As a result of the amount of aggregation going on among the trucking industry, fleets have become more sophisticated and diversified, expanding their reach into different types of hauls and different regions of the world. And these days, fleets require asset tracking technology to meet those evolving needs and the changing landscape of their business.

Over the years, asset tracking technology provider SkyBitz has been building up a portfolio of devices and solutions
designed to address these different needs. Most recently, the technology company has been working on a GSM(Global System for Mobile Communications) terrestrial-based device through a partnership with U.K.-based QinetiQ, a defense technology and security company.

According to Homaira Akbari, president and CEO of SkyBitz, the new device is designed for applications that require a high amount of data reporting, such as chassis, flatbeds and less-than-truckload operations. The device can mount anywhere on the trailer, including on the underside. A military-grade solution, the GSM device can operate in the harshest of conditions, she added.

Another way SkyBitz has addressed the changing landscape of the industry is through the recent launch of a global tag, thanks to a partnership with Iridium. With the integration of SkyBitz's Global Locating System (GLS) technology with the recently announced Iridium 9602 satellite data transceiver, the two will develop a two-way remote asset tracking and monitoring solution. With this new tag, fleets will be able to track an asset from Milwaukee to remote areas of China, Akbari said. With the two-way communication, carriers can dynamically manage the communication and configuration.

The Evolution of Asset Tracking

Asset tracking technology has come a long way over the years, and fleets did not always have these sophisticated capabilities at their fingertips. While SkyBitz has typically been known for its GLS technology, the company now offers two-way GLS communication, one-way satellite technology, and GSM tags, Akbari said. While asset tags previously were more regional and local, the company has taken tagging to a global level.

Back in 2003, asset tracking basically involved tagging, tracking and locating. As the industry became more aware of the technology, it started to evolve with the addition of intelligent sensors, Akbari said. SkyBitz now offers 20 different sensors that can not only tell you where the asset is, but can also tell whether it's loaded and whether a door is open. The sensors also provide information about the asset's identification number, the temperature, and more.

In addition to providing different kinds of data, asset tracking technology has also evolved into a business intelligence tool, which allows fleets to use the data to make business decisions. Asset data gets sent to SkyBitz's data center, where it's analyzed. SkyBitz then provides the fleet with the degree of information they want, Akbari said.

Through SkyBitz's web-based service, SkyBitz InSight, carriers can access the data through over 50 reports as well as customized reports, if they so choose. The open API allows the company to back-haul data from other asset tracking devices, such as Numerex or Qualcomm's trailer tracking, according to Craig Montgomery, SkyBitz senior vice president of marketing and business development. This way, fleets can view data from all their devices on one platform.

Over the years, asset tracking technology providers have figured out ways to make these devices more powerful and efficient. According to Akbari, once fleets tag an asset, they don't want to touch the device or mess with it again. Therefore, the devices had to be built for long-time autonomy, with delicate battery enclosures, and they also had to come in small forms, she said.

Looking Ahead

According to Akbari, there are two types of telematics--wide-area telematics and local telematics, from RF to RFID tags. SkyBitz's vision for the future is the integration of these two areas. This type of technology would monitor the asset from origin to destination, providing entire supply chain visibility. SkyBitz is currently working on developing this technology, and should reveal something in the next six to nine months.