GPS Vehicle Tracking Devices Made Simple

I think we’ve all been there before. You have this vehicle that you just wish that you could track.  You might be a business owner, or a concerned parent, or a victim of grand theft auto.  It doesn’t matter.  Whatever your reasoning, GPS vehicle tracking is something that is accessible to individuals at all levels of technological familiarity. Anyone can track a vehicle if they are equipped with a little understanding and the right hardware for the job.

What we hope to do here with this post is give anyone all the knowledge they need use a GPS tracking system for their vehicle. We will go step by step through the whole process and by the end any person should be able to understand what this powerful technology allows them to accomplish as well as some steps for them to take to get their car, van, or truck tracked with GPS.

What Is GPS Vehicle Tracking?

Its always good to start at the very beginning. I hear its a very good place to start. When we begin, we start with GPS. This acronym stands for the Global Positioning System. It is a constellation (fancy word for group) of satellites operated by the United States Air Force. These satellites float around in outer space beaming a special signal down to earth. These signals are used by a whole bunch of devices and can be heard using a special receiver, or chip.

This GPS tracking chip will “hear” the signal and learn several different things from it. The most important things that it is going to learn is the satellite that sent the signal and how long ago it sent the signal. The GPS chip will then do some fancy math and determine where on earth it could be in relation to that one satellite.

Earth From Space

Now I want you to imagine that you are a man floating out in space looking down on the earth. You have the black expanse of space ominously looming behind you as you gaze at that beautiful blue ball that we call home. Looking down (you have super eyesight) you notice some interesting things about points on the earth in relation to yourself. First, there is one point just below that is the closest point on the earth to you. The second thing is that all the points that are not right below you have other points that share their distance with that point. All the points that share the same distance from you can be connected together and they will make an “o” (circle) shape on the ground. Having more than one point as the distance from you is the norm when looking down on the earth from space.

Now back to our GPS vehicle tracking – specifically our understanding of how many satellites are needed for a tracking chip to know where it is in the world. Just one satellite message is probably not going to give you your exact location. Unless you are directly under a satellite (only around 32 points on earth exists just like this) your GPS chip is going to need to get some help from other satellites to determine where it is. The magic number is 4 total satellites are needed to get a really solid position.

What has been described above is the standard way all GPS devices work. They all require access to the signals from these satellites to figure out its position. If it cannot get these signals (i.e. it is in a cave, an underground parking structure, at the bottom of a lake, river, or ocean, or it is being jammed by a GPS blocker) then it will not be able to be tracked. This is important for those thinking about how they want to use their vehicle tracking device.

The next thing that we should understand about any tracking system is that is needs a way to communicate the location information that the tracking chip calculates to you, the person who is using the vehicle tracker. This is something that standard GPS devices simply do not do. For example, you cannot take your standard GPS navigation device, say a Garmin nüvi 265WT, stick it in a car, and expect to be able to track it. It just doesn’t work that way because these devices have no way to communicate information to people outside the vehicle they are in.

Instead, you are going to need a device that is specifically made for tracking purposes. Car tracking devices generally have both a GPS chip built into it as well as some sort of communication hardware. In most cases this is going to be a cell phone modem for communication over the wireless networks that paint themselves across America, but there are a few instances where the tracker could communicate via commercial communication satellites. Chances are though any tracker you are going to use will use a cell phone network, so we will focus on how that works.

Your vehicle tracking system will now take the information that the tracking chip has calculated and send this out over the cell phone network much like a person would send a text message (SMS) or email. This data is sent from the device to the tracking provider. The tracking provider will make this information available to their users – in this case you and whomever you decide to share it with – through a clean web interface that will either be Google Maps or at least closely resemble it.

That, in a nutshell, is what GPS vehicle tracking is – it is the seamless combination of GPS location technology and wireless communication technology into one powerful device.

GPS Vehicle Tracking Devices

There are many different devices out there from a wide range of manufacturers and distributors. We cannot go through each of them and talk about the different vehicle tracking devices that they offer and how you can use them. That would take up too much time and would probably be pretty boring to read. Instead, what we want to do here is briefly describe the two main categories of devices and discuss some of the various pros and cons for each of them. The two types of GPS vehicle trackers out there are built-in device and standalone device.

Built-in GPS Vehicle Tracking Devices

These are the most commonly used devices for fleet vehicle tracking. Being built in to the vehicle gives them extreme flexibility and power, enabling almost constant tracking for vital performance metrics for businesses. Also, by being well tied into the internal workings of the vehicle also has its advantages. For example, some GPS vehicle trackers allow remote control of certain functions of the car.

Is your driver idling the car for too long at a service call? Simply cut his engine for him! Did your delivery person accidentally lock the keys in the ignition of the delivery van? Unlock the doors remotely for her! You can many of these things with fleet tracking devices built specifically for the purpose. And these features are not just limited to commercial applications, many consumer oriented trackers also offer these feature to their customers as well.

Most built in trackers do require a professional install since theses devices do become integral part of the vehicles electrical and computer systems. Some trackers just plug into a special port under the steering wheel (called an OBD-II port) and don’t require any special attention from a professional installer, which means that you can install it yourself once you get the piece of equipment in the mail.

I did want to clear up on point of possible confusion before going on to talk about standalone trackers. By using the phrasse “built-in” I might have given the wrong impression. I do not necessarily mean something like OnStar. It does not have to be built into the car when it is made or even shortly after it is made. It just needs to get its power from the vehicle. Another phrase I could have used was hard-wired.

Other possible applications:

  • Teen driver tracking
  • Theft recovery
  • Catching a cheater
  • Business mileage calculator

Standalone GPS Vehicle Tracking Devices

Standalone trackers are usually versatile GPS tracking devices that are not necessarily bound to a single function. Take the Zoombak line of products. There are two main trackers that they sell. The Advanced GPS Car & Family Locator and the Advanced GPS Universal Locator. These devices are essentially the same, the only difference being the branding that they’ve done. This is pretty much going to be the standard for all portable, standalone trackers.

One thing that you have to be aware of is that standalone trackers cannot really compete with the built-in vehicle tracking systems because they are not set up for real time GPS tracking in the same way. While a built in tracker can produce an avalanche of data and never run out of batteries a standalone tracker can only track as long as the battery has a charge. The Zoombak can give 150 locates before it runs out of battery. This is a pitiful number when compared with fleet tracking devices.

But what they lack in longevity these devices make up in versatility. A built in car tracker isn’t going to be much good once you take it out of the car. In fact, you can’t really take it out of the car to be used on your teenage daughter as she goes through Central Park. Devices like the Zoombak provide comprehensive tracking support for most personal tracking needs.

Another feature of the portable trackers is that they are often easily concealable. If you are trying to track a vehicle incognito then something small is definitely going to be what you want to go with. While it still isn’t the very best money can buy for this type of application, you will still get a lot of bang for you buck.

Other possible applications:

  • Most non-vehicle GPS tracking functions, including:
    • Sport tracking
    • Pet tracking
    • Child tracking
  • Covert tracking of cars

The Cell Phone As Vehicle Tracker

Sony Ericsson w995 cell phoneA word here needs to be said about the ubiquitous cell phone. Did you know that these devices are the most common GPS trackers on the planet? They can easily be utilized to become full fledged vehicle trackers. Even if you don’t have a cell phone to spare you can install some sweet (and free) cell phone tracking software for your phone. If you are looking for a good program for your phone then you should check our list: free GPS cell phone trackers.

Do I Need A Vehicle Tracking System?

Now that you have gotten a little bit more information about the devices that are going to make up your vehicle tracking system you have a decision to make. Is GPS vehicle tracking something that you actually need? The costs associated with this type of real time tracking is certainly not cheap. The cheaper devices start at around $100 and they only go up from there. Then there is the monthly subscription fee that all tracking providers require to operate correctly. In the first year alone you can reasonably expect to spend around $500.

Businesses obviously have the most to gain by implementing these devices as part of a fleet management system. Private individuals may save some money on insurance premiums by having a tracker, but the real offset is the value that you receive from having one of these devices. Is it enough to justify purchasing a vehicle tracker?

Police Use GPS Tracking To Make Bait Cars More Effective

Car theft is a huge problem in the United State. According to some reports, every 25 seconds there is a car somewhere being stolen, with the majority of the thefts occurring in metropolitan areas. This is all about to change as police are getting savvy to emerging technologies and employing GPS tracking devices in specialized bait cars designed to nab would be criminals in the act. How far do you think a thief is going to get with the watchful eyes in the sky peering down on them? Police in cities all across America know that they will not get far.

While the practice of using bait cars is certainly not new, the recent integration of several different technologies together has made them much more effective. Things like real time GPS tracking as well as a few other features generally used in a fleet management context, like remote engine shut off, are now being employed to help police track down bait cars once they have been stolen and nab the suspects. Also, hidden cameras installed inside the vehicle make sure that police are able to gather solid proof that the person they apprehend is in fact the person that toke the car.

As you might suspect, these bait cars are very helpful for police trying to reduce automobile theft. There are four things that are particularly helpful for the police:

  1. Reduce cost associated with operating a bait car sting – In the past, whenever the police would try and use a bait car technique they would always have to have an officer present around the vehicle to make sure that when the car was taken it could be easily tracked and recovered.  Since these vehicles can sit for days without any action, the police would “waste” precious tax payer dollars watching a car.  Now that GPS tracking systems have been installed in these vehicles  the police can know whenever the automobile is on the move, dispatching the closest unit to the scene to take care of the situation.  Once the squad car comes onto the scene the dispatcher can turn off the engine of the bait car and the suspect can be easily apprehended.  This saves metropolitan governments tons of money since they can use existing resources in the field, resources which they are already paying for.
  2. Increase effectiveness in tracking down suspects because of the GPS tracking device – As was mentioned in the previous point, having the GPS coordinates of the stolen vehicle is a very useful for tracking it down and recovering the vehicle.  By using real time GPS tracking for cars, the police will be able to monitor the vehicles movements and capture it on their own terms.  Perhaps they want to wait on the car to see if it taken to a chop so that they can crack down on the larger criminal ecosystem that runs in hot cars – no problem, they can let this happen with confidence knowing that they will know the location of the vehicle at any moment.
  3. Generate an amazing conviction rate – According to one insurance provider involved in these GPS tracking bait cars, Nationwide, the conviction rate is 98 percent for suspects picked up in connection with their use.  That is excellent.
  4. Reduce the number of car thieves – One of the consequences of such a high conviction rate is that less crimes are occurring in cities that use these high tech techniques.  For example, Las Vegas, Nevada has seen an amazing 44 percent reduction in the number of car thefts after just two years of using GPS tracking to recover the stolen vehicles.  Another city, Charlotte, North Carolina, has seen a 20 percent reduction in just one year of use.  This leads me to believe two things about this technique.  The first is that the longer this technique is used the larger the drop in car thefts will be.  The second is that using GPS tracker equipped bait cars is effective because it nabs repeat offenders, taking them off the street and behind bars.  Since only a few thieves are responsible for a large potion of theft this is a very effective tool at reducing the number of thefts in the future.

When police use GPS vehicle tracking they are very effective at convicting criminals, reducing costs, and running a more effective and efficient government.

But this type of tracking is certainly not without its hazards.  The one main thing that could seriously inhibit the polices use of bait cars are GPS tracking blockers.  If a criminal were to use this technology the police would be unable to locate the car.  If they were then to use some sort of cell phone or radio jammer as well then the police would also not be able to shut off the car remotely.  The criminals would win and the police would be out a very expensive tool in the fight against crime. Luckily, many are not aware of GPS blockers or how to effectively use them.

This is another clear example of the good that governments using GPS tracking can accomplish.  Do you think that this is a valid use of GPS tracking by a government agency?  Should the police be limited in doing this?  Is it an appropriate use of tax payer dollars?

Covert GPS Vehicle Tracking: Tips And Tricks On Making It Work

Sometimes, there is a need for covert GPS vehicle tracking. There just is. You might not like the fact that at any point someone could be tracking your movements with a GPS tracking device, but I think we can all agree that there are some instances where it is appropriate and permissible for this type of device to be installed in a vehicle. While we might not appreciate it if it were us being tracked, we definitely understand its use in variety of different situations by a handful of people.

For example, I think most people are going to agree that having a policeman install a GPS vehicle tracking device on a suspects car is going to be okay. We might disagree on whether this can be done without a warrant or it requires a warrant, but I think we all agree that the police should be able to do this.

Another area that might be a little more of a gray area for most of us is the use of covert tracking on our children and teens. While I personally believe that such tracking is well within a parents rights and responsibilities as a parent, I certainly don’t think that it is a very wise parenting decision in most circumstances. It just seems to me that other types of GPS tracking for teens would have a much better outcome than secret, covert tracking – but there are certainly circumstances where it might be a good idea to secretly track a teen. It is just not the norm.

Still more gray is the notion of setting up a covert GPS vehicle tracking system for a spouse or lover who you suspect of cheating. Of the two, I think most people would be most on the fence about tracking someone who is just a boyfriend/girlfriend – but even here I would suspect that the majority of people would find that this type of tracking is permissible as long as there is good reason to suspect them of cheating. This is especially true if the couple is physically intimate (which, I would suggest, should really only be done in the confines of a monogamous marriage relationship). If there is cheating going on (or even a suspicion of infidelity) in this type of relationship then I strongly encourage the person who suspects the cheating to discover the truth.

We have just outlined several situations in which it might be feasible to employ a GPS vehicle tracker covertly, so now it is time to discuss some of the different ways that we can make the most of our tracking device and find out the information we are seeking undetected by our target:

  1. Install the device in an accessible, yet hidden, location.  This could be inside a wheel well, under the back bumper, or even inside an unused glove box or storage bin inside the cab of the vehicle.  You obviously don’t want to put it on the dash of the vehicle like a navigation GPS as this will be a curious sight to the person that you are wanting to track covertly.  With the placement of the device you want to avoid detection at all costs.
  2. Install the device when you will be undisturbed by your target or by others.  If your target is about to leave in five minutes and it is 1 PM it is probably not the time to be under the wheel well of their car installing a GPS vehicle tracking device.  They will probably end up seeing you down there or notice the schmutz on your back and ask what it is that you were just doing.  This is bad as most people are terrible liars.  If they suspect that you are tracking them then you will never get the data that you need.
  3. Choose the type of tracking system that is going to best fit your needs.  Sometimes it is better to forgo real time GPS vehicle tracking for a safer data logger.  Why is a data logger safer?  It boils down to two words: battery life.  A lot of the real time trackers on the market have a dismal battery life when it comes to gathering information on a target vehicle.  One particular tracker, the Zoombak, will only let you have the device on for 5 days before the battery dies, and that doesn’t include a single position call!  Data loggers can often last weeks, providing you with a complete picture of a vehicles activity for extended periods of time.  Also, you have to retrieve the device to replace its batteries less if you go with a logging GPS vehicle tracking system – making it less likely that you get caught in the retrieval stage of your tracking effort.
  4. When retrieving the device follow the same procedure in point #2.  Remember, you don’t want to get caught with the data even after the tracking has been completed.  You want to be able to decipher the coordinates and there meaning before you confront your spouse, or your teen, or a suspect in a criminal investigation.

If you follow these steps carefully, taking special care in point #2 and point #3, then you should have no problem installing a GPS vehicle tracker covertly.  While your own personal experience with this type of tracking may vary, the use of covert GPS vehicle tracking is certainly legitimate and useful in certain circumstances.

Understanding Real Time GPS Vehicle Tracking

We are living in an increasingly complex world where we are constantly bombarded with massive amounts of information every day.  Our world is not so simple as it once was, and while technology can be a great assistance to us in our endeavors to understand the world around us it can also be a hindrance.  Some technology is better left undiscovered by those that would seek to use it, the complexity that it takes to understand its function being too much for some people.  Luckily, real time GPS vehicle tracking is not this type of technology.

It is relatively easy to understand, and can be reduced to overly simplistic terms extremely well.  Even thought it makes use of some the most complex and powerful technology that the 21st century has to offer, the actual function of the technology itself is easily intelligible and intuitive. You can understand real time tracking without having to have the smallest bit of technical understanding. It may appear to work “magically” to some people, but it can be relied upon in its “magic.” The information it provides is easily translatable, meaning that people of all positions and stations can understand what the GPS tracking system is communicating.

Real Time Vehicle Tracking Basics

Even though you don’t need to understand much about how a real time GPS vehicle tracking system works in order to get some benefit from it, it is still a good idea to try and understand the way this technology works so that we can better ascertain its limitations and costs. We need to be thoughtful consumers if the things we buy are to have the maximum amount of positive impact on our lives or our business.

With all things GPS, we should start with the Global Positioning Satellites that orbit the earth. There are over 20 of these satellites continuously transmitting data on a specific radiowave frequency that can be read by specialized receivers. The information contained in these transmissions is critical for how portable GPS devices are able to calculate their position. The data contained is the position of the satellite and the time that the transmission was sent.

Once a GPS device has received enough of these signals (3 signals from 3 different satellites) it is then able to calculate its position using a process called trilateration. What it does is it takes the know location of three or more objects, in this case the GPS satellites, and uses the known distance from these locations, which is calculated by taking the amount of time between when the GPS signal was transmitted and when it was “heard” by the GPS tracking device and then multiplying that time by the speed of the radiowave, to find out exactly where the GPS device you are holding is.  It is a little complicated when talked about this way, but it is actually quiet easy to understand when properly explained.

This video does a great job of communicating the basic principles of how a GPS device figures out its position (it is made for kids, but the information is great):

The acting in this film is, in a word, terrible, but the information contained within it is pretty informative if you ask me.

Now that we understand how a GPS device calculates its position we now need to understand what give real time GPS vehicle tracking its real time component. After all, such things as GPS navigation, golf GPS, and data logging GPS do not have a real time component to their GPS capabilities. So what makes real time GPS tracking real time?

The answer to this question is found in cell phone technology.  Once a GPS tracking device has figured out its location it needs to be able to communicate that data to a third party so that tracking can occur in real time.  Otherwise the device is just a simple GPS data logger.  While some GPS tracking systems also employ radio signals to transmit the data to a tracking unit (such as the Garmin Astro GPS pet tracking system), this is not the norm and is not really feasible for vehicle tracking applications.  GPS vehicle tracking depends on cell phone technology to transmit the data from unit to server where it can then be processed by GPS tracking software.

Because real time vehicle tracking depends on both GPS signals from above and on cell phone signals from below there are some limitations to its ability to track a vehicle.  One of them is that if they are obstructed from receiving a signal from the GPS satellite then they cannot be tracked.  While GPS receivers have grown considerably in strength over the last several decades, there are still some issues with being able to receive a signal in some conditions.  Extremely inclement weather, traveling under ground in a tunnel, or even navigating amidst tower sky scrapers can affect your GPS’s ability to get a lock on your location. A-GPS (Assisted GPS) tries to mitigate these problems by getting help from cell phone signals and has proven to be more accurate than simple GPS, but even that is not fool proof.

The second limitation for a real time GPS tracker is the need for a constant connection to the cell phone grid. If a device looses cell phone reception is no longer is effective at being a real time tracker. There are several things that could result in a signal being lost, but the most common are that the area is remote and has not access to cell phone towers or that the terrain interferes with the signal, like in a gully or ravine.

Another thing about relying on a cell phone grid is that you generally have to pay extra fees for using it. Most real time tracking systems are going to come with a monthly subscription fee that can run you anywhere from $9.99 to $50 depending on how many location requests you make or the capabilities of your providers GPS tracking software. This can be a real back breaker for those that have barely enough to fork out the considerable up front device purchase price.

But if you can stomach the expense and have a need for GPS vehicle tracking then adding a real time tracker to your repertoire is going to be very nice. They are very powerful at what they do, and if you plan on tracking a vehicle that mainly uses the urban landscape for its activities you should have no problem getting a real time, 24/7 picture of the vehicles activities. If you can hardwire the real time GPS vehicle tracking device to the car or truck then you should continuous tracking capabilities. This set up is particularly useful for fleet tracking, car tracking, and teen tracking.

Vehicle Tracking Systems Can Save Lives

The power of GPS tracking is truly phenomenal if we let ourselves sit down and think about all the ways it can be used to improve our lives.  But it is not every day that an example of how a vehicle tracking system could save lives comes to the forefront.  On July 26, there was a terrible crash on the Taconic State Parkway in the State of New York that left 8 people, 1 woman and 4 children and three men, dead on their way home from a camping trip. Sadly, the tragedy could have been avoided if there had been an appropriate use of GPS or cell phone technology.

The details of the event are this: one Diane Schuler was driving five children home from a camping trip that sent them to upstate New York. She was experiencing some trouble seeing and had become disoriented (due mainly due to drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana) and made a phone call to her brother to let her know that she was not feeling well. Her brother told her to pull over and let him come and get her. The brother then called the New York State Police to get them to assist them in finding Diane Schuler.

This is exactly the point where a GPS vehicle tracking system would have been the perfect thing to help resolve the situation in a timely manner. If there was such a system installed in the car, perhaps using something provided by by one of the many different GPS tracking device manufacturers, then the brother would then just had to log into the account for the car and get all the details on the location of the vehicle. That would have made his call to the police much more useful. Instead, the police were forced to begin search the Taconic State Parkway in a effort to locate the vehicle being operated by the woman.

Another option other than having a vehicle tracking device installed in the car would be to use the cell phone as a tracking device. Many cell phones can be tracked using one of the many different free GPS tracking software packages made freely available on the Internet. All you have to do is make sure that your cell phone is compatible with the specific system that you are thinking about using, download the software, install it onto your phone, and begin tracking. You’ll want to have a good data plan if you plan on using it for everyday use – but in a situation like this you use it even if you don’t have a good data plan!

Heck, you do not even need a vehicle tracking system or a GPS tracking cell phone. All the lady would have to do is call 911 and stay on the line for a few minutes and the police would be able to have tracked down her location with ease. Even if she had just called and immediately hung up the phone the police would have had a ten mile radius with which to work with in locating her. The longer she stays on the phone the better the location information becomes. But it is pretty obvious why this particular lady did not call 911 – she was drunk and high.

This tragedy puts the use of GPS tracking into perspective. Getting a vehicle tracking system or enabling your cell phone for GPS tracking can be really helpful. For many, getting a vehicle tracking device is going to be cost prohibitive. We simply don’t have the $100s to spend on a system like that. These devices are definitely better suited for GPS fleet management and other commercial applications. And the car tracking devices that are within a normal consumers price range lack some of the features that make them useful for constant use. Since you never really know when a tragedy is going to strike you need a tracking solution that is going to pretty much be on demand. GPS tracking for cars just isn’t up to those levels in their current form.

That is why I am such a fan of cell phone tracking. These device can be used to track a person anywhere they have a cell phone signal, making them great little devices for GPS tracking. There are plenty of free software packages for people to use and we almost always keep them with us and keep them charged. If you want to find a way to get free GPS tracking for cars, then this is definitely the solution that you should be looking for.

Real time GPS vehicle tracking system are invaluable tools in helping us live safer lives. Sure, these tools are so powerful that they can be abused by the wicked and evil, but that doesn’t mean that we should abandon their proper use. I would encourage everyone to set up a vehicle tracking system in case of a roadside emergency – it could be a spare cell phone, your main cell phone, or even a stand along GPS tracking device. Just put one in your car and talk about your plan for using it in the event of an emergency. You’ll be happy you did if you even need it.

Picking Your GPS Vehicle Tracking System

Like with most other forms of GPS tracking, when it comes to vehicle tracking using GPS there are two main types: real-time tracking and passive, logging tracking.  Depending on why you want to track a certain vehicle will determine which method of tracking you employ.  However, it is important to note that GPS vehicle tracking is more viable today than it has ever been in the history of GPS or vehicle tracking so there are going to be a lot of different options for the person serious about finding an option that works best for them.

There is also going to be a distinction between those who want to track a vehicle with GPS for personal use and those that want to employ vehicle tracking for a business.  The equipment and the systems used will differ in quality and design, but not necessarily in how they work – they will be using GPS tracking technology to find, record, and report the location of a vehicle to someone.  As we will see, it is how these devices do this that matters.

Real Time GPS Vehicle Tracking

When most people think about GPS based vehicle tracking they think of tracking that occurs in real time.  If a vehicle is at 101 North Main Street then a person is going to want to be able to look at a computer running some GPS tracking software and be able to tell that.  If the vehicle then turns left down Michigan Street they want to be able to tell that this has occurred within a reasonable amount of time – say 5 seconds.  This is the power of real time GPS tracking.

But there are several things that you have to realize if you are going to choose this type of GPS vehicle tracking system:

  1. Tracking devices that offer updates in real time are often anything but cheap.  It can run you hundreds of dollars just for the hardware that gets the tracking off the ground.  On top of the hardware purchase there is going to be a service fee of some amount depending on the company that you choose to service your GPS tracking plan.  Different companies will work with different hardware and some companies will charge you more than others for access to your real-time tracking information.  Most companies are going to make your tracking data available through a GoogleMaps-like interface, so it should come down to who is going to offer you the best price for the services that you really need.
  2. Not all GPS tracking devices are created equal.  The more modern the device the more likely it is going to have the latest technology in terms of GPS receptiveness and communication technology.  For example, the newer SiRFstarIII chipset is widely accepted as being superior to other previous GPS chips.  It acquires a signal much faster and can even get a GPS signal where many other older GPS chipsets cannot.  You are also going to want to make sure that your GPS has access to GPRS, a system that will allow your GPS tracking device to transmit the data it gathers on the vehicle to the software that will display it for you on your computer screen.
  3. In addition to the paid services you can get some GPS tracking for free.  Probably the best vehicle trackers are cell phones, especially since there are tons of free GPS tracking applications for them.  While you won’t get a lot out of this type of free service, if you put some thought and work into you can use a free tracking program to do all sorts of cool stuff.  It normally doesn’t scale too well, so this type of tracking is only really going to work for an individual, a family, or a small business that want to track their vehicles with GPS.

Most people who choose to use real time GPS vehicle tracking fall into one of two categories, they want to use it for GPS fleet tracking or they want to track a single person.  The reasons that business would choose to track their vehicles with GPS are obvious.  Most small businesses that employ some form of GPS tracking generally see an increase in the number of services orders that their fleet fulfills in just two years time.  The average increase they see is around 25%, making GPS tracking a very useful tool in the chest of a business owner.

If used appropriately, real time fleet tracking can improve worker productivity, create a positive work environment, improve vehicle routing, streamline fleet maintenance, and encourage efficient work habits.  This can be a win-win for employees and employers alike if deployed with tact.

Then there is using real time GPS tracking for personal use.  Here is a list of some of the reasons that a person may choose to use a personal GPS vehicle tracking system:

  • Track a teen with GPS while they drive.
  • Catch a cheating spouse in the act.
  • Know when a spouse with an erratic schedule is on their way home.
  • Keep connected with family members while on a long road trip.

This list is by no means exhaustive and is simply supposed to be a small indication of the different things that a person can do with this type of technology.  The possibilities are really limited by our imagination and ingenuity.

GPS Vehicle Tracking Loggers

Data loggers are a completely different beast.  While they do work off the same basic GPS principles that real time trackers work off of, they do not have the all important real time capabilities that GPRS gives a real time tracker.  Loggers are mostly used in covert GPS vehicle tracking done by police or by private parties to help them get a better understanding of a person’s activities.  For example, there was a GPS vehicle tracking logger at the center of the warantless GPS tracking case.  This device was used by police, who had a warrant by the way, to track down the activity of a suspected stalker.  They installed it on his car and waited about two weeks.  The evidence was then downloaded on the police computers where they were able to place the suspect at the scene of a stalking incident that happened during the time when the GPS tracking was active.

The GPS vehicle tracking equipment used in this type of tracking is often much cheaper than other their real time tracking counterparts.  You can generally get one of these devices for under $200 and they can provide location information for months since they track vehicles passively.  Also, you won’t have to worry about an expensive service fee because these devices have no such fee.  They don’t use GPRS nor do they need to communicate with a third party.  All GPS tracking software is going to be installed locally on one of your own computers so no one else has to know about the data that you gather.

Also, data loggers (like GPS tracking sticks) generally have a much longer active battery life than do real time GPS trackers.  This is because transmitting data via GPRS can be very taxing on a units power supply.  Without constant power it can be difficult to get real time information on a target that you want to track in secret and going back to the scene of the tracker could lead to having it found out by the person you want to track covertly.

This makes it great for covert GPS tracking or for tracking a person in secret.  While real time tracking is certainly going to be more useful if you want to take action on data while something is actually happening, data logging can be just as useful for vehicle tracking.

Which GPS Tracking Solution Best Meets Your Needs?

When you come to the final analysis you will have to weigh your budget constraints with your tracking wishes.  I don’t think that there are many people who would prefer a data logger over a real time tracker, but money is a serious limitation for some people and they simply cannot afford the cost associated with live tracking capabilities.  No matter which option you go with you can be certain that there is a GPS vehicle tracking device out there for you, your needs, and your budget.