Precision GPS tracker devices are becoming commonplace for everyday company vehicles providing inventory control, efficiency, public safety, and law enforcement benefits. With the combination of durable hardware, easy access to satellite resources, and free software, the ability to track vehicles is now efficient and cheap.
GPS devices allow a user to see the progress, direction and location of a target using a vehicle or equipment the hardware is placed on anywhere around the planet. With 27 different satellites buzzing around the planet, three can be in position at any given time of the day to locate and receive signals from a GPS tracking device. Using three satellites allows for triangulation which narrows down a signal to within a few feet of a location.
GPS tracking falls into one of two categories: passive or active (http://www.landairsea.com/about/gps-tracking.html).
Active GPS devices regularly send out signals that are then picked up by tracking satellites. For live tracking an active GPS device tends to be the best. Law enforcement and public safety activities tend to favor active devices for real-time information.
Passive GPS devices send out no signals; instead, these devices measure and track metrics. When the device is removed and hooked up to a computer the data can then be downloaded and displayed either on a map software like Google Earth or similar mapping program as well as spreadsheet display.
Like anything electronic with multiple brands and options, GPS tracking devices have models that are very good quality and those that are bargain quality. As a result, a buyer needs to consider performance, reliability, durability, and accuracy along with what kind of power sources will be used by the hardware.
The best hardware tend to boost the GPS signal emitted so there is no question that the satellite receiving the signal can pick it up, even if the hardware is underneath layers of metal, like a car body and engine. Unfortunately, not all brands can boast this ability. While many units can send signals, they can only do so with a clear, uninterrupted path to the sky. Higher quality brands can be placed inside a car body and still be picked up by receptive satellites without issue.
The power source for the device is a big concern. A good performance pack will provide 20 hours of real-time performance constantly running. Some military grade devices can last up to three days ongoing. However, once the power pack is depleted, the GPS device stops working, regardless of whether it is passive or active. At that point the device needs to be removed and recharged.
Higher quality models will manage power, placing a GPS device into a stasis or “sleep” function to preserve power when the vehicle is stationary. In these cases the device could perform for much longer, up to weeks in some cases.
General tracking without express notice is legally risky except by law enforcement and government public safety. While companies and owners can track their vehicle inventory (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/us/gps-devices-are-being-used-to-track-cars-and-errant-spouses.html?pagewanted=all), employees and affected parties should be expressly notified of such tracking to give them a chance to opt out of the monitoring and to avoid privacy violations.
The Supreme Court also recently decided that covert tracking via a GPS device on a vehicle requires a court-approved warrant first before installation. Up until this time, law enforcement had been taking advantage of such devices, installing them when target cars were parked in public places. The change has been seen as a restriction of law enforcement but also as a protection of civil rights from government power.
As GPS tracking devices become more commonplace, these issues and more will continue to crop up, so users should consult with legal advice before using GPS devices on anything another party would be using without notice.