How does a GPS tracker work?

How does a GPS tracker work?

GPS tracking is a very popular term today. It is almost normal for people to be connected to objects, to use GPS to locate their vehicle or to track their route using GPS applications such as Google Maps.

But what exactly is GPS tracking, and how does a GPS tracker work? This article provides a broad definition of GPS tracking since its development by the US Air Force.

What is GPS?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) can be defined as a direction-finding device, usually mounted on vehicles (vehicle trackers), people, or property. GPS, or Global Positioning System, uses satellites to locate a GPS receiver anywhere on Earth. GPS satellites transmit data to a receiver such as a smartphone, GPS tracker, or GPS navigation system.

GPS tracking is a technique that involves pinpointing the exact location of something and tracking it. A GPS tracker contains a GPS component that collects GPS signals and calculates the coordinates of, for example, a vehicle or machine to be tracked. For example, the tracking system can be placed in vehicles, mobile phones, or any GPS tracker-oriented device; the GPS in these devices can be permanently fixed or portable.

How does a GPS tracker work?

Global Positioning System (GPS) operations use the mathematical principle of trilateration, with two categories at the top: 2-D and 3-D trilateration. In order for GPS to perform mathematical calculations, the system must be aware of at least two aspects. The first thing to know is the current location of the person, object, vehicle, or property being tracked by at least three or more satellites; the second is to determine the distance or the spread of the current between the object to be tracked and the tracking point.

The mathematical calculations based on this principle use electromagnetic radio waves travelling at the speed of light. Commercially, a GPS device typically records the location of each item as it travels from one point to another. There are two types of GPS devices. One stores the recorded data in the GPS device itself (passive tracking). At the same time, the other regularly sends the recorded data to the centralised system via the GPS unit's modem (active monitoring).

Mini GPS trackers and their popularity

A mini GPS tracker is a very popular term in active global positioning systems (real-time tracking). Mini GPS trackers are often used for safety applications such as monitoring children or pets, or protecting vehicles such as trucks, cars, or bicycles from theft. A mini GPS tracker for people or pets needs to be convenient, lightweight, and unobtrusive in size because it needs to be carried. The trackers, which are usually attached to the (pet) animal's collar, should also be waterproof if the animals spend a lot of time outside.

A mini GPS tracker is the ideal anti-theft device for tracking vehicles. With a SIM card and lightweight electronics, the size should not exceed approximately seven to eight centimetres. On trucks, mini trackers can even be installed inside the tail lights. If a mini GPS tracker is integrated into the vehicle, the chances of the tracker being detected are reduced.

Size is not the most important component of GPS

However, size is irrelevant as one of the most important quality characteristics is the battery life of the tracker. The smaller the tracker, the shorter the battery life. When the tracker is not connected to any power source (human or pet tracker), the battery needs to be charged. It's all different with mini GPS trackers, which are integrated into the vehicles and powered directly from the main battery.