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Last Updated: 28. June 2018

The Basics of GPS Technology


As the pace of technological growth increases, our daily lives become more comfortable and efficient, but also more impersonal and less private. One of the many technologies that have been born, raised and, finally, democratized, within the scope of this revolution is the tracking technology.

This technology should rather be called group of technologies, since there are some of them capable of performing the main task, that is, tracking a physical object. That physical object is usually inventory, livestock and vehicles (both company fleets and particular vehicles).

The mentioned group of technologies includes: GIS (Geographic Information Systems), GPS (Global Positioning System), RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network), and others.

This article will focus on GPS technology in fleet management, since it is the most commonly used for vehicle tracking.

Read more: Vehicle Tracking System

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About GPS Technology

GPS is a radio-navigation system that operates worldwide. It is formed from 27 Earth-orbiting satellites (from which 24 are in operation and 3 are extra satellites in case any of the others fail) and ground stations distributed around the globe. It was designed and implemented by the US DOD (Department of Defence) between 1973 and 1989, as a result of research conducted by the American army during the Cold War (the system has improved considerably since then). Even today, DOD is the main funder and controller of GPS.

Despite its original military use, GPS soon became available for civilian use, as the access to the signal became completely free of charge and had no restrictions. The only necessary tool was a receiver able to work with the GPS signal.

Given the number of possible practical applications of the GPS technology, GPS receivers have been installed in specific portable devices as well as integrated into vehicles, mobile phones and computers at a large scale, to such a point that today it is almost unthinkable for a Western citizen to purchase a car or a smartphone that doesn’t offer the possibility of GPS tracking.

One of the main uses of this technology in the private sector is the tracking and monitoring of fleets of vehicles for delivery and logistics companies. The owners of such companies, as well as fleet managers and dispatchers use GPS vehicle trackers to improve fleet routing and accelerate dispatching. Moreover, GPS can also be used to monitor unwanted driver behavior, to reduce fuel consumption, to prevent theft and to provide different operational efficiencies. The economic benefits of such uses of the GPS technology outweigh the costs associated to the purchase and installation of the necessary devices.

Those GPS devices, or modules, are generally installed in every vehicle of the fleet in order to track its exact location. But a GPS module not only captures position, but also speed and direction, engine start up and shut down, idling, etc., sending the recorded information to a server over the Internet in real-time (in what is called “active tracking”), using cellular (cheaper) or satellite networks. Once on the Internet, the information is available and complemented by geographical information accessible on the Internet.

Read more: Types of GPS Trackers

For all the above, it can be said that the development of tracking technologies, and, especially, the GPS technology, has allowed a significant improvement in the performance of those industries that depend on fleets. It has also improved the average citizen driving experience.