The What and the How of GPS
Everywhere you turn, people are using GPS in their lives to know where they are, where they’re going, and how long it’s going to take to get there. The same is true of business: more and more companies rely on knowing the position and status of the vehicles in their fleets to drive business metrics. But before you can tell if GPS is something your fleet can benefit from, it helps to know the what and how of GPS.
What Is GPS?
GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a network of satellites that orbit the earth. Currently, 32 satellites act as a network to provide information on location, speed, time and direction of GPS receivers. The GPS satellite network is maintained by the U.S. Government, and has been in operation and available for public use since the early 1990s.
How Does GPS tracking work?
GPS tracking combines a number of components to provide position information.
- The GPS satellites transmit signals that can be received on the ground. The satellites do this continually, whether or not there is anyone receiving signals.
- A GPS receiver on the ground receives these signals. There are a variety of GPS receiver options available to users, from vehicle-mounted GPS units to mobile handsets. The common factor in all of them is that they are able to receive GPS satellite signals.
- The GPS receiver uses data from multiple GPS satellites at the same time to determine a variety of information at a fixed point in time, including the receiver's position, if it is moving, the speed at which it is moving, and the direction it is moving. This is how a GPS unit can tell your location, how and where you need to go, and estimate how long it will take to get there.
What is GPS Fleet Tracking?
With GPS fleet tracking, an additional step is added to the above three:
- GPS information from the receiver is sent via a cellular data signal to a software application. This application records and interprets the data, allowing the receiver's position to be displayed on a map or presented as location information.
A GPS-capable receiver is required for each individual or vehicle that is tracked. It is also important to understand that the GPS receiver’s antenna is passive and only receives signals from the GPS satellites. It does not broadcast vehicle position. A cellular communications system is required to transmit data from the vehicle to the GPS fleet tracking application. Using a fleet tracking application and GPS position data from receivers installed throughout a fleet, a fleet operator can seen on a single screen where all of his drivers are, where they're going, and their behaviors associated with operating the vehicle and completing their work assignments.