You can’t rely on GPS all the time. The signal may be lost for a variety of reasons – dense urban areas, tunnels, underground parkings, GPS antenna malfunction, vulnerability to spoofing and jamming. Hopefully, where GPS lacks, LBS seems to fill in the gaps.
LBS stands for Location-based service designed for positioning by cellular towers. In other words, a unit is located by coordinates of the closest GSM base station. LBS accuracy is quite rough, but it is a good way out when GPS positioning data are unavailable.
In case a unit doesn’t send GPS coordinates to the server, Wialon picks up the base station Cell ID and searches the coordinates in our database. In 2016, it contained 5 million points bound to the cell stations, whereas by today we accumulated about 50 million – the accuracy increased 10-fold. In 96% of queries Wialon LBS allows detecting asset location.
We talked the talk, let’s walk the walk. To show LBS service performance, we made a simple test with Secumore G200 tracker set to send LBS messages to Wialon every 2 minutes. We put up a parcel with the tracker and sent it by train to a small Belarusian town 377 km away from Minsk. To make sure the tracker didn’t see satellites, it was wrapped with foil.
Challenge. To check the quality of the service under the conditions of average mobile phone signal and lack of satellites visibility.
Unit track with LBS coordinates only
Messages with coordinates detected with LBS are marked with (0) satellites captured.
Looks like LBS did quite a good job.
Proven: the feature can be used for rail freight tracking, where location accuracy is less important than the fact the unit is moving in the right direction and is safe.
You can use the service in cases where the facts of departure/arrival, movement and stopping are more important than the precise location. Let’s take container tracking. If a device is installed inside a container, it won’t catch satellites. However, LBS messages will show that the cargo arrived to the warehouse, the container made an unscheduled stop or significantly deviated from the route.
LBS is useful in asset tracking too, especially when the device has no permanent power source. Battery lifetime will be extended if a GPS module is off. The usability of LBS service is even more varied, and nobody tells about it better than our partners.
Our partner from the USA Shadowtrack 24/7 has been utilizing LBS service in their projects for a few years. One of those is about tracking cargo shipped by 3PL providers.
Justin Cohan, Shadowtrack 24/7 system engineer:
“LBS has become a core part of our business due to the use of embedded devices. When embedded into cargo, most asset trackers are not able to provide GPS locations, and we rely on Gurtam ability to put a dot on the map using cell tower location.
A lot of our customers have begun using embedded trackers in their cargo to keep tabs on their 3PL shippers to make sure time frames are being met, certain routes are being taken, and more importantly backloading is not occurring.
Backloading is when a dedicated shipment merges cargo from two separate clients when they should not be. The shippers will use nefarious means to make this happen as well. Our customers apply either a bolt seal or cable seal to the truck at the time of departure. The shipper will have special bolts/screws allowing to circumvent the seal and open the truck. The devices we use have a combination of GPS, LBS, and onboard sensors which allows us to catch this in the act. The light alert tells us the truck has been opened, and a lot of times because of being embedded we rely on the LBS to give us an idea of where this is occurring. LBS has also allowed our clients to catch shippers in lies about where the cargo is actually located.
We have helped our customers detect and identify hundreds of carriers backloading items into dedicated shipments. Keeping track of where this occurs and when would not be possible without the LBS Gurtam utilizes.”
First, make sure your tracker is able to send LBS data. For data transmission, GSM module is to be registered at a network provider cell base station which transmits its ID and a number of parameters. Therefore, to locate a unit by LBS the device should send at least 4 parameters: mcc, mnc, lac, cell ID.
If the above is fine, let’s check Wialon settings. Activate LBS positioning in “Advanced” tab of “Unit properties” dialog (“Allow positioning by cellular base stations” checkbox). If ‘LBS detected’ data are more recent than received with GPS, then it will be used to determine the current location of your asset.
In case the location is determined by LBS you will see the corresponding icon on the monitoring panel.
Every day Wialon provides users with a million coordinates determined by cellular base stations. LBS service is activated in about 100 000 units. Check if there are yours among those.
Bookmark the article. It is about how LBS works, where to use it, and whom to consult in Gurtam partner community. Next time when you get a request for tracking without GPS, you know what to do: write at firstname.lastname@example.org to get your devices all set for LBS data.