GPS TrackerAugust 20, 2019
GPS tracker IMPORTANT: A GPS tracker might not work the way you think it does. That’s why it’s important that you read through this post to get a general understanding of how a GPS tracking device works. GPS Trackers update
IMPORTANT: A GPS tracker might not work the way you think it does. That’s why it’s important that you read through this post to get a general understanding of how a GPS tracking device works.
- GPS Trackers update location using both Satellites, WIFI, LBS and Bluetooth. Where the GPS part of the tracker only works outside, in line-of-sight to the satellites.
- The tracker needs to be in direct line of sight to minimum 3 different satellites to triangulate a location. If you are outside, but close to a building blocking half the sky, you might not be in line of sight to 3 satellites. (Explained below)
- WI-FI tracking is included in many GPS-tracking devices today. When tracking on WI-FI, your device is using the routers MAC-address to locate your device.
- LBS is a third way of showing you location, which is used in many GPS-trackers today. LBS tracking is just a distance from the nearest radio tower. The accuracy of this location might vary depending on the numbers of base stations in your area. It is usually used as a crosscheck and back up solution if you can’t get GPS signals or WI-FI signals.
1: A GPS tracker gets its location from satellites by triangulating the location of 3 satellites.
The satellites knows their location in space, and know the distance between themselves. They then measure the distance between them and your GPS tracker, so the satellites will give you the tracker’s location with great accuracy.
There are many different Satellites that gives you location. GPS is the American satellites, while GLONASS is the Russian satellites. We also have European satellites called Galileio and Chinese satellites called BeiDou.
All these satellites will give you “GPS location”. But the number of satellites and signal strength will influence both the accuracy of your location and when you get a location reading.
Most sophisticated GPS Trackers also cross check locations between GPS, WIFI, LBS and Bluetooth to show you the most accurate location as possible.
24 GPS satellites:
The GPS constellation requires a minimum of 24 operational satellites. And since the world is a globe, you will only see half the sky at any given place on the globe. The GPS satellites on the other side of the world you will not be able to see.
So in a GPS trackers view, you will have access to 12 satellites where most of them will be on the horizon. This means that right above your head, you will usually have access to about 4-5 satellites. This is more than enough to get a location reading!
But if you’re in the city, with a big building blocking the horizon, you might not get a direct line-of-sight with at least 3 satellites. So this is why the GPS trackers have additional tracking options for indoor and dense area tracking.
A fun fact about these satellites:
When Albert Einstein discovered Special and General relativity in the early 20th Century, he also made a huge impact in how the GPS system works.
Special relativity tells us that moving clocks run slower with respect to a stationary observer. This becomes more and more obvious, the closer you are to the speed of light.
GPS satellites don’t travel at the speed of light, but they do move so fast in comparison to the observer, that the effect is measurable. Then we have General relativity telling you the closer you are to a heavy mass, such as Earth, the slower time will move for you. This means that the clocks on a GPS satellite will run faster, relative to clocks on the ground.
If this “correction” was not made, the GPS position would be several kilometers wrong after only a few hours.
2: GPS Tracking with the use of satellites, only works outside! Indoor and in dence areas, the trackers are using WIFI routers to triangulate the location.
The Satellites need to be visible to the tracker in line of sight. This means that even if you can get some signals when inside under roof, they are often not strong enough to be used for location triangulation.
In our Tail it GPS Trackers, we’re using a large ceramic GPS antenna which will be able to triangulate location indoor if you are close to a window. But this is not normal in most GPS trackers.
To get location from satellites only, you need a minimum of 3 satellites to triangulate your location. This is why many devices, including our Tail it GPS trackers, uses WI-FI routers for indoor and dense area tracking.
To get location from WI-FI routers, you need a WIFI chip-set in your tracker. This is similar to the GPS tracking chip-set. The WI-FI routers works like a satellite, since they know their own location (their MAC address). But this is not as accurate as fetching location from satellites. This is because the router only knows their address and not exact location.
But WI-FI location gives you a location with fairly good accuracy, since it shows you the address the tracker is on. It’s important to understand that your GPS tracker does not login to satellites or WI-FI routers, but calculate their location based on the location received from satellites or routers, who know their locations.
This means that you dont need any WI-FI passwords or any login information to get location based on the routers.
3: LBS (telecom antennas) is used as area navigation.
A third option for tracking locations within the GPS tracking devices, are with the use of LBS (local base stations). This is used if there are no signals from either satellites or WI-FI routers.
As example, this is used when your GPS tracker is located in basements or in the middle of concrete buildings with no signals. In these cases you will often still get a LBS signal.
LBS will give you an approximate location even when you get signal from only 1 or 2 antennas. It will not be very accurate, but it will give you an indication. If there are more LBS antennas in your area, the location is more accurate. And if you have a weak GPS or WIFI signal that can cross check the location, then it will be more accurate.
When you get closer to the surface or outside, WI-FI routers or satellites will help triangulate the location again.
4: Bluetooth trackers
Todays market of trackers can be very confusing. The biggest market today is made of Bluetooth trackers. They are trackers that only works close to your mobile phone.
Bluetooth was first developed by Ericsson as a system for sending wireless data between units. Today the new Bluetooth 5.1 should be able to send data up to 100m between the devices. This is great if you have lost something at home, in your car or in other limited areas. The problem with Bluetooth trackers is when the device you’re tracking is out of range.
Its therefore important to understand that the Bluetooth trackers only work within a limited range close to your mobilephone.
5: Different kind of GPS trackers
There are many kind of GPS trackers. That’s why it’s important to have a general understanding on how these trackers works to understand what best fits your needs. Under is a short list of what types of trackers there is:
This is GPS tracking of your assets. So you will need all functions as mentioned above for them to be able to give you location at all times with maximum battery life of the GPS tracker. Preferably you get a GPS tracker that you can control remotely in regards to tracking mode.
In our Tail it GPS trackers you can choose between passive mode, where the tracker is sleeping until you need a location. Then you need to press “update location” button to receive the location. This saves battery and you dont need to charge the tracker all the time.
Next mode is active mode, which will update your tracker when its active. This is needed to get location history and notifications if the tracker leaves and enters the areas you insert in the map.
Last option on our trackers are “live tracking” which update the location in real time. This pushes location updates every 5 seconds, which will fast drain your battery. But this is a really important feature if you need to find your pet or someone have just stolen your bike.
Live tracking will let you follow the movements of your tracker in real time. The size of the things you’re tracking will restrict the size of the tracker you need, which will restrict the size of the battery. The bigger the tracker you can use, the longer battery time you’re able to get.
Tracking your pets is pretty much like tracking any other asset, but size is always an issue. Getting the smallest possible GPS tracker including both GPS, WIFI and LBS is your goal. Please check our cat tracker and dog tracker articles to read more about tracking your pets.
GPS Fleet management
To operate a GPS fleet management you need an additional web application with customized updates to your fleet. We’re currently working on writing an article about the fleet management, so an update will come soon.
6: GPS location APP
The last thing that is very important when choosing a GPS tracker will be the interface where you handle your tracker. After all, the GPS tracker is just a dead unit sending you location whenever you need it.
What type of information is needed. And what type of information you can get from the tracker is most important. That is why we wrote this big article about mobile tracker.
Simply to go in depth on all the important things regarding the interfaces like handling, security and sharing of location.
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