Technology

Hardware Agnostic: What Does It Mean and How Can You Use It as an Organisational Advantage?

Here at TracPlus we talk about being ‘hardware agnostic an awful lot. It’s a key feature of a platform and something that we are all very proud of. But what does it actually mean? In this blog we’ll be talking about the topic of being hardware agnostic. By interviewing one of TracPlus’ original founders, our head of development and our chief technology officer we’ve collected a wealth of information to share with you.

 Contents 

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Deep Dive

To first begin to understand what we mean when we say ‘hardware agnostic’ a deep dive into what it actually is and how it works was required. To do this we talked to TracPlus’s head of development Nic Bathgate. Nic has been in this role at TracPlus for over 3 years now and is an expert on the systems that make TracPlus what it is.

In brief, Nic summarized our ability to be hardware agnostic as meaning we can accept data from any compatible device. It can also be described as device agnosticismwhich more broadly discusses the ability of a computing component to be capable of interacting with various systems without needing large adaptations to accommodate. This is effectively how TracPlus works. 

Our tracking decoder engine is what receives tracking data from all devices connected to the TracPlus network. This engine is uniquely built in a way that allows it to decode tracking data from multiple sources into a common format, allowing TracPlus to operate in a hardware agnostic fashion. Being able to decode multiple different streams of data also means that minimal updating or adapting of current systems is required when bringing on new integrations. Once an integration has been built the engine will ingest data from tracking devices in the manufacturer format then convert it into a standard common reporting format. This is what allows TracPlus to present multiple different asset types in one, singular common operating picture. Thanks to this TracPlus has a degree of flexibility that is unrivalled.

A real-life case study that accurately demonstrates this flexibility and ability to provide a singular view of the truth is the work TracPlus has done with the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC). NAFC are responsible for the co-ordination of Australia’s aerial firefighting contracts, an understandable large responsibility that involves a wide diversity of assets. With 500 aircraft, 150 operators and 12 tracking providers NAFC was presented with a wealth of reporting data that they were unable to effectively utilise due to the lack of a common operating picture.

A single view of the truth solution was looking cost-prohibitive and unworkable until TracPlus was brought in. By utilising our unique tracking decoder engine and ability to integrate, TracPlus now acts as a single access point for all firefighting tracking and event-related data. All the different data streams are then converted, via our engine, into a singular view of the truth that can be distributed to all NAFC member operators and agencies.

 

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The Origins

It is clear that being hardware agnostic gives TracPlus a distinct advantage by promoting the flexibility needed to meet any customer's needs. But when did TracPlus first move to being hardware agnostic? To answer this question we had to talk to Chris Hinch, one of the original founders of TracPlus and driving forces behind hardware agnosticism from the start.

As Chris said the decision to be hardware agnostic was clear nearly 20 years ago back in 2004 when TracPlus was first conceived. The original founders noticed a distinct pattern of only closed trip solutions being available in the market. All tracking providers had a closed shop of hardware and software, meaning only their hardware assets could be viewed through their software leaving no room for flexibility. This was where TracPlus came up with the vision of providing a common operating picture where customers could see all their assets, regardless of hardware in a singular view of the truth.

“We don’t have to buy into that game, let’s think differently” 

 

From here TracPlus adopted a “no closed systems philosophy” with the goal of providing customers situational awareness no matter the operator. This resulted in a number of benefits for TracPlus right from the start. Firstly, since there were little to no hardware expenses, TracPlus was able to put extra revenue into the platform we provided and optimise it for the customer as best as possible. TracPlus was also able to offer a wide range of hardware based on operator requirements from a wide range of hardware retailers. Many of these relationships we developed with hardware retailers continue strong to this day with the likes of Ground Control (formerly RockSeven) and Flightcell.

Thanks to this TracPlus has benefited from the aforementioned flexibility of hardware agnosticism since the beginning. Freedom, flexibility and the ability to choose allowed customers to meet their needs in whatever way best suited them thanks to TracPlus.

 

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Benefits 

The benefits of hardware agnosticism cannot be overstated. Increased flexibility, adaptability and a focus on customer support set TracPlus apart. By providing a customer with a common operating picture, they’re able to centralise their entire operation into one view of the truth. This allows for increased interoperability and efficiency often in high intensity situations, where complete situational awareness is a must.

The simplicity of integration also means TracPlus can adapt to customer needs with very little difficulty in order to ensure the best outcome. For example, many customers have requested that TracPlus integrate Geotab into our network. Once our development team got underway on this project it did not take long at all. All they needed was the API from the manufacturer and within a few days Geotab had been integrated into our engine. This is just one case of many where TracPlus has been able to provide integrations to customers effectively that directly benefit their operations. 

As was previously mentioned, with little to no hardware expenses, TracPlus is able to dedicate more time and resources to ensuring our platform is at a high standard for the customer.

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See the list below for a full overview of the benefits hardware agnosticism provides TracPlus and our customers

  • Increased operational flexibility
  • Provides a common operating picture
  • More focus on TracPlus platforms
  • Easy integration of assets
  • Ability to rapidly add support for more tracking partners
  • Ability to track a wide variety of asset types over land, sea or air.

Keeping It All Secure

Being hardware agnostic is all well and good but if you can’t guarantee that you’re keeping your customer’s data secure then you’re fighting a losing battle. In order to ensure that TracPlus was able to provide a hardware agnostic platform while keeping customer data secure, we talked to TracPlus’s chief technology officer Mark Greene.

Mark explained that to ensure the data we receive is secure TracPlus must implement robust security policies and practices at every level of the stack. We utilise strict protocols and encryption throughout all stages of data storage and transfer to ensure that data is only accessed by those that have the correct permissions.

“At TracPlus, the safeguarding of your data is our highest priority. We adhere to the stringent industry standards in ensuring data security, right from the point of its origin - be it a third-party device or a third-party API - all the way through to our servers, our website, and our API. This means the information is secure, not only during transmission but also while it is stored with us."

Additionally, we employ robust authentication protocols in line with industry best practices, ensuring that access to your data is tightly controlled and limited only to authorised entities.

We also regularly review and update our security practices to address evolving threats and challenges, assuring our customers of our continual dedication to data privacy and security.”

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to being hardware agnostic is ensuring that all the different data streams being integrated can maintain their own unique standards of security. TracPlus follows a strict set of protocols to maintain the security of all data. Many customers have asked, ‘is it safe to send data to TracPlus?’ The answer is a resounding yes. Our security protocols mean that TracPlus operates under very strict encryption standards. This is where strict security measures are implemented, ensuring that all data is stored and accessed only by those with the correct permissions. 

Looking to the Future 

Looking ahead, TracPlus is confident in the continued success of its hardware agnostic platform. With a number of potential future developments, there is plenty of room for TracPlus to continue growing. From innovations such as the integration of in-flight weather reporting to other cutting-edge integrations, TracPlus will continue to innovate and expand its hardware agnostic offering.

With customer feedback being vital in driving innovation, TracPlus will continue to put the customer at the heart of all decisions moving forward.

Whether it's your first time hearing about hardware agnosticism or you’ve been familiar with the term for a while, TracPlus is here to answer any questions you may have. Feel free to get in touch and we’ll be happy to discuss how being hardware agnostic can benefit you and your organisation.

 

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