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Tapping The Remote Asset-Management Market

By | October 4, 2004

      Asset tracking is a key “remote application” outside the mainstream wireless markets of voice, data and now video. To the companies that offer the service, including wireless and satellite providers, remote applications represent viable sources of profit, especially in the wake of 9/11. For others, asset tracking has proven the value of “thinking outside the box” when seeking new markets to conquer.

      According to, there are roughly 1.9 million tractor-trailers in the United States and more than 360,000 trucking firms. These firms need to know where their trucks are at all times because late, lost or stolen tractor-trailers can cost companies millions in business losses. In addition, homeland-security officials need to know where trucks are due to the threat of terrorist attacks. For example, in 2002, a Mexican freight trailer carrying 96 barrels of sodium cyanide was hijacked at gunpoint near Mexico City. Police eventually recovered the abandoned truck and 90 of the barrels. Six still are missing.

      The trucking industry and others have a “need to know” the whereabouts of their assets. It is creating an opportunity for growth in wireless and satellite asset tracking. “For instance, Qualcomm [QCOM] alone has equipped more than 300,000 vehicles with its OmniTracs two-way satellite transponders,” said Ahmad Ghais, president of the Mobile Satellite Users Association in McLean, Va. OmniTracs-equipped trucks have narrowband satellite transmitters that record the trucks’ positions using GPS receivers. This data is then sent back to the trucks’ fleet management offices via satellite.

      National Freight (NFI), a national logistics provider, selected Qualcomm’s TrailerTracs and OmniTracs trailer-asset-management solution as its advanced tracking system to provide better information to its customers and improve its own internal equipment utilization capabilities. The company has started to equip as many as 4,000 National Freight trailers with Qualcomm gear. This wireless solution enables NFI to pinpoint the location of its trailers remotely, and its customers also can monitor the whereabouts of their goods.

      AeroAstro, a Calif.-based manufacturer of small satellites, developed a similar narrowband system that uses Globalstar’s [GSTRF.PK] low-Earth orbiting (LEO) satellites. For $99 per unit (plus airtime costs), North American truckers can install palm-sized Sensor Enabled Notification System (SENS) transmitters in their vehicles. The SENS monitors each truck’s position, and then it sends the data back periodically over the Globalstar satellite-phone network.

      The actual data included in these transmissions is minimal. This is why such narrowband satellite services as Globalstar are more than adequate for asset tracking.

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