By Francine Russo
Business 2.0 Magazine
October 4, 2007
You can't go far wrong in a truck equipped with an Astrata Group box. The device, half the size of a cigarette pack, can be wired into anything that moves - truck, car, shipping container - to head off nearly every conceivable type of disaster.
It can be programmed to stop a drunk or unauthorized driver from starting a vehicle, for example, or detect and shut down a truck that has been hijacked, locking the thief inside and alerting its owners.
The Astrata-GLP (global location platform) is part Big Brother, part James Bond - except that it already exists, and corporations and governments are paying close attention.
Powered by GPS tracking, wireless communication, and a Linux-based operating system, Astrata is the brainchild of Martin Euler and Tony Harrison, a British accountant and an Irish technology executive, respectively, who bet that the need for tracking and security devices would grow exponentially after 9/11.
Their client list now includes Shell Oil (Charts), Nestlé, and the government of Singapore.
Astrata can detect a gasoline tanker that veers one block off its route, thwarting attempts to use it as a bomb. Security giant Group 4 Securicor puts it in armored cars in Indonesia.
Driver ID system
Astrata can be programmed to start only after the driver passes a breathalyzer test and presses a thumb for identification. A video camera can record the driver's activities. Singapore's Civil Defense Force is using the camera and thumb ID system in its hazmat trucks.
Once Astrata detects a stolen (or speeding) vehicle, it can slow it to 5 mph or stop it completely. One commercial client uses the device to monitor how fast its truck drivers are going and how aggressively they drive. The box also tracks when the trucks are moving, so drivers can't pad overtime claims or moonlight with company property.
Instant holding cell
Doors and windows can be locked remotely, trapping would-be terrorists, thieves, or reckless drivers inside. The device can also be programmed to flash hazard lights, blare the horn, notify headquarters, and summon police.