We get a lot of questions about live GPS vehicle tracking so we thought we’d write a few things about it. Let’s say you want to keep track of your vehicle, multiple vehicles for your business, or even a whole fleet of cars, boats, containers, etc… You’ve probably heard of GPS tracking and probably wondering how it works.
First let’s cover some basics. GPS vehicle tracking is primarily made up of two parts: 1) GPS data gathered from satellites to figure out the location of the vehicle and 2) sending this data back to you whether it may be an online map, email, text message, etc. These two together can also be referred to as “live GPS tracking” because as your vehicle (or boat, child, etc) moves you’ll get updates in real time.
gps data loggers
There’s also another tracking method where you only have part one. Location data from satellites is gathered, and then stored on device for later retrieval. This could also be called GPS data logging, or offline tracking. Once your vehicle is back in the garage you can easily figure out where it has been by downloading the data to your computer. This method is a lot cheaper – but won’t help if your car is stolen.
live GPS tracking
We’ll focus on live GPS tracking today. So how does a GPS vehicle tracking device figure out its location? It’s pretty simple. There’s a GPS receiver inside – which listens to GPS satellites, and calculates your position based on the information it gathers. Most GPS receivers can track tens of satellites at once but to get a position fix it only needs three. Provided the sky is clear, you’re not in a canyon, or there aren’t really tall buildings around – this should take less than a minute. If not – you’ll probably still get a position fix but it may take longer. There’s also something called A-GPS (assisted GPS) which can improve fix times greatly. However this technology relies on a network provider where the GPS receiver gets some clues as where the satellites are from the cell towers. A-GPS can even help your devicer get a position fix indoors, if it is sensitive enough.
calling back home
So lets say our GPS vehicle tracking device knows where it is. How are you going to get this information so you can track it down – say from the comfort of your office sitting in front of your computer? Somehow the GPS vehicle tracking system needs to transmit this information to a server where you can access it. This is the part where things may be a little more complicated – and this is the part that costs you money usually in the form of a monthly fee. Most tracking system rely on good old cellular networks or their partners (such as AT&T, Sprint, etc) and transmit over GPRS – which is the data portion of a GSM network.
The problem with this is that there areas where no networks can reach you. Yes, the GPS receiver may know where it is since the whole earth has a pretty decent GPS satellite coverage (provided with more than 20 satellites) but your network provider may have no towers around. In which case you’d be out of luck.
Depending on your situation you probably want to know pick the right solution provider. If you’re looking for a GPS vehicle tracking system for your fleet of trucks that drive from Mexico to Canada lets say – you probably want more of an industrial solution. There are companies out there who provide these services and they are usually known as M2M (machine to machine) communication networks. If you’re trying to keep an eye on your teenager in a metropolitan area though – then most providers will work. You probably want to make sure the device supports A-GPS so if your kid pulls into a garage you can still pin point him/her down.
Another area when you’re thinking about GPS vehicle tracking is battery life. Your best bet is to connect the tracking device to a power source such as the car battery if that’s on option. If not, then you want a device with a decent battery life that can last days without needing a charge – and make sure it has smart power options that saves battery – such as turn off the device when no movement is detected, warn user when battery is low, or just be conservative with battery in general.
Now as far as brands – there are so many names out there:
- zoombak – $150 + $10/mo
- amber alert – $380 + $10/mo
- buddi – £300 + £20/mo
- Escort Entourage – $380 + $15/mo
We haven’t reviewed any of these names but if you have please leave a comment below so other can benefit.