The data feed is the primary method used to synchronize data from the telematics system to another system using the API. The GetFeed method can be polled at intervals to get new and updated data from the system. The feed API works with a token that is passed on every request and sent back with the payload on every response. This allows Geotab to track “up to which point in time” we have already sent the receiver data. It also allows the receiver to stop and seamlessly resume the data feed.
Lightweight Incremental Poll
The feed API is designed to be lightweight and scalable. There is virtually no cost on Geotab’s side for a poll request that yields no data. For example, a poll request when the round trip has no GPS coordinates will return no payload data. The requests themselves, the amount of processing time taken, and the amount of data returned via the internet are all extremely small.
Here is a small trace showing < 100 bytes for an empty poll request with response time of 19ms. The last request contains a payload with 2 GPS coordinates.
The polling frequency is dictated by the requirements of the integration. It could be as infrequent as once a day or as frequent as every few seconds.
Dealing with Volume
In each request the caller can specify the maximum number of data points that can be returned in a request. This allows the caller to have control over the maximum size of the responses. This value can be adjusted down from the default of 50,000 — with fewer data points yielding a faster response time. When the limit is reached, the response will be returned with the payload and a token which can be used to specify the point in time from which the next request should start.
The request-response approach also allows for incremental processing. For example, if there were a large backlog of data, the caller would be able to process the chunks of data at its own rate until the backlog of data has been cleared.
The API can be consumed by small and large customers alike. Larger customers can consume tens of millions of records per day via the API.
Searching by Date
The data feed was designed to be an efficient means of getting a continuous feed of new data from a given token. When a feed is first started it is possible to provide search criteria with a “from date” argument. This specifies the token that will be used to start the feed. This will guarantee that the feed will start at a point that will include any data that is at or after the “from date” argument, but may also include data timestamped before the “from date” argument. For example when performing a “TripSearch” and setting “IncludeOverlappedTrips” to True.
While “from date” is supported, “to date” is not. The feed is not designed to return data within discrete dates. If you wish to obtain data in a particular date range, then use the standard Get methods associated with the entity search objects. If a version is specified, then the argument “from date” is ignored.
Caching to Improve Performance
It may be required to populate nested entities of data retrieved via the feed. Entities that are static or semi-static will respond well to caching.
For example, status data and diagnostics are separate entities in the system. Status data references a diagnostic. Status data returned by the feed will only have the ID property of the diagnostic populated. If the diagnostic is required by your process then you must get the diagnostic in a separate API call and populate it in the status data record.
This is a good example of where caching can be implemented to improve efficiency, as diagnostic data rarely changes. A cache of diagnostics can be held in memory, refreshed at some interval of your choosing (24 hours, 12 hours, etc.) and may vary depending on the entity type being cached. Entities that may respond well to caching include Unit of Measure, Diagnostic, Source, Device and User.
Active vs Calculated
There are two types of data that can be retrieved using a data feed: active data and calculated data. Active data is data that does not change and is not calculated from any other type of data in the system. This data is generated by the device, sent to the system, and is then added to the database. Active data is rarely updated and will not be invalidated by the system. Calculated data is derived from active data. As new active data arrives, it is processed to calculate Trips and Exceptions. Data processing happens in real time.
Active Data Feeds (only new data)
Calculated data feeds (new and updated data)
As calculated data is processed in real time, the state of the data can change causing it to become invalidated. There are a few reasons why calculated data can become invalid or need to be updated by the system.
A trip or exception is in progress
The system receives new data that invalidates previous data
Manual reprocessing was triggered
Trips are calculated data. As new data arrives for a trip currently in progress, the older data for the trip is dropped from the database. The dropped data is then replaced with the newer, more current trip data. The updated trip data will have a different trip ID than the previous record of the trip. Thus the “unique trip ID” cannot be used to match an updated trip to an earlier state.
The unique “key” that is used to associate the earlier “version” of the trip in progress to the updated trip is the pairing of the deviceId and the trip stop date. Most of the time, a trip which is in progress will have its stop date continuously updated until the trip has actually ceased (ignition off). If there is no trip in the trip history that matches the combination of deviceId and trip stop date of the updated trip data, and the updated trip has a stop time of zero, then the historical trip which matches the updated trip data will be replaced with the newer trip data.
Like trips, exception events are calculated data. As the system receives updated device data, that data is processed and evaluated against the Rules set up in the system. Exception events that are in progress will be updated by the system and will retain the same unique id. Exception events can be invalidated and dropped from the database when a manual process is triggered. Reprocessed exception events will have a new unique id.
HOS and DVIR Feeds
The HOS and DVIR related objects under the “Active data feeds” (DutyStatusLog, DVIRLog, AnnotationLog, ShipmentLog) are likely to be edited on a frequent basis. An example is a “DutyStatusLog” that was created (Add) at the beginning of the day with an “ON” duty status, and then edited (Set) to add the “verifyDateTime” at the end of the day.
Each time one of these data records is manipulated, it will retain its original unique GUID “Id” but will receive an incremented “version”. This way you can match new feed records to existing data you obtained from an earlier feed request.
Why do I have to poll data, can’t you push it to me?
A push-based approach would require Geotab to connect to another organization and this invariably means firewall traversal is required. To accomplish this, network administrators will need to be involved and will be required to maintain the process. This is very often a cumbersome process and sometimes disallowed due to security risks. Geotab wants to provide a zero configuration solution. The poll-based approach avoids these issues because all traffic is initiated from within your network, secured via SSL. No certificates need to be installed, no firewalls configured, and no other onerous security requirements are necessary.
There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. However, in our experience, we have found the polling based approach is scalable, solves practical network problems, requires zero configuration, and meets the needs of our customers.