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    Category Archives: LatLon

    Lat-Lon, LLC Launches Adaptive Device Configuration

    Traditionally, users of GPS tracking devices would need to closely monitor and manually change the configuration of a device. For large fleets, this task can be overwhelming and time prohibitive. ADC makes it possible for users to easily manage reporting configuration and get automatic updates based on location, weather data, proximity to set points, unit status, and sensor input.

    ADC users can add “if-then” logic at the back-office level that allows a unit to react to data. This creates efficient, customized reporting which allows customers to track their assets even closer at critical times. For example, once a device leaves a specific geo-fence, reporting frequency can change to automatically update every ten minutes. Additionally, if it is sunny and the unit has a strong charge, reporting frequency can increase to every minute.

    Dave Baker, President of Lat-Lon says “The natural progression of IoT is to add a layer of feedback to the units in the field so that they can automatically reconfigure based on changing conditions both local to the units as well as any other sources of data, such as the internet or business operational considerations.”

    Lat-Lon’s goal in creating ADC was to improve the “SMART” technology by taking out the manual steps in the configuration process. This is beneficial for customers because they receive more timely data, reduce their work load, and increase their productivity.

    Lat-Lon, A BSM Technologies Company, is expanding the use of ADC in-line with customer needs and deployment situations.  The ADC is compatible with the latest version of Solar-Powered Tracking Units (STU’s) and Compact Tracking Units (CTU’s) by Lat-Lon.

    About Lat-Lon: Lat-Lon, LLC was founded in 1999 in Denver, Colorado and provides wireless GPS tracking and monitoring solutions for assets.  Lat-Lon’s key products include a solar-powered GPS monitoring system (STU) for railcars and trailers that allows fleet managers to know the condition and location of their assets at any given time, a compact tracking unit (CTU) for track and trace capabilities, and a locomotive monitoring unit (LMU). For further information contact Lat-Lon at 877-300-6566 or visit www.lat-lon.com  Lat-Lon is owned by BSM Technologies Inc. (Toronto, ON) Stock Symbol: TSX-V:GPS.

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    4G LTE, A Summary

    4G and LTE are actually separate terms used together to define the fastest available mobile data technology. 4G is a term that is used to describe the 4th generation of network technology.  LTE is the term used for the “long term evolution” of this technology and generally refers to the improvement of wireless speeds to meet increasing demand. As defined by International Telecommunications Union-Radio communications sector (ITU-R), 4G peak speed requirements are 100 megabits per second (Mbit/s) for high mobility communication (such as trains and cars) and 1 gigabit per second (Gbit/s) for low mobility communication (such as pedestrians and stationary users).[

    4G and 4G LTE replace earlier versions of data technology, such as 2G and 3G.  A 2G network can transmit up to 50,000 bytes/second and a 3G network can transmit up to 4 million bytes/second.  Megabyte is the file size and megabit is the download speed. Most importantly, a megabit is 1/8 of a megabyte, so if you are downloading a 1 megabyte file an internet speed of 8 megabits per second (Mbit/s) allows you to download the file in 1 second.  The 4G LTE network is providing a much faster and cleaner data transmission due in part to a redesign and simplification of the network. Using 4G LTE communication capabilities will provide increased data transmission speeds of anywhere between 5 and 50 times the 3G network.

    4G networks use a different frequency than 3G networks to transmit data.  The increase in speed is due in part to being able to condense more data into the same amount of radio frequency. Data is split up and sent in small pieces at the same time, thus increasing the network ability.  As technology advances, we are experiencing mobile data speeds that rival or sometimes exceed broadband connections.  This allows us to use data much more reliably and consistently in mobile applications. This also permits the transfer of much more data from a remote location.

    For the specific purposes of machine to machine (M2M) devices, the actual transmission speed is not the critical concern as much as coverage.  As we are quickly approaching the sunset of AT&T’s 2G network (including M2M applications), it is imperative we look at the best way to maintain our coverage.  An average data packet from a Lat-Lon Solar Tracking Unit (STU) is 256 bytes, thus bytes/sec is more than ample even with the “old” 2G.  But given the shutdown of the 2G network by AT&T it is necessary for us to upgrade our systems to ensure proper tracking of our Lat-Lon Solar Tracking Units.

    Is this the end of the line, of course not!  As technology continues to develop we will eventually see a 5G, 6G, etc. to continue to enhance our data communication abilities.  At this point the timeline for 5G technology is still a work in progress, as are the exact definitions of what the future generation of network technology will hold for businesses and consumers.  For the foreseeable future, 4G LTE is the optimal network with the broadest coverage for Lat-Lon Solar Tracking Units.

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    Perspective: From M2M to Rail IoT and Big Data Analytics

    Machine to machine (M2M) technology isn’t new to the rail industry, but it has now broadened into the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data analytics. Railroads and their customers are benefitting today, and there is still room for growth and the realization of new benefits.

    Real-time tracking
    Real-time satellite image with moving assets as icons

    Railroads are benefitting because, with the rise of IoT, we’ve actually seen a decrease in safety incidents. The train accident rate in 2014 was the lowest ever, down 79 percent from 1980, and 43 percent from 2000. With the implementation of things like positive train control (PTC) and closer monitoring of driver fatigue, we hope to see this trend continue.

    Another advantage IoT provides for railroads is related to the heightened visibility IoT provides: Railroads no long bear sole responsibility for lost, delayed or damaged shipments. A railroad can now share accountability with shippers and equipment manufacturers, given the range of tracking and reporting systems that not only can trace a problem, but also enable prevention.

    IoT also is being used to drastically bring down the costs of operations with, for example, new technology such as mesh networks for tracking and monitoring railcars. By using less hardware and data to elicit valuable information — information such as rapid acceleration, impact detection, and hatch-openings on each individual car — railroads can secure and optimize their operations at steeply reduced costs. Being one of the primary modes of transportation within the country, this helps railroads optimize their efficiencies and increase their output at a better profit margin.

    For railroad customers, optimized efficiencies bring down the cost of goods transferred. In the end everyone is happy.

    How M2M has evolved

    The natural progression of M2M communications was to create an even smarter machine-to-machine relationship, with information coming back again, generating a conditional environment. So instead of a machine simply reporting to another machine, they each can understand adjustable criteria and use it to modify their interaction. Lat-Lon, a BSM Technologies Company, is undergoing this transformation with its systems so that each machine is adaptive to each other’s activities, creating a symmetrical relationship. For example, once a shipment leaves the railyard on a truck, both the railyard system and the truck report more frequently.

    The heightened visibility mentioned earlier is afforded by global positioning system (GPS) tracking devices. Since 1999, Lat-Lon has been accumulating a broad range of success stories on how this type of M2M communication delivers safety, efficiency and fiscal results to Class 1s, short lines and shippers. In 2014, Lat-Lon was acquired by global asset tracking leader, BSM Technologies. The combined product array completes offerings for all tracking and monitoring needs in the rail industry.

    As technology has evolved, so have the BSM Technologies products, providing a host of sensors that offer relevance to events with GPS data. Applications include the detecting of damaging impacts, identifying “Man Down” equipment, flat wheel sensors, truck hunting input and more.

    Specific IoT applications

    One major chemical shipper used Lat-Lon GPS with Impacts Data to determine algorithm issues specific to a particular track in an automated yard. This customer was able to determine that a decimal point had been misplaced in an automated sorting yard application, after discovering consistent large impacts on one track.

    A short-line railroad is saving more than $1,750 per week in idling fuel per locomotive during winter months with the Lat-Lon Automatic Engine Start Stop application. Lat-Lon AESS lets updates to engine start/stop parameters be made over-the-air, so this railroad can make adjustments quickly and easily when business needs dictate.

    A Class 1 railroad wanted to reduce their claims for spoiled produce. Through 24/7 temperature monitoring, this customer was able to prove that their refer cars had been functioning correctly; one particular destination was incorrectly claiming spoilage.

    Most recently, an existing Lat-Lon customer wanted to concisely improve visibility and efficiency without eroding safety. They conceptualized a two-screen system to display all moving and stationary assets within their yard, but on a budget. The customer reached out to Lat-Lon and the Connected Rail Yard was born. The connecting of all rail assets in a yard — from crew to moving equipment to fixed assets — is the epitome of IoT.

    For this connected railyard, Lat-Lon harnessed Mesh technology to create a scalable and reliable network with high-frequency transmission capabilities. Sensors installed on switches and derails within the customer’s yard pass data along like a bucket brigade, creating a network with multiple paths to each access point. The Solar-Powered Access Point (AP) unit contains a modem that uploads the data to secure servers and train dispatcher screens. That means this customer has fewer modems deployed throughout their yard, while gathering all required data.

    In this railyard, moving assets were equipped with a self-contained Solar-Powered Tracking Unit or Locomotive Monitoring Unit. The Connected Rail Yard data is collected on secure servers, and data analytics creates displays on two large, high-definition monitors in the dispatch office. One monitor shows a real-time satellite image with all moving assets as icons. The second monitor shows a custom schematic Rail Yard Control screen (Tracks) with all stationary sensor icons. Each icon is a relay from MeshRF sensors or standalone units deployed within the yard. The dispatch office screen indicates when a switch in the normal, diverting position, or unknown status.

    With Lat-Lon and BSM together, the customer can monitor all assets within the yard. The Connected Rail Yard application is an efficient, at-a-glance tool for this customer to resolve bottlenecks, improve throughput and maximize resources.

    Robyn Kline is Director of Marketing for Lat-Lon LLC, a BSM Technologies Company. With a host of sensors and specialty monitoring for rail and intermodal shipments, Lat-Lon provides more than GPS. Since 1999, Lat-Lon has established itself as an innovator. It gained further momentum in 2014 when acquired by BSM Technologies, a global asset tracking leader. The Lat-Lon self-contained Solar Tracking Unit dominates product lines, and is complimented by powered units for locomotives, a variety of rail-specific collaborated sensors, and thorough hy-rail & rubber tire solutions from BSM. Find out more by viewing the Connected Rail Yard video or the Lat-Lon/Progressive Railroading Fast Cast on Impact in Rail.

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    Compact Tracking Unit

    February 29th, 2016 Denver, CO: Lat-Lon announces a new product, the Compact Tracking Unit. A new smaller Solar-Powered Tracking Device, the Compact Tracking Unit (CTU) product is designed to fit in small spots, even in the grooves of a container or any other non-powered asset. The unit collects data, GPS and from additional optional sensors, to send from nearly any location, worldwide to secure servers with multiple points for data access in near real-time.

    The Compact Tracking Unit possesses many of the same capabilities of the larger Solar-Powered Tracking Unit (STU) commonly used by shippers around the globe. Both Lat-Lon tracking units incorporate lithium iron phosphate rechargeable cells delivering a long lifecycle product, averaging over 7 years, but with reports as frequent as every 10 minutes when moving. The solar panels, energy storage and power circuitry are optimized for lower voltage allowing the CTU to operate the GPS module 24/7 under typical conditions for location and speed awareness. And in less than ideal conditions, these developments allow for up to five days of messages with no direct or indirect sunlight.

    “We were able to quickly redesign our workhorse STU into a smaller form to meet the needs of one of our rail customers.  We realized that the new smaller shape opens up new market opportunities and are excited about its potential.”  Notes Lat-Lon President David Baker

    The Compact Tracking Unit has been designed with the most recent firmware from Solar-Powered Tracking Unit (STU) with over 15 years of success. As with the STU, the Compact Tracking Unit will continue Lat-Lon’s practice of supporting over the air firmware updates to improve performance and add features even after the equipment is deployed. With a secure website, desktop and mobile apps for Android and iOS, or direct software integration options, monitoring a fleet continues to get easier.

    About Lat-Lon: Lat-Lon, LLC was founded in 1999 in Denver, Colorado provides wireless GPS tracking and monitoring solutions for mobile. Lat-Lon’s key products include a locomotive monitoring unit (LMU) and a solar-powered GPS monitoring system (STU) for railcars and trailers that allows fleet managers to know the condition and location of their assets at any given time. For further information contact Lat-Lon at 877-300-6566 or visit www.lat-lon.com Lat-Lon is owned by BSM Technologies Inc. (Toronto, ON) Stock Symbol: TSX-V:GPS. For more information, please visit http://www.bsmwireless.com

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    Lat-Lon, L.L.C. Acquired by BSM Technologies Inc.

    Lat-Lon, a leading provider of GPS tracking and monitoring solutions has been acquired by BSM Wireless as of May 30th, 2014.  With expertise in remote monitoring, fleet tracking and maintenance for mobile and fixed assets, BSM has complementary technology to Lat-Lon and a beneficial infrastructure.  With no leadership changes at Lat-Lon, the purchase has been seamless to customers and yielding a faster pace of development and technology upgrades.

    Dave Baker, President of Lat-Lon says “With the rail GPS monitoring market blossoming into larger and larger deployments it was time to consolidate and add scale to all aspects of the company from engineering to customer support to marketing and sales.”
    Lat-Lon will continue to be headquartered out of Denver, CO, and build additional software resources between Denver and BSM home base in Toronto, while manufacturing and leadership remain in Denver.

    Lat-Lon’s highly customizable products complement BSM solutions, and offer opportunities for growth for both firms.  As heightened focus upon rail safety builds, increased technology solutions become helpful to compliance and efficiency.

    “The acquisition of Lat-Lon will significantly expand BSM’s product offering within the rail vertical by adding rail car and locomotive solutions to our current high-rail product offering,” said Aly Rahemtulla, BSM President & CEO. “Through Lat-Lon, we acquire a strong product portfolio and access to an impressive customer base, positioning BSM as a clear leader within the rail vertical.”

    About BSM Technologies Inc. BSM Technologies Inc., through its subsidiaries, is a leading provider of remote monitoring, fleet tracking, fleet maintenance and a business intelligence engine providing real time web‐based tracking of mobile and fixed assets. BSM provides solutions for commercial, government, and law enforcement organizations who manage and operate diverse assets and large fleets, and who seek to enhance customer service, improve the safety of their drivers and vehicles, and lower business costs. For more information, please visit http://www.bsmtechnologies.com

    About Lat-Lon: Lat-Lon, LLC was founded in 1999 in Denver, Colorado provides wireless GPS tracking and monitoring solutions for mobile assets with a specific focus on the rail market. Lat-Lon’s key products include a Locomotive Monitoring Unit (LMU) and a Solar-Powered Tracking Unit (STU) for railcars and trailers that allows fleet managers to know the condition and location of their assets at any given time.  For further information contact Lat-Lon at 877-300-6566 or visit www.lat-lon.com

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    Lat-Lon Next Generation: More Power; Less Draw

    Lat-Lon, LLC. is pleased to announce the release of the 14K Solar Tracking Unit (STU).  The 14K STU incorporates power management improvements, plus upgrades to GPS and cellular technologies.  Modifying the prior patented power system from the 13K, the X14K incorporates lithium iron phosphate rechargeable cells now giving the STU four times longer life.  The solar panels, energy storage and power circuitry are optimized for lower voltage allowing the STU to operate the GPS module 24/7 under typical conditions for unprecedented location and speed awareness.

    “It will almost seem like the 14K STU is plugged into a wall outlet.”  Notes Lat-Lon President David Baker.  “Once per minute live reporting is now an option using only solar power.”  The GPS utilizes the latest low-power modules from U-BLOX while cellular technology is advanced with your choice of either 1xRTT (Verizon) or HSPA+ (AT&T) 3G modems.  Both wired and wireless sensor options are also available including 2.4GHz mesh network sensors for superior data reliability.

    The 14K STU has been carefully developed and tested over the past 18 months to ensure a mature design.  As with the 13K STU, the 14K STU will continue Lat-Lon’s practice of supporting over the air firmware updates to improve performance and add features even after the equipment is deployed.  With a secure website, desktop and mobile apps for Android and iOS, keeping track and collecting sensor data from your fleet of equipment has never been better or easier.

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    Patents, Progress & Practices

    Wireless RF SensorThe transportation industry is a demanding industry, hungry for systematic improvements, technology assistance, and time.  Adding up maintenance fees, damage and equipment downtime can quickly tip the scales in profits and service.  Finding solutions to these challenges is a constant priority, and helping shippers track what matters can help.  As we seek additional ways to monitor occurrences that affect the bottom line, we develop and patent new products with the insight and innovation to bring reliable solutions.

    Crew and load security are of constant concern and costly ongoing issues.  Temperature damage can spoil entire loads and reduce margins.  Flat Wheels from forgotten handbrakes total hundreds of millions of dollars each year in replacement costs.  All the while, efficient use of trailers and railcars is demanded to meet expectations and keep leasing costs lower.

    If a magic device were able to manage these challenges, it would be all to welcome.  And the best instrument is knowledge.  Being able to learn where, what, when, and how these problems arise allow for a systematic set of solutions.

    Our most recent patent awarded was for creating a multi-functional sensor that was self-contained for ease of installation.  The Orientation-Based Wireless Sensing Apparatus is otherwise known as the RF Sensor, is capable of monitoring security, temperature, and tilt.  The RF Sensor is the size of a deck of cards, but collects a large amount of data.  With a surface mount thermistor, digital temperature readings can be collected from a surface mount or with a small attached pigtail, and is frequently helpful for food safety.  Additionally, the RF Sensor contains accelerometers that provide a tilt reading given in degrees that can be mounted to detect if a load is empty or full, or the position of the handbrake on a railcar.  This can quickly payoff when flat wheel damage can be assessed to a specific rail yard and not a shipper.  Magnetic switches can easily monitor security breaches, and generate text or email alerts.

    Case Study: A large chemical shipper faced concerns with safety, security, and product integrity.  The liquid chemical was being transported in tank cars traveling across North America, causing concern over temperature degradation in the varied climates.  Additionally, the product was valuable to illegal drug manufacturers and posed a security concern for crew and public safety.  The Lat-Lon Solar Tracking Unit with separate RF Sensor was installed on cars as a hatch security sensor, and temperature sensor.  Given that up to 10 of the RF Sensors can be paired with one Solar Tracking Unit, the shipper was happy to equip their fleet and monitor multiple points of data.  With the customizable web reporting system, they were able to make quick, easy to understand alerts to instantly know what happened, where, when and even take pictures of incidents.

    Another shipper was spending a great deal of money on flat wheel repairs.

    Learn more:  Coal Transporter: Handbrakes, Wheelsets; and Accountability

    The article focuses on the damage incurred in overlooking the release of the handbrake prior to moving a railcar. Mitsui Rail Capital (MRC), a Lat-Lon customer, brought the challenge to us and now has a method to better understand what is occurring regarding their railcar’s handbrake. With GPS tracking and a RF Sensor Unit, MRC can see when and where the handbrake is applied and released, and even send an alert if applied while moving. Read More or contact us for more information at support@www.lat-lon.com.

    Jones, P.L. & Kerr, D. (2012). Handbrakes; Wheelsets; and Accountability. Who’s Stuck with the Bill? Coal Transporter, (Issue 1) Pages 42-44

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    Shutting Down 2G

    cell technology2G, or Second Generation Wireless Networks with AT&T will be shut down by 2017.  Friday, August 3rd, AT&T filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to shut down these networks as it continues to upgrade its systems to faster technology and better use its limited airwaves.

    From a Consumer perspective, this will impact roughly 12% of AT&T Customers, but proactive measures will be in place to prevent interruption in service.  However, in Industrial Segments, the change will be more impactful.  Many M2M, Machine to Machine, devices rely on 2nd Generation networks.  If this technology is 2nd Generation, but Consumer Markets are using 4th Generation, why aren’t we up to speed?  The generational improvement in the networks is primarily driven for speed in transmission (bytes/second).  Given the compact nature of the data generated by a tracking device, or data packet, the transmission time is not a factor for performance (in comparison to a voice conversation or loading a web page).  For example, a 2G network can transmit up to 50,000 bytes/second versus a 3G network of up to 4 Million bytes/second.  But the typical data packet or tracking message is only 256 bytes!

    The critical factor for M2M devices is coverage.  As visible with a smartphone, the 4G and sometimes 3G networks are not always available.  Often rural areas only have 2G network coverage, and in order to ensure that most complete information when tracking industrial assets, we factor to the lowest common denominator to enable a message to transmit almost anywhere, including internationally.  If Lat-Lon only offered 4G transmission, units would only transmit in densely populated regions where 4G network coverage is available.

    What will happen in 2017?  The deadline may possibly be extended, but when the 2G network is shutdown, any unit still transmitting in 2G will no longer be able to communicate.

    More specifically, this will impact Lat-Lon customers, but we also have a proactive plan in place to offer the best possible service available.  Lat-Lon is switching to CDMA as a standard due to improved coverage and extend operational lifetime.  Any unit with an ALPHA NUMERIC serial number has a CDMA modem which is estimated to remain unchanged until 2022.  Additionally, Lat-Lon has additional technicians to perform a health check on units and switch the modem if requested.  More questions?  Feel free to contact us for additional information at support@www.lat-lon.com or 877-300-6566.

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