Next-generation satellite system

Sept. 1, 2005
With testing scheduled to begin before the end of the year, the successor to Qualcomm's popular OmniTRACS satellite communications system was publicly demonstrated for the first time at an event in Atlanta for fleet customers. Officially named OmniVision, the new platform will co-exist at least for the near future with OmniTRACS, which was first introduced 18 years ago and is the most widely used

With testing scheduled to begin before the end of the year, the successor to Qualcomm's popular OmniTRACS satellite communications system was publicly demonstrated for the first time at an event in Atlanta for fleet customers. Officially named OmniVision, the new platform will co-exist at least for the near future with OmniTRACS, which was first introduced 18 years ago and is the most widely used wireless onboard messaging system.

The all-new platform not only includes a more powerful computer processor and an integrated color display and keyboard, but will also introduce an entirely new pricing model for wireless service, according to Qualcomm spokespeople. While the current system charges users by the character for all messages and data transmitted over the satellite network, OmniVision will provide various applications and the wireless service to support them on a flat-fee subscription basis. The fees for each application or bundles of applications should also include mobile and host software. Any new application, as well as upgrades, can be downloaded over the air to a single truck, group of trucks or entire fleet, according to Qualcomm.

Technical details include a WindowsCE operating system, opening the system to a wide range of new and future applications. There will be a separate “mobile applications server” housing a 400 MHz processor and offering a secure digital card slot and three USB ports for future expansion and peripherals. A color touch-screen display integrated with a full keyboard will be tethered to the server for the driver interface, and a remote control unit will also be supplied to allow drivers quick access to features such as text-to-speech messages and navigation directions.

When it is commercially launched sometime in the second half of 2006, OmniVision will be initially offered with three applications - a spoken, turn-by-turn navigation tool, an FMCSA-compliant paperless log, and automated arrival and departure notification.

Future applications could come from Qualcomm, third-party developers of WindowsCE products or in-house fleet IT efforts. Examples of possible applications include on-board access to electronic documents, driver email, remote diagnostics and even entertainment or games for drivers.

Like OmniTRACS, the new system will initially provide wireless service only over a satellite network, providing complete coverage in the U.S. and Canada. The company is also looking at adding land-based options over cellular networks and local wireless connections over WiFi in the future. Mixed operation with OmniTRAC and OmniVision units will be seamless to fleet users, although the advanced applications will not be available with the older existing systems, the company says.

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