What is a GPS Tracker? Here’s What You Need To Know

How close of an eye are you keeping on your fleet?

GPS tracking is your key to gaining complete visibility of your fleet. This means knowing exactly where your drivers and vehicles are at all times, in real time. With Cartrack, this process is seamless and hassle-free

In this article, you will:

  • Learn what GPS is
  • Find out exactly how GPS trackers work
  • Understand the importance of GPS trackers for your fleet
  • Unlock ultimate fleet safety and efficiency with GPS technology

What is GPS?

Before we explore what a GPS tracker is, let’s understand everything about GPS.

GPS, which stands for Global Positioning System, is a satellite-based navigation system that can provide users with precise location, navigation, and timing information. As one of the most innovative inventions of our time, GPS is everywhere, from your car to your smartphone, and even your watch. GPS receivers, which are present in devices such as smartphones, navigation systems, and smartwatches, all make use of trilateration, which measures the time it takes for the signals to travel from satellites to the receiver. 

The global positioning system is made up of three segments, namely:

  1. Space segment: This segment is made up of satellites that orbit the earth and work to transmit signals to users based on their geographical position and time of day. The main functions of the space segment are to transmit, store, and retransmit radio-navigation signal messages that are sent by the control segment to GPS receivers on the ground. This enables GPS receivers to calculate their precise location, navigation, and time.
  2. Control segment: Also known as the Operational Control System, this segment is essential for the proper operation and management of GPS. Made up of earth-based monitor stations, master control stations, and ground antennas, this segment is responsible for tracking and operating the satellites in space, monitoring signal transmissions, and maintaining the health and accuracy of the GPS constellation. This segment is important in ensuring that satellites are in their correct orbits, that their clocks are accurate, and that the navigation messages are correct.
  3. User segment: This segment refers to the equipment used to receive GPS signals from the satellites, including items such as smartphones and telematics devices.

These three sectors work together to empower GPS to decipher distances from various satellites and give users precise, real-time location information, helping them pinpoint the exact location.

What does GPS need to work?

For GPS to effectively function, several key elements are necessary:

  • A satellite network: The satellite network typically comprises of 24 satellites that orbit the earth, acting as the backbone of the GPS.
  • A signal transmission: Each of the satellites in the network transmits its orbital position and the exact time of that position on radio frequencies.
  • A GPS device or receiver: These are commonly embedded in smartphones, wearable technology (such as smartwatches), vehicle tracking units, and specialised navigation systems. 

What is a GPS Tracker?

A GPS tracker is a device that makes use of the Global Positioning System to determine and track the location of a specific object remotely. It consists of a GPS receiver that connects to a series of satellites to determine the device’s location. They are portable devices that allow people to track their vehicles.

Passive Versus Active GPS Tracking

GPS tracking can be split into two main categories: active tracking and passive tracking.

  • Active GPS Tracking

    An active GPS tracking system is a real-time system that automatically sends the information on the GPS to a central tracking portal or system in real-time as it happens. Think of it as your co-pilot, helping you keep a constant eye on your vehicles.
  • Passive GPS Tracking

    A passive GPS tracking system focuses more on recording and storing tracking information, which can be downloaded and utilised at a later stage. This makes it a suitable solution for instances where real-time tracking isn’t essential.

The difference between active and passive GPSs

Here is a detailed table distinguishing the differences between active and passive GPS tracking:

AspectActive GPS trackingPassive GPS tracking
Data AccessibilityProvides immediate access to real-time location data transmissionIt only records and stores tracking data that must be downloaded periodically
Frequency at which data is storedSends location updates at frequent intervalsRecords location data at predetermined intervals
Monitoring capabilityLive monitoringRetrospective analysis based on stored data
AlertsReal-time alertsNo real-time updates or alerts

Why should you use GPS tracking for your fleet?

There are several reasons why your fleet should use GPS tracking, here are five:

  1. It gives you real-time visibility of your vehicles: This advanced tracking system allows fleet managers to pinpoint the exact location of each of their fleet vehicles at any given moment. The continuous, live updates provided empower decision-making, allowing for proactive measures to mitigate risks, and enhance overall fleet performance.
  2. It enables smarter route planning: GPS tracking gives you access to past trip reports by making use of location history. This helps fleet managers identify congested routes and find the best roads to take, which helps optimise routes for improved efficiency.
  3. It helps prevent unauthorised vehicle use: Real-time GPS tracking helps fleet managers quickly identify if a vehicle is being misused (e.g., for personal use or side jobs).
  4. It improves customer service: GPS tracking helps you know exactly how far your vehicles are from their destination. This information helps you deliver accurate estimated times of arrival to your customers so you keep them updated throughout the delivery process. Real-time vehicle tracking helps optimise delivery routes and avoid traffic congestion, ensuring timely deliveries and significant fuel cost savings.
  5. It reduces fuel usage: Fuel can be one of the biggest operational expenditures for most fleets. Companies that implement a GPS tracking system have seen their fleet fuel costs reduced by up to 30%. By comparing multiple routes with GPS tracking and historical reports, fleet managers can optimise fuel usage and reduce cost wastage. A GPS tracking system also plays a role in reducing vehicle speed and excessive idling, which both have detrimental effects on fuel consumption.

How accurate is GPS tracking?

The accuracy of GPS depends on various factors, including satellite geometry, signal blockage, and receiver design features.

  • Satellite position and visibility: GPS receivers need an unobstructed line of sight to at least four satellites to determine their position
  • Signal quality: The quality of the signals sent by satellites can be affected by various factors, such as atmospheric conditions and human-made interference. This can lead to errors in finding the accurate location.
  • Radio interference or jamming: External sources of radio interference, such as cell phone towers or other electronic devices, can cause signal delays.

gps tracking tracker

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