Telmo Cunha, Phillip Tomé
Nowadays, efficiency and productivity are fundamental concepts, in any kind of business. Although one can easily accept this as a known fact, one cannot easily identify which steps must be taken to achieve these goals. One approach consists of taking full advantage of the assets already available in the company, be they manpower or equipment. One kind of business that is strongly exposed to this problem concerns urban waste collecting. In this case, the productivity of the company can increase substantially if good fleet management policies are followed. Being aware of this fact, GEONAV has developed a fleet management system, named MOVE (Vehicle Monitoring), which is based on GPS. Each vehicle is equipped with a small onboard computer that includes, in the less complex model, a 12 channel GPS receiver and a GSM module. To cope with the problems usually affecting GPS in urban environments, such as having few satellites in view and multipath due to urban canyons, the system can incorporate information from low cost dead-reckoning sensors, such as the vehicle odometer and a gyroscope. Furthermore, other features can be added to the system, by using information from sensors readily available in the vehicle or that are installed specifically for the task intended. For instance, through a keypad unit, the driver can identity itself, by inserting a specific code or input the amount of fuel supplied to the vehicle. In addition, the system can automatically count the number of waste bins emptied, the number of times the vehicle has disposed of its waste in the wasteland or determine in real-time the vehicle’s weight. All information is sent to a Control Center using GSM or is stored in the computer’s memory, for a later download. In this case, an alternative means of transmission besides GSM can be used, namely a short range radio. Since no costs are involved when using this radio system, the exploitation costs of the MOVE system are greatly reduced. The Control Center software is based on a client/server architecture. The server application is responsible for controlling the communications between the Control Center and the vehicles and for storing all data received in a central database. The client applications connect to the server application, using the intranet, and are based on the GIS ArcView 8.x platform. Using a client application, an operator can visually determine the fleet status over a map or other type of visual representation. To reduce exploitation costs of the system, the status of the fleet is obtained by using SMS messages to exchange data between the vehicles and the Control Center. However, the option to follow a particular vehicle, by establishing a GSM call, is also possible. In this case, the position of the vehicle is updated at 1 Hz. The information that is stored in the database is organized in such a way as to allow the calculus of several statistical parameters that are useful to the management and control of the fleet. For example, one can determine the amount of kilometers driven, the time to complete a particular waste collection circuit, the fuel consumption, the number of waste bins emptied and their location, the number of times the vehicle was emptied of its waste, the vehicle’s weight, etc. This information can be used to establish new and better policies to enhance the fleet’s productivity and to present a better service to the end customer. This paper describes in detail the architecture of the MOVE system and its functionalities, including both the equipment installed onboard the vehicles and the Control Center’s software. Emphasis is given to the system’s flexibility to be used in different case scenarios, besides the monitoring of waste collection vehicles.