How Does GPS Tracking Work?

January 2, 2020 Published by

GPS technology is so accessible today that many people may not even think about how much they depend on it. The GPS project started in the 1970s. At first, only the military could use GPS tracking, but civilians would begin using it in the 1980s. It wasn’t until the 2000s that modern phone technology made GPS more available to everyone. Many people wouldn’t know how to get around their city without GPS technology!


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Today, GPS technology has many civilian applications, from pet monitoring, mining, astronomy, and sports training to recreation and surveying. Geocaching, or treasure hunting, took off thanks to global positioning technology, and Pokémon Go wouldn’t have been the international trend that it has become without it. Mining operations are much safer today thanks to global position system monitoring, and emergency services use it for disaster relief and management.

What is GPS Tracking?

So what exactly is a global positioning system? The Global Positioning System (GPS) consists of over 30 satellites orbiting the earth that help track geographic location. Using ground receivers, individuals can pinpoint their location for assistance with navigation. Smartphones and mobile devices have made position monitoring more accessible to everyone, and there are three types of trackers:

  • Data Loggers: These global position tracking units track the position of an item at different intervals. A digital camera, for example, may have software that produces a geotag on the photograph, thereby validating where and when the picture was taken. Data loggers can be placed on vehicles to keep track of where the vehicle is and to have data backing up the location logs.
  • Data Pushers: These global position trackers are the type that most people are familiar with. Global position system software on the phone pushes, or sends, the location of the device. When you open Google Maps, the blue dot that locates your position is using push technology to track where you are. Ankle monitors similarly use data pushing to track location, and businesses use global position monitoring to monitor fleet vehicles. Some sports are even using GPS monitoring to ensure racers stay on the right path.
  • Data Pullers: This technology lets a global position tracker be queried when it is necessary to determine location. It’s similar to a transponder that sends out signals to monitor location, but the data is only available when requested. A small battery ensures that the data puller stores the data until you request it.

How Does a GPS Tracker Work?

Global position tracking uses satellites, receivers, and ground stations to determine location. Global position satellites orbit the earth at 12,000 miles above the surface and continually send out signals for receivers and ground stations to pick up. Ground stations make sure that satellites are sending out the right data, and receivers are devices that listen for satellite signals to record location information. The receiver unit could be a smartphone or another tracking device designed to determine location.

Receivers need to pick up signals from at least three satellites to calculate a location. The signals are on a frequency that is picked up by the receiver. Using the time it takes to receive the signal from when it was transmitted, the receiver can pinpoint your location: hence why, when you use global positioning software, it may take a few seconds for the signal to be picked up. Many cellphones use assisted global positioning, which uses cell data as well to contact cell phone towers to get an immediate location.

When the GPS system was launched, it had only 24 satellites. Today, the United States operates 33 satellites, which can handle more traffic. Even more will be launched over the next few years to ensure operations. The United States is not the only country that has global positioning, either. At any given time, most people in the world are within range of at least four satellites, but tall buildings, the position of the satellites in relationship to your position, and atmospheric effects can influence the global position readings they can provide.

What Are the Benefits of GPS Tracking?

GPS monitoring is being used in many businesses to find solutions to common problems. When your business has employees who work outside of the office, it can be difficult to know what’s happening in the course of the day. Drivers may be driving recklessly or making unnecessary stops. Deliveries may not occur on time. Customer service expectations have dramatically changed over the past decade, and fleet maintenance is expensive. Global position monitoring can help monitor assets and human resources to make sure your business is competitive and meeting goals.

Global position tracking offers many solutions for your home and business. Using the technology available to you, you can manage your fleet, track assets, and assess productivity and efficiency. Global position monitoring devices offer reports to show long-term tracking, but you can also get instant feedback to help you change behavior. A global position device assists your safety manager team by giving objective data about your vehicles, drivers, and assets.

Fleet Tracking and Monitoring

Managing a fleet of vehicles isn’t easy. GPS fleet monitoring provides important statistics that monitor vehicle use and operations. Driving statistics can help you manage fuel costs: vehicles use about one gallon of fuel for every hour of idling, and speeding reduces fuel economy. Global positioning technology monitors start and stop times, which lets you track billable hours. You can also reduce the wear and tear on vehicles by making sure they’re only used for authorized purposes.

With global position tracking, you can monitor mileage more effectively to know when a vehicle needs regular maintenance. You also get mileage reports to help you comply with the rules of your industry and any federal, state or local regulations. GPS fleet monitoring increases driver accountability, which in turn leads to better customer satisfaction. It’s estimated that you will see an ROI in as little as three months. Your insurance company may offer a discount for installing GPS devices on your fleet, too!

Finally, GPS monitoring can help you find underutilized assets to determine the right size of your fleet. With real-time reports, you are no longer operating under theory, so you can see what you really need to be more productive and meet deadlines. It lets you make sure that each of your vehicles is being used effectively and when you need to invest in your fleet based on your growth and profits.

Managing Drivers

The right technology can give you information about how your drivers are using their work vehicles and where and when they are driving. Are drivers using their vehicles after work? GPS technology can provide detailed reports about vehicle use. You can use those reports to find out which drivers are driving dangerously and which are performing well. Drivers who brake too hard or take hard corners put your business at risk. By identifying driver behavior, you can reward those who don’t take chances and coach other drivers to reduce liability and maintenance.

Managing drivers includes knowing where and when drivers are. You can offer better customer service when you can pinpoint the location of a driver. Maybe the customer claims that the driver didn’t arrive on time: with global position monitoring, you can easily determine the truth and respond accordingly. You can get reports about the routes your driver takes, which can help monitor time on the road. Recording the duration a vehicle is stopped provides you with more data to boost customer service. GPS asset tracking holds drivers accountable, which improves your business.

Tracking Other Assets

GPS monitoring devices can be easily attached to any asset, including trailers, construction equipment, boats, and merchandise. By monitoring expensive equipment, you know where your money is at any given time. Some positioning system devices for asset-tracking are small and invisible: these data pullers can be installed discreetly to track goods and increase accountability to protect your investments. Most devices have a six-month or longer stored history and provide another way of reducing theft.

Teen Driving Solutions

Although many states now have a graduated driving program that gives teens more practice under safer conditions to learn safety on the road, teenagers still have a lot of responsibility when driving a car. Installing a teen tracking device in your car gives you peace of mind, allowing you to monitor aggressive driving and speed without having to be in the car while increasing the accountability of the driver. You can locate the vehicle instantly when necessary, and some insurance companies even offer a discount for having this type of monitor in place to improve safety.

Using GPS Tracking to Benefit Your Business

Most people use position monitoring every day without giving it a second thought. When you track your ride-share or food delivery through an app, it’s using Global Position System tracking. Your pets may have a positioning collar to help locate them if they get out of the yard. This technology is becoming ubiquitous in society, and will likely become even more so in the coming years.

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GPS tracking offers many benefits for businesses in which time is money. You can impress customers, reduce accidents, and improve productivity by using GPS technology in your business. It’s easy to get started today with GPS tracking when you work with a company that understands the technology and knows how to integrate it with your business needs. Dispatchers, drivers, and stakeholders in the organization alike can use GPS tracking for more communication and decision making — a benefit for everyone involved in your livelihood.

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This post was written by Malcolm Rosenfeld

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