By Globalstar Canada Satellite Co.
When the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) decided to launch a province-wide pilot satellite program to track its fleet of snowmobile trail groomers, it was focused primarily on improving mapping and reporting processes.
It chose technology from AtlasTrax called GroomTrax, a satellite tracking solution consisting of mapping software integrated with Globalstar satellite data modems. The satellite solution provides real-time, asset-based tracking, monitoring and reliable data communications beyond the reach of cellular networks. Following the success of its pilot, the OFSC is now in its third season using satellite tracking, with similar organizations in Saskatchewan and Wyoming following closely in its tracks.
The OFSC is a volunteer-led, not-for-profit association that provides the voice for organized snowmobiling in Ontario. Its mission is to provide leadership to member organizations to enable exceptional snowmobile trails and rider experiences throughout the province. As a provincial federation, the OFSC strives to fully understand and consistently meet the needs and expectations of all its various members. With an impressive expanse of more than 30,000 kilometres of trails and 213 member organizations, the OFSC has its focus on efficiently monitoring and tracking its fleet of approximately 320 industrial groomers.
The GroomTrax solution from AtlasTrax consists of a small, self-contained satellite-based tracking device, which is able to operate for a full season without the need for wiring, battery replacement or operator attention. The solution includes mapping software integrated with the power of a Globalstar satellite data modem, providing customizable reports and maps through a web portal.
“Having access to real-time digital grooming hours streamlines the reporting methodology and creates opportunities for continuous efficiencies in the collection and distribution of quantitative information.”Kai Statulevicius, Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs
“Our solution has been developed over a number of years, working closely with Globalstar and the snowmobile associations,” said Fred Marsh, CEO of AtlasTrax Communications. “We’ve optimized the GroomTrax system specifically to meet the tracking and reporting needs of this industry and as such, our solution is unique. For example, we’ve configured the system so that our detailed reports and mapping software captures and reports groomer GPS position and speed in real time. We also provide 24/7 customer support, which is very important to the associations, particularly from the perspectives of groomer usage optimization, safety and security.”
The GroomTrax devices have been deployed across the OFSC’s fleet of snowmobile trail groomers providing operators with reliable connectivity and coverage even along the most remote trails, beyond cellular. With satellite, the OFSC is able to more accurately track groomer time and trail coverage, with accurate GPS reports delivered through a web portal every 15 minutes.
This solution not only helps the organization better monitor grooming activities but it also provides a significant contribution to overall operations management: efficiency in the allocation of groomers across the trail network, and automated data reporting into the internal systems of the associations (including payroll).
The satellite tracking solution is unique in that it helps address the growing demand for interactive trail maps for route planning, improved safety along the trails, reliable connectivity for groomers and more transparency with regard to grooming practices and reporting.
OFSC’s business systems manager Kai Statulevicius explains that the organization is also seeing efficiencies generated from the digital data and reporting capabilities. “Having access to real-time digital grooming hours streamlines the reporting methodology and creates opportunities for continuous efficiencies in the collection and distribution of quantitative information,” said Statulevicius.
Josh Milek, regional supervisor for Wyoming State Snowmobile Trails Program (WSSTP), says that some of the challenges their organization was experiencing prior to deploying the GroomTrax satellite tracking solution included not “knowing the locations where groomers may be stuck or broken down along a route, or what trails have been groomed.”
Globalstar SmartOne Data Modem
The Globalstar SmartOne is a simplex data modem that utilizes motion sensors, comparative GPS positions and custom configured sensors to gather and transmit asset status information. Each SmartOne is configured to track its asset’s specific needs and provide intermediate and emergency alerts by email and/or text/ cellular.
SmartOne devices are designed for outdoor use and operate in severe weather conditions and some of the most remote and challenging locations. The modems are ruggedized and designed to continue to communicate with satellites while covered with up to three feet of snow.
Milek added that with the real-time information available, they will soon have an interactive map on their website that will display the grooming data for users to see, including what trails have been groomed and when. The WSSTP is a user-funded program that grooms an average of 68,000 miles per year, on a network of over 2,000 miles of snowmobile trail that covers every mountain range in the state of Wyoming.
The Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association (SSA) has also deployed GroomTrax for its fleet of groomers. With 47 member clubs and responsibility for over 10,000 kilometers of interconnected snowmobile trails, the SSA is focused on ensuring the safety and security of its fleet of 58 groomers while allowing member clubs to be able to track their own equipment.
The CEO and president of SSA, Chris Brewer, says that in choosing GroomTrax, the association’s goal was to tie the solution in with the association’s funding formula to improve accuracy within billing and reporting systems.
“We are audited annually and use digital analytics for reporting,” said Brewer. “We tie this against what our member organizations are billing. We receive maps individualized for each club, and we lay that over to compare and find inconsistencies.”
Brewer says that satellite mapping provides reliable groomer tracking and coverage, whether the area is within or beyond cell coverage – an important consideration given the remoteness of some of the trails. “One-third of our groomer fleet goes in and out of areas without cell coverage. Groomers can also lose coverage in areas supported by cell networks, resulting in inconsistent reporting,” said Brewer.
With this solution and the reliability of the satellite network, there are no gaps in coverage. Clubs can also use the satellite tracking solution to map the GPS location coordinates of groomers in real time, which helps improve safety of operators while monitoring the location of equipment.
Reliable satellite-based groomer tracking solutions, such as the system AtlasTrax has developed, are helping to modernize the snowmobile grooming industry and transform operational processes. A new bar has also been set for groomer safety and real-time tracking, with proven results experienced by snowmobile organizations such as the OFSC, WSSTP and SSA.
As more snowmobile organizations adopt satellite solutions for improved groomer tracking and interactive mapping, accurate reporting of trail conditions and better billing processes, their focus will shift to leveraging these new tools to promote safety and outdoor fun for trail riders – which is really what it is all about.