What is GPS tracking
and how would I want to use it?
In short, the Global Positioning System (GPS) is a series of US owned and
operated satellites which circle the earth and send one-way signals (back to
the earth) providing information on position, navigation, and timing. The GPS devices which consumers can purchase
decipher this data so that one can determine their GPS coordinates, or location
(along with a bearing and the time). If
you really want to know more on how this process works, check out the Wikipedia GPS
GPS tracking simply adds a step to this process by recording the location so
that one can determine where the device is located (or has been).
GPS Tracking has become more common and used in a variety of
deployments. Vehicle tracking is a great
example as many delivery, installation, and packaging companies have a need to
see where their trucks are located at a given time. Consider the following example: your cable TV
goes out of service so you call the company to request a repair person. With GPS tracking, a dispatcher could easily
locate a service vehicle near you, call the technician, and request they stop
in after their current job.
We now have the ability to use this same technology on a personal level and the
ideas are unlimited: tracking vehicles,
children, pets, boats, assets, equipment, valuables, elderly, cargo,
motorcycles, planes, RV's, ATV's, or trucks. If it can move, then we can
help you locate it!
What types of GPS
There are two types of GPS tracking devices on the
market. We’ll first cover the “Historical”
GPS tracking devices. These units are similar
to a simple GPS device, however, they have a recorder built in which records the location of the device (at certain intervals). So, one could place a Historical GPS tracking
unit on top of a vehicle, wait for its return, remove the GPS tracking unit,
and then analyze the data to see where the device had been, how fast it
traveled, how long it was stationary at its different locations, etc. These units are usually lower in cost and
require no monthly fees.
The other type of devices are “Real Time” GPS tracking
units. These allow one to instantly see
the location of the GPS tracking device.
Instead of having a recording device like the Historical GPS tracking
devices, they’ve included a transmitter that sends the GPS location information
back to a central computer. As an end
user, you’re able to login to a computer and track the GPS device in real
time. How is this data being sent
back? Over the cellular phone
network. This is why monthly service
fees are associated with Real Time GPS tracking devices. Just like your cell phone, there are
limitations to a real time GPS tracking unit.
If it doesn’t have service, then it can’t send information back to you.
If you have an idea of where the device might be headed, you can ask about which
cellular provider will be providing the service to the GPS device you’re
looking at. Based on this information,
you can go to the cellular provider's website and look up coverage maps. Remote areas far from civilization can be
problematic, along with underground caves.
However, if a device goes out of cellular network coverage and then
returns into coverage, tracking will resume.
Some devices will even send post-data so that you can see where it was.
What free GPS tracking options are available?
Looking for a really cheap solution? Rarely is something free, but if you
already have a mobile phone and are already paying for it, then you might be
able to get a little more use out of it. Google
Maps works on a variety of mobile phones, and offers location assistance on
phones that don't even have an integrated GPS chip! How do they do
it? They use cellular towers to triangulate your approximate location
(within a 1000 meter circle). All newer mobile phones made are required
to have this basic ability for 911 location requirements. Some phones
also have an integrated GPS chip, which mobile programs (such as Google Maps)
can take advantage of to locate your precise location. However, GPS alone
can sometimes take time to calculate your exact whereabouts, so phones with
integrated GPS can use the above "polling the network" option to
speed things up, which is referred to A-GPS (or assisted GPS).
Google Maps has added a new feature called Google Latitude to their mapping software. This
feature enables those coordinates calculated on your phone (that show where you
are) to be uploaded to the Google Latitude service. This is the key to
any tracking or location service, the ability to access the location data from
a remote point. While Google Latitude is primarily designed for you and
your friends to see each other’s whereabouts, this could possibly be used to
track something. Simply activate Google Maps on a phone, enable the
Latitude feature to share the location, then you can pull up the location of
the phone from a web browser.
However, there are several drawbacks to this: 1) you lose the use of your
phone (hope you weren’t expecting an important call) 2) your phone's battery can drain rather
quickly when using the GPS functionality, and 3) your phone wasn't really
designed for this.
We carry a variety of options specifically designed for tracking.
-- CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE GPS TRACKING PRODUCTS PAGE --