GPS technology was originally developed for defense purposes and later brought to the consumer market as a navigation technology. However the price of the technology went down and this prompted companies to find new applications for the technology. GPS Tracking is one such innovation.
Before we get into the applications of GPS, let us examine briefly how GPS works. Well, GPS is based on the technique of “trilateration.” where GPS receivers use this technique to calculate the co-ordinates of their location on earth. This calculation is done by measuring the time signals from different satellites take to reach them.
The signal strength and clock differences between the device and the satellite network are adjusted by using signals from four separate satellites. This way we get a fairly accurate reading of location, usually in an error range of within 100 metres.
The co-ordinates come into use to locate the device on a map. This map may be displayed to the user who may either be the device holder or the tracker. The co-ordinates can also be used to calculate routes, navigate or as input into mapping programs.
GPS for Tracking
The simplest techniques in GPS tracking enable the user, who carries a portable GPS device, to keep track of where they are, rectify if they have moved in the wrong direction or follow the same path in future if necessary.
This device can be used in combination with other GPS devices such as GPS phones. This way another user carrying a GPS phone can follow the initial user, which is a useful application in field activities.
GPS tracking can also work in combination with broadcast technologies like radio. Here, a GPS device calculates its position and also broadcasts the information using a radio transmitter. This signal reaches a central command location which has a GPS receiver. This way the central command can track the wearer, store the information or relay it to another party depending on the requirements.
This has many uses- for defense and police personnel as well as households. For example, an anxious parent can track where their ward is at any time of the day or night.
GPS in Vehicle Tracking
One application of GPS is for tracking vehicles, where GPS devices are attached to vehicles with a distinctive identification like a chassis number. The principle is similar to a tracking device worn by a human; however the system is integrated with the vehicle’s electronic system.
This way, the vehicle does not need a separate car navigation system. Further, the GPS technology makes it possible to relay this information through a radio or cell phone. Another application of the technology is for locating vehicles. The police can track a stolen vehicle fitted with a GPS device. GPS devices can also be used to pass alerts to the driver. For instance, a driver can be alerted of the approach of a service center while he is on the road in unfamiliar territory.
GPS technology can also be extended to coordinate vehicle tracking. Thus several vehicles going to the same destination can share location information. Vehicle tracking and GPS fish-finder unit combinations have been used successfully to help fishing boats locate, track and catch large schools of fish. However the overall technology is more sophisticated here, as elements like gauging depth, checking tide timings etc come into the picture.
Fleet tracking has an important place in military operations. Units out of line of sight can share their location information. The often inaccurate map coordinate method of the past can thus be replaced with much higher accuracy now.
Apart from military, commercial fishing and aviation applications, GPS tracking can also work with existing systems like cell phones and vehicles. A point of service is often involved here, to keep track of the location. This brings down the cost of the consumer unit and users can avail the technology at attractive prices.
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