Guest Blog posted by Corbin Campbell, Electronics Support Services Missouri State University
Just a little history, our Assistant Director of Public Safety had a project for me. Missouri State University had the ability to GPS track the shuttle bus fleet for the students, faculty, staff, and public safety. This was done using a wireless carrier and through a smartphone on each shuttle. The problem was the speed and the recurring data cost. We wanted to be able to track our shuttle fleet without the cellular cost and in real time. Other GPS systems that we looked at had cellular data fees and would only update once a minute. The cost of these systems were also not in the public safety budget. He knew there had to be some other options. Being the campus radio guy, he thought that I might have seen something that would do what he wanted. After some looking and talking with other GPS tracking vendors, I came to the website of Raveon and the RV-M7-GX GPS modem. I knew that I had something that would do what I wanted but I wanted to to find out more.
I called Raveon and I started out with the tech support people since these are the guys that have to fix the problems. After talking with them, I knew that I had to demo this product to see if the hype matched the product. Sales at Raveon reviewed the project with me to make sure we had a good fit, and arranged to send us the proper gear for testing. A demo was programmed up on a UHF frequency that I had and the units were set up for 1 second updates. We used RavTrack PC for the interface and Google Earth for the mapping. After 30 minutes in the demo, we were sold. At that point Raveon sales located a contract our purchasing department could use and expedited a full system to meet our funding deadline.
In our full system installation, we are tracking 15 shuttles and our base unit is on the 20th floor of one of our buildings. We are tracking our shuttles every three seconds so we can add more shuttles without having to do a mass reprogramming. The shuttles use the combination GPS-UHF antennas to broadcast the data to the base station. The shuttle data is filtered, received, and converted to TCP\IP. Networking tweaked the network to get the data to our Web Development team. Web Development have taken the GPS data and created this custom map where students, faculty, and staff can pull up the shuttle locations, shuttle routes, speed, and direction. Just click on Shuttle Map and the route and you will see the bus stops and the icons that represent the shuttles. Web Development is also working on apps for the iPhone and Android to make it simple for students, faculty, and staff (read more about the iPhone/Android app here).
I won’t say how much the system cost, but the system will pay for itself in less than two years from the savings in cellular data fees alone.
If you want to do GPS tracking this is the way to go. If you don’t believe me, demo the product because the hardest thing that you will have to do is send it back!!!
P.S. Since we installed the system I have received multiple calls from my peers at other organizations. They don’t believe we can track our fleet with 3 second updates, even though we see it live, and tell me I must be mistaken. When I add that we do all of this without monthly service fees I think they write me off as a teller of tall tales.