GPS technology can be used to track vehicles, people, pets and equipment. Technology has been used in vehicles for years, to store mileage claims electronically or to track shipments. However, today has found new application areas where electronics have become smaller and more power efficient, the GPS transmitter can be hidden better and can work without external power supply for a long time. If there has been a theft of expensive machinery and other equipment, the technology is able to recover the equipment fast and easy.
Today, you can also get cheaper insurance premiums if you equip items with approved tracking transmitters (ATV, snowmobile, excavator, trailer, etc.)
WHAT IS A GPS TRACKER?
A tracking transmitter uses GPS technology to determine its position. The position is stored in the GPS tracker/transmitter and sent at intervals via the mobile network (GPRS/GSM) to a recipient/server showing the location on a map.
GPS trackers with higher quality/performance can also use other tracking technology (homing signals RF/VHF), which allows for better and more accurate positioning. The signals can also go through steel containers and concrete buildings. This technology makes it harder for thieves to use GPS jammers and physical measures to prevent tracking.
The difference between the GPS tracker is often the quality of the GPS chip, transmitter and which technologies they use (GPRS/SMS, radio tracking/RF) signals.
Other important features:
- Whether the provider offers storage/processing of location information
- The battery life of a GPS tracker
- Interrupted power supply to the transmitter should be able to operate for longer without interruption (up to several years)
Often cheaper tracking devices have limited opportunities, limited battery life and limited features. As always, you get what you pay for!
HOW DOES A GPS TRACKER WORK?
In principle, one can say that a GPS tracker consists of a device that's built up by a GPS navigation device, a mobile phone, a radio transmitter and a battery, all in a small package. GPS receivers receive signals from GPS satellites, converts them to coordinates and stores them in the small unit. With an interval (can be set so you can maximise battery life) device sends coordinates via GSM/GPRS or the cheaper versions via SMS. Quality service providers often have a system/server that handles and processes the information and displays it on a map. In the cheaper versions, you have to enter the longitude and latitude (obtained via SMS) in a map and decide the position - a little trickier.
In the more advanced GPS trackers, there are opportunities to activate the radio transmitter sending the location of the device, which is a more accurate method for finding the transmitter. It also makes it harder for thieves to disrupt the signals emitted by the GPS tracker, and if the object is placed in a container (as GPS signals can not be received). The battery capacity of the cheaper varieties are often low, the more advanced GPS tracker often has a life expectancy of several years (depends on how often you want the position of the transmitter).
A great feature that you will find in the more advanced GPS tracker is the "geo fence". Firstly, you decide an area around the object that you want to track. If the object moves outside of this range, an alarm (message to a person) is sent that the object is outside the permitted range.
Other features that you can find in the more advanced transmitters are (e.g.) the measurement of machine time, service intervals, track history, geo fences and so on.
WHY IS A GPS TRACKER GOOD?
Today, many companies have expensive vehicles, machinery and equipment which are critical for the business. There are thieves who specialise in stealing these things with huge costs for companies as a result. Often there is insurance that covers theft but the premiums are expensive and downtime costs can be high if critical machines disappear from workplaces. In order to retrieve their things, time is often critical, the faster you can locate your items the faster you can get it back. Quite often, things can disappear outside of the country, with the chance of recovering them being very small or almost non-existent. Often the thefts are difficult to prevent, if thieves want something they can often take, but with GPS tracking makes it easier and faster to recover what has been stolen. It also makes it easier for the police, customs and other stakeholders to help to intervene and retrieve.
There might be other situations where you want to keep track of where your things are located and how they are used such as equipment rental, trailer rental companies and car rental companies. They can use the tracking equipment to locate their things and see how long they have been used.
WHERE CAN I USE A GPS TRACKER?
GPS trackers are often placed in a place which cannot be seen and where GPS signals can be received. The quality of the electronics/antenna in the tracker also plays into how well signal is received in the GPS tracker. There are different sizes of GPS trackers depending on where/how they should be used. In devices with no possibility of external power supply, you want a bigger battery for longer charging intervals. Some devices you want to hide, then the size of the GPS tracker is important. If the devices are used to measure the machine time, then the mounting location is important.
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