Vehicle Antennas for Fleet Management Systems are in it for the Long-Haul!
Vehicle Antennas for Fleet Management Systems have come a long way from the early days of GPS Tracking. Initially, there were two types of systems: GPS-only systems were used by the drivers for Navigation, or Two-Element Cellular & GPS were used to track the location of the truck.
Over the years, Fleet Management systems have evolved, bringing more value to both the drivers and the fleet operators. Long Distance Trucking Companies and Long-haul Truckers were among the earliest adopters of GPS-based Fleet Management Systems.
Today’s advanced Fleet Management Systems provide invaluable information. Systems monitor the re-time condition of the truck and identify maintenance issues that can be addressed before there is a road-side breakdown. Engine heating, tire pressure and fluid levels can all be monitored.
Some Fleet Management Systems can also monitor the condition of the cargo. The temperature in a refrigerated container can be tracked and the driver and/or fleet operator alerted if it drops below a certain temperature.
Different technologies are used to capture and transmit this in-vehicle information. Bluetooth at 2.4 GHz is one of the more popular technologies, but many systems also rely on unlicensed bands at 433 MHz or 915 MHz.
Capturing the data is an important first step and can be set up to notify the driver on-route. Advanced fleet management systems also communicate the data to a central monitoring portal via Cellular connections.
Early monitoring systems relied on a single Cellular antenna to transmit the captured data or to receive instructions from the central office. As Cellular networks introduced MIMO (multiple-input-multiple-output), two-element antenna we required. Today’s in-vehicle built-in routers or gateways often rely of four-element antennas to provide Dual-Carrier MIMO coverage (each of the two Carrier is assigned a pair of elements for 2xMIMO).
The antenna elements themselves have also evolved as Cellular networks were able to take advantage of additional frequencies. The earliest GPS-based fleet management systems relied on 850 & 1900 MHz in the US (and 925 & 1800 MHz in Europe). These early Cellular systems relied on 2G technology until the release of 3G in 1999. Cellular data speeds took a major step forward in 2008 with the introduction of 4G LTE, and additional frequency allocation supported the larger data throughput. In the US, the 700 MHz band was allocated on the low-end and the 2.5 GHz band on the upper end.
Cutting edge systems coming into the industry today provide Cellular coverage on 5G Sub-6. These systems provide coverage on the entire Sub-6 band from 617 MHz – 6 GHz. The extra bandwidth, along with more powerful underlying 5G protocols, provide fast, high volume, data transmission. At these rates, even real-time video can be sent to the central monitoring centers.
WiFi has a role to play in long distance trucking. While it cannot be used to transmit data long distance, some of the WiFi antenna elements can be used to collect data from WiFi or Bluetooth sensors within the vehicle. This critical monitoring feature allows the driver and the shipping company to know what is happening either within the vehicle or within the vehicle’s cargo.
In addition, WiFi can provide a robust channel for uploading or downloading data when the truck has arrived at its destination. Logistics needs a mix of real time data for tracking, as well as monitoring data that is periodically downloaded at non-critical times. When the vehicle is about to depart on a trip, the WiFi link can be used to update the vehicle’s fleet management system with new data about the route, the stops, and the cargo. This mix of real-time data via Cellular and supplemental data via WiFi provides a very power mix for Fleet Management.
While the Cellular options for fleet management have evolved over the years, the WiFi options have also evolved. As will Cellular, the early multi-band fleet management antennas relied on a single WiFi antenna element to transfer data over the unlicensed 802.11 bands at either 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, or both. Just as Cellular transmissions were improved with MIMO (multiple-input-multiple-output), so too were WiFi. Today’s 802.11ac systems can transmit data using up to 4xMIMO and both the 2.4 & 5 GHz band. The recently released WiFi 6e, using 802.11ax, extends the WiFi coverage up to 7.2 GHz and will provide even faster speeds.
For high data users planning ahead, the fleet management antenna solutions to look for will cover the 5G Sub-6 bands and WiFi 6e. Many of the most advanced routers, modems and gateways will cover these options.
Global Navigation is such a critical piece for Long-distance Truckers and Fleet Operators, that the category is often labeled “GPS Fleet Management.” Knowing the location of the vehicle is critical whether the driver just needs Navigation or if the fleet operator needs to anticipate when a shipment will arrive, or where a truck with a breakdown can be found. Most Global Navigation System transmissions in the US will take place on via GPS satellites operating at 1575 MHz, and that is why people in the industry might refer just to “GPS.”
But, GPS is just one of several systems around the world. The more advanced Fleet Management Antennas will incorporate not just GPS but also Glonass, Galileo, QZSS or Beidou at 1561, 1575, & 1602 MHz. These systems are referred to collectively as “GNSS”. These systems are based outside the US but all the satellites circumnavigate the earth and there are certainly applications where more than one systems can be used. Newer antennas will include a GNSS antenna that covers GPS as well as these international systems. Many of the newer routers, modems and gateways rely on GNSS.
Of course, not all long-distance trucking requires the most advanced fleet management systems. For systems that rely on periodic transmission of small quantities of data, earlier generations will provide ample coverage. However, while some legacy 2G systems will continue to be supported by the Carriers, the 3G systems are being phased out and users will need to migrate to other systems.
It is appealing to have the newest and latest technology, but it is important to match the fleet management solution to the real-world data requirements. There is an argument to be made to choose a system that will allow for additional capabilities in the future, but an honest assessment of the near-term and mid-term requirements will help users select the right solution.
To keep up with the latest industry trends and events see our new Fleet Management flyer with our list of antenna solutions encompassing the whole industry.
Mobile Mark Antenna Solutions designs and manufactures site, mobile and device antennas for 30 MHz – 6 GHz. Applications include GPS Tracking & Fleet Management, Cellular 4G LTE, 5G-ready, WiFi, RFID, Public Safety FirstNet, M2M, Industrial IoT, IoT, Smart City Networks and Autonomous & Connected Cars. Engineering and custom design services are available. Mobile Mark’s global headquarters, which include research facilities and manufacturing plant, are located near Chicago, IL. An additional manufacturing and sales facility is located near Birmingham, UK. For further information visit our website: www.mobilemark.com.
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