is important to involve all stakeholders to ensure the right combination of hardware is defined and aligned to your processes and procedures.

Over time, this use of the platform enables users to build and maintain effective and detailed information layers for their territories. It also allows the data to be used in evaluation and reporting (services such as route optimisation, vehicle off-road and many others via Business Intelligence tools), all adding value to the ecosystem that is a client’s business. Outcomes for our clients can be in determining changes in process, procedures and practices. It can drive changes to solutions, such as defining internal costs for carrying out services, which can be analysed to ensure on-charges to their customers for these services are covering costs and not costing your business and leading to unsustainable practices.