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Just imagine how powerful the ability to track operating data from several components of a concrete delivery truck would be. Such uses of otherwise wasted resources must have inspired the developers of TracerNET Corp.'s Intelligent Mobile Asset Tracking (IMAT) platform.

Unique to the system is a Mobile Data Unit (MDU) equipped with a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and a wireless Internet Protocol (IP) modem. The MDU can interface with up to about 20 truck components, such as the engine in a mixer truck or flatbed truck or a truck-mounted mixer. This system provides two-way text messaging and automatic vehicle location (AVL) without driver intervention like several others, but the similarities end there. A limitation of AVL systems is their inability to pinpoint truck waiting time, since GPS can't provide real-time status by itself. This system overcomes this limitation by processing operating data.

The MDU senses drum direction and uses mathematical algorithms to sense whether a truck is charging or discharging, and it sends these data back to the dispatch computer via modem. The dispatcher can draw appropriate location "hot zones" on the computer screen with a mouse or by entering a street address. The system can report "leave job" and "back at plant" time stamps automatically by measuring time interval against engine rpm and by taking vehicle hot zone location into account.

Sales and accounting can format the data from the system's databases and put them into spreadsheets. When quoting a job, sales can use these data for pricing.

Using the software, the system can notify the fleet manager automatically when oil pressure or engine temperature sensors detect problems, for example. The fleet manager then can decide which trucks to take out of the revenue stream for service. If a critical fault occurs, e-mail or a page from the MDU indicates to the fleet manager which part is failing. If necessary, the system can request more concrete for a given job with fixed messages.