How Does a GPS Tracking System Work?

By: Juan Olano

GPS tracking is a way of working out exactly where something is. A GPS tracking system, for example, may be placed in a vehicle, on a cell phone or on special GPS devices which can either be fixed or portable units.

GPS (Global Positioning System) works by giving information on exact location. It can also track the movement of a vehicle or person. So, for example, a GPS tracking system can be used by a company to monitor the route and progress of a delivery truck, it can be used by parents to check on the location of their child, or it can be used by drivers as an aid to navigation.

A GPS tracking system uses the GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) network. This network incorporates a range of satellites that use microwave signals which are transmitted to GPS devices to give information on location, vehicle speed, time and direction. So, a GPS tracking system can potentially give both real-time and historic navigation data on any kind of journey.

A GPS tracking system can work in various ways. From a commercial perspective, GPS devices are generally used to record the position of vehicles as they make their journeys. Some systems will store the data within the GPS tracking system itself (known as passive tracking) and some send the information to a centralized database or system via a modem within the GPS system unit on a regular basis (known as active tracking).

A passive GPS tracking system will monitor location and will store its data on journeys based on certain types of events. So, for example, this kind of GPS system may log data such as turning the ignition on or off or opening and closing doors. The data stored on this kind of GPS tracking system is usually stored in internal memory or on a memory card which can then be downloaded to a computer at a later date for analysis. In some cases the data can be sent automatically for wireless download at predetermined points/times or can be requested at specific points during the journey.

An active GPS tracking system is also known as a real-time system as this method automatically sends the information on the GPS system to a central computer or system in real-time as it happens. This kind of system is usually a better option for commercial purposes such as fleet tracking and individual vehicle tracking as it allows the company to know exactly where their vehicles are, whether they are on time and whether they are where they are supposed to be during a journey. This is also a useful way of monitoring the behavior of employees as they carry out their work and of streamlining internal processes and procedures for delivery fleets.

Real-time tracking is also particularly useful from a security perspective as it allows vehicle owners to pinpoint the exact location of a vehicle at any given time. So, if there is a robbery, the owner of a vehicle will know exactly where the vehicle was when the robbery took place. And, the GPS tracking system in the vehicle may then be able to help police work out where the vehicle was taken to if it was stolen. Many fleet operators find that having a GPS tracking system in place actually works as an extra security deterrent for this reason.

GPS Vehicle Tracking
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