Vehicle Tracking Systems - Overview
Vehicle tracking systems are devices used for tracking location of vehicles in real time. This is made possible by installing electronic devices in the vehicle; it is the signals sent out by the devices that enable owners or other parties entrusted with the tracking job to trace and follow the vehicle.
It was the shipping industry that first started using vehicle tracking systems. When large fleet of vehicles were spread out over the vast expanses of ocean, the owner corporations often found it difficult to keep track of what was happening. As the saying goes necessity is the mother of invention; thus GPS tracking systems which originally were used in military operations found their application here. The commercial application grew poular very soon and these days consumer vehicles of all sorts use tracking systems as devices to prevent theft and enhance retrieval.
GPS (Global Positioning System) is the technology most commonly used for vehicle tracking these days. There are also other variants of AVL (Automatic Vehicle Location) that enable easy location of vehicles. The GPS modules with their satellite linked positioning technique make easy and accurate location of the vehicle possible. The information can be viewed on electronic maps that are connected to the Internet or otherwise supported by specialized software. Advanced GPS modules may also have cellular or satellite transmitters that communicate with remote users apart from the central station from where the tracking is done.
As we saw earlier, the GPS system uses satellite signals. These systems were originally developed by the government for defense purposes. The satellite part is thus available to civilians and commercial users free of cost. All the user needs to do is install the appropriate devices for sending out and receiving signals. This makes GPS an inexpensive technology.
The other AVL systems like Loran and LoJack are terrestrial based and use radio frequency (RF) transmitters. RF transmitters send out powerful signals that can pass through walls, garages and other indoor barriers. Terrestrial or otherwise, most of these do not need antenna to be in direct line of sight with the satellite. This is a major advantage of the technology’s progress.
Active and Passive Tracking
In the case of passive tracking, the device simply stores information of the vehicle like GPS location, speed, change in direction and events. This information is downloaded onto a computer for study purposes when the vehicle gets back to its original destination. In the case of active tracking, the device not only collects the information mentioned above, but it also transmits the information in real time through satellite or cellular networks.
Uses of Vehicle Tracking
Commercial fleet operators are by far the largest users of vehicle tracking systems. These systems are used for operational functions such as routing, security, dispatch and collecting on-board information.
These systems are also used in consumer vehicles as devices for preventing theft and retrieving stolen/lost vehicles. The signal sent out by the installed device help the police to track the vehicle. These tracking systems can be used as an alternative for traditional car alams or in combination with it. Installing tracking systems can thus bring down the insurance costs for your vehicle by reducing the risk factor.
Vehicle Tracking systems often have several alternatives, like sending automatic alerts to a phone or email if the vehicle is moved withoug due authorization. They can also work as one layer of several combined security measures.
Apart from security concerns, the tracking systems can also help users such as taxi services to improve their customer service. The systems enable the operators to identify the empty taxis and direct the nearest one to pick up the customer.
Vehicle tracking systems can also be applied for monitoring driving behavior for both commercial and individual situations. Parents for instance can use tracking devices to keep an eye on their teenage son’s driving.
Markets for Vehicle Tracking Systems
Based on the uses described above, we can categorize the users of vehicle tracking systems into the following segments.