Global Positioning Systems (GPS) have been universally available on the market for well over a decade now and are more common than ever in every day objects. GPS tracking is found within cars and mobile phones; you can purchase GPS watches, pens or a dongle for your laptop. Tracking a person or parcel has never been easier.
But how does it all work?
Networks of satellites in orbit around the earth are used to transmit signals that are used to determine the location of GPS trackers. There are three types of GPS receivers, ones that log and save positional data, ones that transmit their positions, known as data pushers and devices that allow users via a SMS text message to request positioning information, also called data pullers.
Off the shelf GPS trackers are normally accurate to within 10 metres, which for most everyday use is sufficient. They are also available in two formats; the first, data pullers give a live, real time update of the trackers position, by using a computer, linked to mapping software such as Google Earth. Data pushing GPS trackers are used for tracing and following stolen goods or live vehicle progress such as emergency service vehicles, here the GPS device sends out a signal so a user can visualise a GPS tracers position.
The second system requires an individual to request the devices location, data pullers. Sending it a text message normally does this. The GPS tracker then replies, sending back a text message with its current mapping co-ordinates, which in turn can be fed into a computer or traced through a mapping app on a modern GPRS mobile phone. Companies with fleet vehicles that need to check availability and route progress make valuable use of this technology ensuring your ambulance, taxi or pizza arrive on time.
In cases where the exact position is not required but details of journeys or the route a particular vehicle took you can use a GPS logger. This records the details of position, speed and direction that can be recovered from a memory chip at a later date. They are small and lightweight and easily transported without causing inconvenience or obstruction. This type of product is popular with sports people such as cyclists where they can use GPS tracking to analyse their performance at a later date. Allowing for the user to make improvements to performance, route selection or driving style.