The trouble is, the truth can sometimes hurt - in this case there's something we uncovered in getting the material for that blog post that we decided not to show you on Monday until we investigated more.
You see, when we zoomed out the map to get a nice view of the UK to take the snapshot for that blog post, we accidentally zoomed the map out too far. We could see all of Europe with a UK 'blackened' with van positioning icons, as expected.
What was somewhat less expected was that two positioning icons were not in the UK. They were in Poland.
So we conducted an emergency data investigation to ensure that we hadn't received corrupted information, or miscalculated anything. Everything came back as OK - indeed one of the vans was following a road in Poland from the live feed. Someone was driving a Tesco.com grocery delivery van in Poland live as we watched!
|Two Tesco.com delivery vans signalling live on 31st March 2011 from near Starogard, Poland.|
So Mike contacted the van team to mention that two vans were, you know, not exactly in the UK...
Fortunately, the van team were able to look up the registration plates on the two vans and quickly found that the vans had been retired from service. The vans had also completed decommissioning (primarily, removing our tech equipment and Tesco livery) but for some reason, the hidden signalling box had been missed. This equipment is wired such that it signals 24 hours a day, not just when the ignition or engine is on. As a result, it has to be located deep down within the vehicle's wiring system - it's not a "box on the dashboard".
After 5-6 years, our vans are retired from Tesco.com duties and sold on to the second-hand market and are given a new life elsewhere beyond the control of Tesco - in this case, it seems, the Polish market. It would be great to know the sort of uses these vehicles (with built in fridge and freezer compartments) are put to. I guess they end their days still delivering food or similar temperature-controlled goods.
There is an interesting question to be asked about the ability of the equipment (or more accurately the cellular data accounts) to roam onto foreign networks with an inevitable roaming charges. Fortunately (for us) this cost is borne by our partner who operates the van location service. They are used to many clients requiring tracking of commercial vehicles into Europe and beyond.
The van team were able to get in touch with the new owners, who were able to remove the equipment which is on its way back to the UK. They were able to block the SIM card quickly, too.
Still, it underlines the message that we really do know where all our delivery vans are!