Track & Trace (T&T) services are not new. Among the first to experience wide market adoption more than 20 years ago are fleet management applications for taxi and truck fleets, and anti-theft systems for vehicles. Since then a wide variety of T&T solutions have been developed for many other markets and types of assets, large and small.
AT&T solution is typically composed of 3 components - a Tracking device; a central or cloud based server; and a control room that is manned 24x7 and provides tiered human response and intervention services according to pre-defined severity levels of events. The Tracking device is a hardware product that is physically installed in the tracked asset. It typically compose of at least a GPS receiver, a wireless modem, and a microcontroller running a local control firmware. Naturally, the Tracking device must be adapted for the specific asset type in which it is to be installed. In contrast, the server software platform and the control room are virtually independent of the specific type of assets being tracked. A single server can communicate with and handle any number of Tracker variations, as can a single control room.
Many of the companies that offer T&T services have solutions for more than one type of asset. Since the software platform and the control room can be common to any number of asset types, the only variation necessary to achieve this diversification is in the Tracking device. This diversification is typically achieved by offering off-the-shelf a range of different Tracking devices, each adapted for one specific type of assets, e.g. reefer containers, dry containers, trucks, trailers, heavy equipment, etc.
Track4c adopted a completely different strategy. Instead of developing up-front a range of different Trackers off-the-shelf, we take a project-based approach to each new type of asset we need to track. This strategy is founded on a number of simple observations:
- There is always a new type of asset to be tracked, for which you still do not have a Tracker variation ready.
- The fundamental functional requirements of tracking and tracing are almost identical between different types of assets, with very small variations. Such variations include, for example, types of sensors and monitored variables; frequency of update transmissions; and autonomous lifetime on batteries.
- The single major difference between different types of assets are the physical constraints – size, shape, installation method (screws, glue, etc.), exposure to harsh environmental conditions, etc.
Track4c focused on designing a first-class electronics and firmware, with very low power consumption, small size, and a general-purpose standard-based digital interface towards external sensors. With this proven design, every adaptation project is mostly restricted to the enclosure in which the electronics are housed. In simple cases previously designed enclosures or even off-the-shelf boxes can be used. In the most complicated cases a completely customized housing needs to be designed, and the PCB needs to be laid out differently – but with no modification to the schematic design – in order to accommodate specific constraints on size or shape.