Most Innovative Company, South Africa, 2016, African Business Awards
Best Forensic Investigation Company, Africa, 2016, African Corporate Excellence Awards
Best in Security, Forensics & Investigations – 2016 – International Business Awards
gps tracking

GPS Tracking Devices

GPS tracking devices use the Global Positioning System of navigation satellites to determine the location (and even the movement, speed, acceleration, altitude and heading) of the vehicle or object they are attached to. GPS tracking devices can provide real-time or historical location data to within 5 meters accuracy almost anywhere in the world.

Tracking Device Types

There are many different kinds of GPS tracking device, each with their own set of features, chatacteristics, advantages and disadvantages. When choosing a tracking device it is important to consider the environment in which he device will be used, and in particular:

  • Power Source: can the device be powered by its host’s power source (i.e. the vehicle’s battery) or must it have its own independent power supply?
  • Monitoring: do I need real-time (Active) monitoring or periodic (Passive) monitoring?

Power Source: Fixed vs Portable Devices

Fixed (Hard-Wired)

fixed-tracker

These devices are hardwired to the vehicles electrical system so that they can draw power from the vehicles battery. They need to be professionally fitted for maximum stealth and optimal performance.

ADVANTAGES– Less maintenance required
– device is “always on”
– More accurate location data
– More advanced features
– More dependable

DISADVANTAGES– Installation takes longer
– Higher risk of discovery
– Cannot be quickly removed
– More expensive

Portable (Battery-powered)

mobile-tracker

These devices have their own battery pack and do not need to be hardwired to the vehicle. They can be attached magnetically or otherwise to the exterior of the vehicle or concealed within.

ADVANTAGES– Installation is quick
– Can be concealed anywhere
– Less risk of discovery
– Quick to remove if necessary
– Less expensive

DISADVANTAGES– More maintenance required
– Limited operating time
– Not as accurate
– Not as dependable

Monitoring: Active vs Passive Devices

The difference between active and passive monitoring is simple: Active monitoring devices enable you to monitor the location and movements of the vehicle live, or in real-time. Passive monitoring devices do not send data in real time (even though they’re tracking the vehicle in real-time). With passive monitoring devices, you might get location updates periodically, for example, every 5 minutes or every hour, or you might need to request a location update (perhaps via SMS command). The last type of passive monitoeing device is the movement logger which doesn’t report at all.

Real-time/Live Trackers

real time tracker

As the name suggests, these devices allow you to monitor the movements and location of the target vehicle in real-time (i.e. live). Real-time trackers require a regular cellphone SIM card that has airtime or data available. The location data is then sent via the cell network to a remote server or to your computer depending on how it has been set up. You would then see that data in the form of a map with route and location information overlayed.

ADVANTAGES– View location in real-time
– See vehicle movement live
– More convenient
– Better data management

DISADVANTAGES– More expensive to buy
– Higher operating costs
– Monthly subscription fees

Interval-Based Trackers

periodic tracker

These tracking devices also use a SIM card, but don’t send location data out in real-time. The can usually be programmed to send a location periodically (for example, every 5 minutes or every hour). Many of these devices will also send you a notification when the vehicle stops and starts moving. These devices are cheaper that Real-time Trackers and require little installation or setup.

ADVANTAGES– Less expensive to buy
– No monthly subscriptions
– Reasonable operating costs
– Locations provided periodically

DISADVANTAGES– Less convenient
– Relies on mobile network
– Data management challenging
– Not as accurate

Location On-demand

on-demand tracker

These tracking devices also use a SIM card, but don’t send location data out automatically. To obtain a location you’d send a specific SMS command to the SIM card in that device and it will return the location to you in the form of GPS coordinates and a link to open those coordinates on a map in your browser.

ADVANTAGES– Less expensive to buy
– No monthly subscriptions
– Reasonable operating costs
– Locations provided on demand

DISADVANTAGES– Less convenient
– Relies on mobile network
– Data management challenging
– Not as accurate

Movement Loggers

tracking-logger

The cheapest type of tracking device is the Route Logging Tracker. It does not send you any data, but instead, tracks the location and movemement of the vehicle and stores all that data on its own internal memory. You would then retrieve the tracking device and download the data to your computer for viewing.

ADVANTAGES– Most reliable
– No monthly subscriptions
– No operating costs
– Cheapest to buy
– Data can be easily managed

DISADVANTAGES– Least convenient
– Requires more effort
– Only provides historical data