If you’ve ever wondered how vehicle tracking works and the technology behind it or what the limitations are when it comes to tracking a car then look no further as we will explain the ins and outs of utilizing Global Positioning System (GPS) technology for vehicle tracking. There are different systems to track a car but one of the most popular and established ways is with the help of a GPS system.
How Does GPS Vehicle Tracking Work?
GPS vehicle tracking uses the global positioning system technology originally developed by the US Department of Defence, using satellite radio navigation. The GPS itself consists of up to 32 satellites that transmit microwave signals to individual GPS receivers. These satellites continuously orbit the world, allowing GPS systems to accurately calculate their position on the surface of the globe with pinpoint precision.
The GPS receiver device itself consists of an antenna tuned to the frequency of these satellites and a high precision clock. By receiving signals from 4 or more of the orbiting satellites the GPS receiver triangulates its position on the earth's surface to a high degree of accuracy. It then transmits this data, along with any other information it gathers from the vehicle such as speed and engine state, and relays it to the end user (or third-party vehicle tracking service provider) via mobile phone technology.
Using GPS technology for business fleet applications requires a GPS receiver to be installed in each vehicle to be tracked. Depending on the GPS fleet tracking system used, the information gathered from each vehicle is then transmitted in real-time (active tracking) to a remote user, or stored on a receiver to be transmitted at a later time (passive tracking).
Remote users can then view maps of vehicle locations and routes, or access available reports on vehicle status via the internet or specialized software.
The data from these satellites is freely available to use, which allows GPS vehicle tracking providers to supply a cost-effective solution.
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What Information Can Be Provided?
At the most basic level, these GPS trackers can provide information on the time, speed, location and direction of travel.
However, the best GPS vehicle tracking systems offer much more than this. Data on driving behaviour such as speed, engine idling and sudden braking can all be pulled from a quality GPS system, allowing employers to gain a better understanding of how the fuel is being used and where further driver training is required.
The data can be transmitted in a variety of ways, either whilst on the go, or downloaded in bulk at a later date. Information about the vehicle's location will be sent regularly, but the exact time frequency of each transmission will vary depending on the exact system and the settings. These reporting capabilities are necessary to make informed business decisions.
If you’re needing the utmost detail from your vehicle tracking system then you can rest assured the best GPS providers usually partner with well-known mapping partners like Google mapping to ensure accurate and up-to-date mapping.
Are There Any Limitations?
There are countless reasons why individuals and businesses can benefit from a robust vehicle tracking system to save time, money and peace of mind. GPS technology however, is not without its limitations.
It’s a common misconception that all business and consumer-grade tracking systems use only the satellites orbiting around earth. Although it’s true these play a big part in the functionality of the GPS system, the technology installed in some real-time GPS vehicle tracking devices rely on cellular coverage from cell towers. For these particular systems, if coverage is severely lost, the data and recording capabilities will still continue to work but the real-time data will not be able to be transmitted until the device is back within cellular coverage or acquired from the vehicle.
Additionally, GPS signal can penetrate plastic, fiberglass and glass but struggle to transmit through metal and concrete meaning they don’t work very well underground. This has posed issues for certain industries such as mining companies in the past but thankfully with technological advances there are now tracking systems which claim their system will work everywhere as they do not rely on cellular coverage.
A Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) technology system may occasionally be used instead of GPS technology; in these cases the RFID will offer superb, pinpoint accuracy and it won’t be subject to the same problems that GPS systems have when underground or locked away from a direct view of the sky. However their coverage is nowhere near as wide spread and may be difficult, if not non-existent in more rural or isolated areas.
Learn More About GPS Tracking
We hope this has provided some insight into the workings of GPS vehicle tracking and how it’s used. To learn more about the benefits of real time (live) vehicle tracking in comparison to passive tracking or to find out about tracking devices including small and micro trackers, please continue reading our related guides where you will find everything you need to know.
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