So, a little while ago we announced that we were trialing a couple of different GPS tracking systems. Such systems have been around for a while and are a great way to safeguard your rig and can help recover it if it gets stolen.
The technology now available is amazing and over the last few months we’ve been playing with the two systems we chose to trial, Netcorp GPS and Black Knight Systems. The intent of each system is the same – to provide the owner of the vehicle the ability to track it’s movements via a combination of GPS and GSM. The result? Well, at the click of a button you can check if your rig is sitting where you parked it, or driving off down the road in the hands of a thief (or making sure the kids aren’t tooling around in your rig without you knowing!).
Whilst the basic functionality of these systems is the same – providing the ability to track, each has its own specific benefits which we’d like to call out below.
Beautifully packaged and easy to use. The Black Knight product is manufactured by the same guys who bought Data Dot DNA to asset security many years ago – so vehicle security is in their DNA (bad pun, sorry). With a simple DIY install and registration process – we had the unit installed in no time. The recommendation was to mount the unit under the bonnet which we did, tucking it away on the inside wall of the engine bay. Registration was quick and easy on a computer and before we knew it, we had the Black Knight app up on iPhone.
Setting up the parameters and preferences was easy – we chose to have alerts emailed and pop up on the iPhone to ensure appropriate coverage. Setting a geofence is an easy process, with a tap and sliding tool to enlarge it on the app. Our only issue with this was that the minimum standard geofence area was 300 meters. Interestingly, leaving the office in Blaxland, we wouldn’t receive a notification until halfway down Lapstone Hill, whereas arriving in the morning we were alerted of our entry into the geofence area much later (but still much further away than 300 meters). Speaking to the guys we were told that there is a black-spot in the area – an issue we’ve not noticed in the past on our chosen Telstra mobile plans.
What’s a geofence you ask? Good question – it’s basically a boundary you set around your rig’s current location (or any locations) and when it crosses that boundary you get an alert.
For example, MobileHQGU has two geofences, one at work and one at home. So, when I leave from home in the morning and cross the geofence leaving the area, I get an alert and get another when I enter the geofence around the work address. This worked really well – but in order to get a notification live the app had to be open – otherwise my only notification was an email which I missed on several occasions.
Other interesting functions were a “power-cut” alert and a feature used for caravans which notifies of distance travelled, to ensure maintenance items like wheel bearings are attended too appropriately.
The way the Black Knight system works is it sends a GPS notification every 15 seconds updating the location, then communicates to the relevant platforrm via 3G GSM on a “combination of Vodafone and Optus” network. When not in range, it will store 1000 data-points and refresh when in range. Recently on a trip to the Victorian High Country, we found that the entire trip was tracked, despite us spending many hours out of range.
The team have just released a waterproof version which should add a little more certainty and longevity given the conditions that we will use these items in. Whilst our unit saw tonnes of dust, it never saw water, so although we had the “non-waterproof” version, we cannot comment on its resistance capabilities.
No commentary on packaging, because i didn’t see any – not a cable tie or piece of tape to be seen! What I saw was a reminder on my calendar, followed by a knock on the door by a Netcorp approved mobile installer who took the keys to the GU, returning 15 minutes later when the job was done. The Netcorp GPS solution we are trialing is not DIY, which to me is not such a bad thing – if I don’t know where it is then how would a thief find it right?
Jumping on the very comprehensive software system on the PC, it took a while to work things out despite the instructions, but the level of Information available and the options for tracking were mind blowing. Want to know if the person driving your pride and joy is braking or accelerating roughly? Create your alert and the in-built gyroscope will measure and communicate it to you. Want to set an overspeed alarm to keep a friend or kids in check? – just set the alert on your system. Vehicle being pulled onto a tilt tray? The Gyro picks it up and lets you know.
There were more options than I really knew what to do with, but in time I’m sure that I’d set options like a valet setup when MobileHQGU is getting serviced and an option for when the vehicle is being driven by someone other than me with speed alerts etc.
At a glance I could see where the vehicle was, whether it was switched on or off (ignition can be tracked and used as an alert, as this system never switches off). This leads us to what was the most exciting additional option for us, the ability to shut the vehicle down if it has been stolen. The team went to pains to explain the conditions around when this may happen, but in concert with 24/7 remote monitoring, once your vehicle comes to a stop and the police are in attendance it can be switched off; disabling the vehicle and preventing further loss.
Like Black Knight, we found that our entire Victorian High Country trip was tracked despite being offline for days at a time. Furthermore, Netcorp exclusively uses Telstra as their telecommunications provider, meaning you have a higher likelihood of service in regional areas and less opportunities for theft without you being informed.
Really the only downside was that Netcorp GPS had only recently launched an Android application and IOS is coming in the next month or so – so it didn’t have the fingertip ability to monitor just yet. With this functionality and the ability to set much more finite geofences (I could draw a square around the block that I live in) it could well be the perfect solution down the track.
How Much Is It?
As you can see, each option had its specific benefits. Neither is cheap, nor should they be? You have one product that works well, is easy but basic in features. On the other hand you have a product that is highly tailorable with more features and options to work with.
The Black Knight system is endorsed by various insurers and distributed through some motor dealerships, while Netcorp GPS is utilised on various large corporate fleets and entrusted by such prestige brands such as Ferrari/Maserati in Australia for all new vehicles sold – which do you choose?
My view is either. Both serve a purpose and give piece of mind. Ultimately the more feature filled option is the Netcorp GPS solution, but only once I have the same convenience of checking on my phone 24hrs, 7 days a week. The option of identifying someone tampering with my toy, having the police pursue and ultimately shut it down, followed by an arrest is one that frankly rates highly on my smile-o-meter.
It does come at a cost though and a significant one compared to the Black Knight solution. The tracker itself from Black Knight can be had at $29 a month for a 24 month contract for the most basic option. On the other hand, Netcorp GPS comes in at $250 + GST for the unit, $120 for installation and monitoring plans starting at $19 a month.
I know I’ve felt much more comfortable leaving the GU parked at the airport, or outside my place – anywhere really. I felt safe in the knowledge that I would have been alerted if the igjnition was tampered with, was moved, or if they did get it started and drove off. I will definitely be looking into getting one for each of my other toys. Insurance is great, but you cannot really replace the one you’ve worked on or had experiences with for years – let alone the feeling of having something stolen from you.
Stay tuned – this could be the start of something very interesting for Club 4X4 customers!