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GPS Vehicle Tracking - This is How it's Done

  GPS vehicle tracking has many uses. Consumers can use these systems to help recover their vehicle if it is stolen or keep tabs on a teenager in the family car. Commercial users can improve efficiency and individuals using mass transit will be able to find out if their bus or train is on time. This page gives some examples of uses for GPS vehicle tracking systems and explains how they work.

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Gathering GPS data is easy but reading the data is more complicated and more expensive. Reading the data in real-time is more expensive yet. The simpler systems store the data within the GPS unit and are referred to as "passive tracking" or data loggers. Data can be read only when the unit is in the user's possession or, on some systems, when the unit is within radio distance of a receiver.

Types of Systems

The GPS unit that is in or attached to the vehicle is common to all types of systems.

Real-time, cellular network - Works by transmitting location and speed data of the vehicle over a GSM cellular network. The user accesses data one of two ways: 1) By logging on to the vendor's website, which requires a monthly fee. 2) By receiving the data directly on a cell phone, which requires a cell phone account.

Real-time, satellite - Vehicle data is transmitted via satellite to the vendor and the user accesses the data by logging on to the vendor's website. This method requires a monthly subscription fee.

Passive, radio frequency - When the vehicle is within a short radio range (usually less than one mile) the GPS unit transmits the data to the home base. Data is then viewed on a computer. While initial cost can be more than real-time solutions, there is no ongoing cost making it less expensive than those requiring a subscription.

Passive, direct download - With this system, the vehicle's GPS unit must be removed and connected by a cable to a computer. This is the most economical way and a good alternative if data is not required in real-time.

Uses For GPS Vehicle Tracking

Consumer Use

Individuals may want to use GPS to make it easier to recover a stolen vehicle. Once the GPS device is installed on the vehicle, the user subscribes to a service that works with law enforcement agencies if the vehicle is stolen. There are some vendors that charge a fee only if the vehicle is stolen. If the system has the feature of two-way communication, one can disable the vehicle, trigger the alarm, or lock the doors.

If one uses a personal vehicle for business, records of locations, mileage, destination and speed can be kept. This use need not be expensive as a passive system is all that is needed.

Parents can use GPS vehicle tracking to monitor their teenagers. While this may seem like an issue of trust, many argue it is not. What it comes down to is keeping children safe - young drivers often use poor judgement. In addition to speed and location, parents can know if the airbags have been deployed. A geofence can be set and users will be notified if a vehicle has gone beyond a pre-determined boundary.

Fleet Management

By combining GPS technology with GSM wireless coverage, companies can gather information such as a vehicle's location, stops, idling and mileage that can be quickly analyzed to yield benefits in efficiency and cost reductions. With some systems, one can review up to 90 days of vehicle location history online.

A "closest vehicle" feature allows dispatchers to quickly learn which vehicle is closest to a customer location or landmark. This allows for better routing, decreased fuel costs and more efficient use of resources as well as improved customer service through quicker responses.

Fleet managers can identify and display a great number of landmarks on web-based maps. Users simply enter the address and name of the location they would like to highlight. One can see which driver is closest to a given customer and more accurate shipment arrival times can be predicted.

Truck Trailers, Railcars, and Shipping Containers

GPS vehicle tracking has benefits for cargo management. Shipments can be located if stolen and customer service is enhanced with the ability for the shipper to accurately report delivery time. Shipping customers can analyze data to choose the most efficient shipper. Location information can aid in inventory control. Side benefits include temperature monitoring for sensitive cargo.

For more information, see GPS truck tracking system.

Mass Transit

A patented service called NextBus uses the World Wide Web to report accurate arrival times for mass transit for several systems around the U.S. With this type of solution, a GPS device is needed on each bus. By knowing each system's routes and using a GSM cellular network, NextBus allows the user to stay on schedule even if the bus or train isn't.

Using typical traffic patterns, NextBus can estimate vehicle arrivals with a high degree of accuracy. This estimate is updated constantly. The predictions are then made available on their website and to wireless devices, including signs at bus stops and businesses, internet-capable cell phones, and PDAs.

See related information at Covert GPS Vehicle Tracking and

Real-Time GPS Vehicle Tracking.

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