Using a distributed computer network to track a vehicle and goods in transit
The following pages present an overview of my final year project for my BEng (hons) Electronic Engineering degree. I was awarded a first for this project. The main objectives of the project were to create a distributed computer system that would allow the customers of a small removal company - swannremovals - to track the location of their goods whilst in transit and provide the driver of the removal vehicle with a means to contact the customer safely and efficiently.
The system is based on two devices: a telematic device that allows the driver to communicate with the customer whilst tracking vehicle position is mounted within the removal vehicle; and a central server hosts a vehicle tracking website and is located in the swannremovals office. Further details can be found in the following pages.
Over the last three years I have been running a small removal business - swannremovals - relocating goods and belongings across the UK and abroad. I have found that whilst offering excellent value for money is a great way to ensure custom, guaranteeing that an enquiry turns into a job does not always come down to the final price; potential customers require a certain level of service, they require peace of mind and security, and they need to know that their personal belongings are in safe hands.
One method to ensure the customer's peace of mind is to provide them with a system whereby they can remain in constant contact with the driver of the vehicle at all times during a job. This allows the driver to inform the customer of any prevailing situations or conditions that could present an issue of concern to the customer, such as delays, road closures or prevailing weather conditions. Currently, the driver must contact the customer by telephone whilst on the move. This presents both a safety issue if the driver were to make the call whilst in control of the vehicle and a time issue if the driver pulls the vehicle over to a safe place to make the call.
If we could incorporate a telematic device within the vehicle, along with a global positioning system (GPS) we could use this to continuously update a central server. We could then use this central server to allow customers to track the progress of their collections or deliveries online offering the customer the security and peace of mind they require. The driver could also use this device to receive up-to-date information regarding the current local weather and track conditions and use this information to send the customer a predefined message to inform them of any possible delays or just let them know the job has started or finished. The driver could also use this system to record all job details for the purposes of record keeping, tax returns etc.
This project will involve the design of a telematic vehicle system that will allow the previously described functionality. The main concerns of the project will be the design and implementation of the interfaces between various hardware modules of the system, the implementation of a central server system along with the design of the various user interfaces for both the driver and the customer. We will also be concerned with data links between the vehicle, the customers and the main server.
The following aims of this project were derived from issues raised during the background research:
To increase swannremovals' custom by offering potential and current customers security and peace of mind;
To ensure that drivers of swannremovals are able to contact the customer as and when required in a safe and efficient manner.
Taking the needs of the customer into consideration along with the assessment of existing products we can start to define the project objectives. These are as follows:
To design and implement a telematic vehicle system that allows GPS data to be logged on a central server whilst the vehicle is on the move;
Design and implement a driver `terminal' that presents the driver with local weather and traffic conditions and allows the driver to contact the customer whilst the vehicle is on the move. The driver terminal must also allow the driver record details of jobs being carried out, e.g. start time, end time and mileage;
To implement a central server that allows data to be uploaded from the device whilst the vehicle is on the move;
Design and implement a customer portal that they can log onto via the internet to check the status of their jobs being carried out in real time.
Context diagram for the distributed vehicle and goods tracking system
The following pictures presents the project poster along with the project stand at the Technology Degree Show held at Southampton Solent university on Jun 11th, 2011:
The project can also be navigated by clicking on the various sections of the following poster: