GPS Tracking Solutions & Main GPS Tracking Components

By: Juan Olano

In the first part of this series of 10 articles I explained the differences between GPS Navigation Systems and GPS Tracking Systems, and how they are two completely different of implementations of Location Based Services. In this second article I will develop some additional concepts related to the elements that constitute a GPS Tracking System. There are 3 main parts to a GPS Tracking System:

- A GPS device or GPS Tracker, which receives the location information and then delivers it to a software application.

- A data transmission system, which takes the information provided by the GPS Tracker, and delivers it to the software application.

- A Software Application, which presents to its users the data recollected by the GPS Tracker in several formats including maps and reports.

This article will present the main components of a GPS Tracking Solution, and will start expanding on the first component: GPS Trackers. It will take me this article and the next one to go in detail over GPS devices.

GPS Devices
==========
In this section I will define what a GPS Device, and how they work; after that I will present the types of GPS Trackers, including most of the features that these devices offer, and my opinion in regards to each type.

At its simplest definition, the GPS device, or better the GPS tracker, is the component in charge of receiving the information about the location of the vehicle, and providing this data to the GPS Tracking Application through the Data Transmission System (which will be explained in coming articles). GPS Trackers are usually small boxes (metal or plastic) that can be the size of a man's wallet, or a little bigger. All of them need at least one antenna (GPS antenna), and most of them need an additional antenna to enable the data transmission module. So this leads to a first classification of GPS Trackers:

-Full satellite trackers. This type of trackers will use satellites to receive and transmit data.

-Hybrid trackers. This type of trackers will use satellites to acquire location (we will see some variations here later in this article), and another method to transmit the data (a data modem, a data port to download the data, etc).

On the next article I will expand on these concepts.

So, the main task of a GPS Tracker is to provide information of the location of a vehicle or an asset, or a person. The location of the units is usually acquired from the GPS satellites, but there is another method based on triangulation with cell towers to calculate locations. Getting the location from satellites is the most accurate mechanism, providing a minimal margin of error most of the times (from 2 up to 50 feet). GPS location can be acquired anywhere in the world. The only down side for this location technology is that the GPS antenna has to have a view to the sky. For example, if the vehicle gets into a garage, most probably there will not be GPS locations available.

Getting the location based on a triangulation with the cell towers (those that are also used by our cell phones to transmit voice and data) has a bigger margin of error (up to a few hundred feet), making it a not very accurate location mechanism. This type of location also requires the presence of the named cell towers to work. The upside of this mechanism is that it will perfectly work within buildings, which is not the case for GPS satellite location. Some GPS Trackers are designed to work with both location mechanisms, creating a new concept called Assisted GPS (AGPS).

There are mainly three types of GPS Trackers: Passive Trackers, PING Trackers, and Live Trackers. Also, there are some GPS Trackers that have more features than other - not just a location of the vehicle.

In this article I have dissected a GPS Tracking solution into three main components: a GPS Tracker, a data transmission system, and a GPS Tracking application. I have also started exposing the details of GPS Trackers, specifically the two main ways to locate a vehicle. Finally, I introduced two more elements to consider in GPS Trackers: types of trackers and advanced features of a GPS device.

GPS Vehicle Tracking
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on GPS Vehicle Tracking