GPS Tracking. Picture google.com.au
A little more than twenty years ago, GPS trackers for cars were thought of as a super secret James Bond era spy device. Currently there are millions of devices deployed worldwide for a variety of reasons. Whether you are a parent keeping track of your teenage driver or a small business monitoring your employees; GPS trackers have several different uses when it comes to your individual needs. In the last five years, Gartner, a world class IT consulting firm began researching GPS wearables and recognized it as an emerging technology. That technology is expected to grow exponentially over the next few years to somewhere between 3.5 and 4 billion USD.
There are basically three types of devices for vehicles: Magnetic Asset Trackers, On Board Diagnostic (OBD), and hard wired devices. Depending on the software behind the device, gps trackers can do a lot more than just provide locations. Smart trackers have built in sensors that are capable of reporting a multitude of statistics about your car.
Devices communicate over a Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network which is the same network your mobile phone uses for data. These “smart” GPS trackers can provide real time reporting, geo-fencing, and the ability to retain and report trip history up to sixty days. Sensors can also send alerts for when your device is tampered with or dropped. Low battery warnings, satellite signal strength, and GPS signal strength are all displayed on a GPS tracking app for your smartphone or can be sent by email or SMS.
Magnetic GPS Trackers
These devices are widely used by Private Investigators or people who wish to place the device in a conspicuous location. A well designed hidden gps tracker for car is the SATX 2043 made by SATX Technologies. These types of devices are embedded with a powerful magnet that will hold to any metal surface. The devices typically have a 10 to 20,000 Milliamp-Hour (mAh) battery that can last for several weeks or months. The GPS chip-set and software is probably the same as an OBD or hard wired device. Basically the only difference is physical, the software is typically all the same but the battery life always varies. The devices are a lot more rugged and can be placed outside a vehicle and are water resistant (IP65-66). You can also use these trackers for enclosed trailers, trucks, construction equipment, shipping containers, and boats. One thing to look for in a magnetic device is a strong internal antenna to ensure your device can get a strong signal.
OBD GPS Tracking Devices
An OBD port is located in any car 1997 or newer. The port itself is used for on board diagnostics testing but can also be used as a continuous power source. Some “smart” GPS trackers can actually pull data from the sensors inside the car. Hard breaking, accident detection, and reckless driving can all be reported through the device. Only downside to this device is its typically in open view and can easily be removed. Some companies do make special adapters where the front of the port is open for use with a two way splitter behind it. You can place the OBD tracker behind it to conceal it. Greatest point about this device is that continuous power is delivered through the port and no battery charging is needed.
In Dash or Embedded GPS Tracking Devices
Finding a power source other than the OBD device is not very difficult. You basically are looking to embed the device inside the dash, under the seat or up in the dash from the floorboard. You then zip tie or fasten the device once you have it grounded and a power source. Most devices are looking for a 6-30 Volts Direct Current (VDC) output and can synch up to 150 mAh. The device must be fuse protected up to 5 amps and the ground must be connected to the battery negative or the chassis ground. Again, the device itself will typically provide the same reporting data and the hardware components are very similar the GPS you’d find in your smartphone. This device and the OBD also have a small battery embedded inside which gives the device a little extra power to continue to report when the power source has been switched off to ensure the last location is reported properly.
Real Time Tracking?
Any device using data is going to work off a network. Most all GPS devices require some sort of subscription plan for tracking. Data travels across a network just like your cell phone and that data is definitely not free. Is ten second reporting real time? Some may argue it’s not, while others might understand for the data to travel across a network there is going to be some latency. Ten seconds versus where the vehicle really is could matter, but in reality it would be more like three-four seconds. Speed also plays a role in how close you can get to real time reporting also. Ultimately that vehicle at some point will stop, therefore a real time debate about 10 seconds isn’t really that important. Any GPS tracker can give you the location when needed. In most cases you can click on the device within your app and the device gets pinged and will report back the longitude/latitude.
Some vehicle recovery companies in the repossession business are using GPS trackers to track down people who fail to pay their car payments. These companies have long been without this type of technology and were used to good old fashioned surveillance work in the past. Defaulting on car loans are at an all time high in many parts of the world, subprime lenders and the repossession industry are using tools like these to make their jobs easier.
GPS Trackers have become more and more affordable over the last few years. Some insurance companies are even offering discounted rates on premiums if you mention you have a GPS tracker. In some ways, that discount in itself could pay for the device. Devices can retail anywhere from $50.00 to $250.00 USD and subscription plans can go for $19.95 – $39.95. One thing to mention about the subscriptions is this could be price dependent on how often you want reporting (10, 20 secs versus 1 x a day). In respect to cost benefit, GPS trackers can quickly help you locate your car if it should ever be stolen. Knowing that your loved ones have arrived somewhere safely or you have a means to recover your car if stolen, GPS trackers ultimately pay for themselves by putting your mind at ease. The devices have been pegged negatively recently in the media for invading privacy, however, these devices are part of an evolving technology that is definitely here to stay for the long term.