Originally created 02/21/01

Tracking business expands



Sometimes it's good to be a follower. For companies that market vehicle tracking systems, such as Aiken's AerComTec International Inc., it's the only way to be.

In the four years since its inception, the company has grown by helping businesses track their company vehicles at any time via satellite.

AerComTec can now add airborne vehicles to the list. Anheuser-Busch Co. Inc. is the first to take advantage of AerComTec's new AerTrax System, which the beer company uses to follow the Budweiser blimp.

For Anheuser-Busch, the application is mainly a marketing tool. Updates are posted every 15 minutes at Budweiser.com.

"The airship is moved often from one event to another," said Sean Floyd, AerComTec vice president. "Fans can log on and discover possible fly-over points."

Mr. Floyd said Budweiser had hoped to have the equipment ready for this year's Super Bowl, but the first major sporting event where customers could track the blimp was last weekend's Daytona 500.

The more common use of AerComTec's technology is monitoring ground vehicles. Among the company's local customers is Time Transportation Leasing Inc., and AerComTec has larger customers, such as Verizon Wireless Inc., which uses the system to monitor its local service trucks.

AirComTec allows users to track vehicle location through the Global Positioning System, which uses 12 satellites to follow the signal of a receiver mounted in a vehicle.

After the coordinates are determined to within a 150-foot radius, an on-board transmitter and antenna relate the position to AerComTec. The information can be downloaded on a secure Web site for customers to get updates.

Mr. Floyd said fleet managers often tell him similar stories: "I call my guy, and he says he's here, but I have a funny feeling he's not."

For a $36 monthly fee, a company can chart the speed, direction and location of its vehicles every 15 minutes. The hardware costs $650 per unit, but Mr. Floyd said he hopes to sell the equipment at cost, once the service is more widespread.

"The service is where the value of the company remains," he said.

Mr. Floyd said the company wants to have an initial public offering of stock once it has at least 8,000 of its units in operation. At the rate the company is going, the IPO could come as early as 10 months from now.

"Sales in the last 12 months have increased fourfold," Mr. Floyd said. "We've sold almost 300 units in February already."

AerComTec is located in Woodside Executive Park. The company has seven employees and 25 independent resellers in North America.

Reach Eric Williamson at (706) 828-3904.