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What Is GPS Tracking? How It Can Benefit Your Business

March 31, 2022

gps tracking

Keep right and take the exit toward your GPS guide.

GPS tracking helps companies take the “where?” out of their daily operations by keeping a close eye on their necessary items. It sends and receives satellite signals that determine the location of these items using geographic positioning. 

Businesses implement transportation management systems (TMS) to organize the transportation assets and valuables they monitor. TMS solutions can track fleets, manage air, sea, and rail shipping, supervise carrier relationships, observe shipping statuses, and offer more overall visibility into the shipping and procurement process. Transportation management systems are commonly integrated with supply chain suites to predict supply and demand needs. 

How does GPS tracking work?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a worldwide navigation system that locates specific points. A GPS tracking system connects to the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) to collect data regarding location and direction. 

GPS tracking devices work by sending out radio signals and connecting to those satellites to determine the location of a person or object using geographic positioning. Upon installation, a GPS tracking device immediately fetches that data and pings those satellites. The satellites identify a specific point’s location and its approximate distance using latitude and longitude. 

GPS tracking is used both personally and professionally. The average user can track their car or pet. Companies can utilize GPS tracking to protect their business assets.

The legalities of GPS tracking

If a company wants to implement a compliant GPS tracking system, it has to keep two major things in mind:

  • Companies should only track assets or vehicles that belong to them.
  • Employees should be made aware of where and when they are being tracked.

Users apply GPS tracking in different ways. Some ways are more costly and tedious than others, but the payoff is a system that will never leave you frantically looking for something ever again.

Types of GPS tracking

People use many different types of GPS location tracking in many different ways. Those types fall into two major categories: personal and asset tracking. 

Personal tracking

Most people have encountered some kind of personal tracking. Personal GPS tracking allows a user to track the exact location of another person or object. People use personal GPS devices to track belongings or keep an eye on loved ones.

The most common use of real-time tracking for individuals is simply using a GPS to help them find the optimal route to their destination. However, there are other ways GPS trackers can be utilized for personal use. 

For example, Apple’s Find My iPhone application allows users to track their Apple products. People who fasten trackers onto their dogs’ collars are also engaging in personal GPS tracking. Some even add GPS tags to their wallets or car keys. 

Asset tracking

Companies use asset tracking to monitor their physical assets of value. This includes computers, vehicles, office equipment, furniture, and machinery. Asset tracking locates any valuable that needs to be found.

Asset tracking works by giving hardware components unique identifiers that work alongside software to keep track of them. A typical example of asset tracking is warehousing companies that use GPS asset trackers to track their items and prevent theft. They may use radio frequency identification (RFID) tags or a barcode inventory system to track what they have and where. 

The most popular use of asset tracking for companies is tracking a vehicle using cell-based and satellite-based GPS. Cell-based GPS vehicle tracking uses a device in the vehicle that sends location information by pinging nearby cell towers. Satellite-based GPS vehicle tracking collects location data through satellite networks. 

72%

of survey respondents use GPS fleet tracking software.

Source: Verizon Connect

Asset tracking software works with GPS tracking to pinpoint the “where” by providing a hub for tracking business assets. With these tools, companies manage asset registries, maintain an inventory history, and supply real-time location information. 

Types of GPS trackers

Companies use three different types of tracking devices. These real-time GPS trackers are primarily used in the fleet and transportation management process when tracking company vehicles. All three types are useful and have their own advantages and disadvantages depending on the company’s needs. 

Plug-in trackers

Plug-in GPS trackers are potentially the most simple trackers to install because they plug right into the electricity port inside a vehicle. They are usually small and easy to maintain. Because of the easy installation, this is the most popular tracker for people who hope to utilize it for personal tracking as well.

The major con of plug-in vehicle GPS trackers is that if the vehicle is turned off, the tracker goes offline. So in comparison to the other trackers available, the data is not as easily accessible at all times. 

Hardwired trackers

Hardwired GPS trackers are wired directly into the vehicle. This car GPS tracker is most favorable for businesses who may have company vehicles without the necessary electric port for plug-in trackers. They are relatively easy to install, can be hidden for security purposes, and remain permanent tracking fixtures to the specific vehicle.

The main disadvantage is that removing the hardwired tracker for maintenance is more difficult than the other GPS trackers. Similarly to plug-in trackers, the location data is also only available when the vehicle is turned on.

Battery-operated trackers

Battery-operated GPS trackers run on their own battery power as opposed to relying on the vehicle. With a powerful battery, these trackers can operate without maintenance for weeks or months at a time. There are even options for rechargeable batteries that could be more cost-effective in the long run.

The main con of battery-operated trackers is that they will most likely send out location data less frequently in order to save battery power. However, it will continue sending location notifications even when the vehicle is turned off. 

Benefits of GPS tracking

There are many benefits to implementing a GPS tracking system into your operations process. Depending on the size of your business and the scope of your tracking system, these benefits could decrease costs and increase profits by prioritizing efficiency. 

  • Track valuables. Above all, the main goal of GPS tracking is to protect a company’s essential assets. Tracking these valuables will ensure they are in your possession at all times, giving you some peace of mind at the end of the day. 
  • Reduce operational costs. One of the most significant expenses a company that uses transportation services will face is the cost of fuel and upkeep. Using a GPS tracking device in their vehicles means a company can monitor how often their drivers use vehicles and plan the most efficient routes. This also allows businesses to make sure drivers are operating vehicles for their intended purpose. With advanced GPS trackers, a company can even see if drivers are speeding or accelerating aggressively and burning more fuel than necessary. 

32%

of GPS tracking users reported a positive ROI in fewer than six months in 2021.

Source: Verizon Connect

  • Conduct effective route planning. Route planning is the process of creating a comprehensive plan that outlines the best routes to take to prioritize preserving time, money, and fuel. Real-time tracking will ensure that those routes are always available and effective. To confirm that the most efficient routes are always in place, companies should use the GPS information gathered when creating a route plan.
  • Enhance security.  GPS tracking makes sure a company’s assets are in the right hands at all times.Any unauthorized access will be tracked immediately. That information is integral in a theft recovery situation.
  • Monitor working hours. GPS tracking can help businesses ensure that no one is wasting company time. A tracking system gives companies the tools to keep an eye on their employees’ movements throughout the day. This is especially valuable for companies that report shipping and delivery diagnostics to their customers. GPS tracking their shipments will give customers that insight into where their package is and when they will be receiving it. 
  • Promote safety practices. GPS tracking gives companies insights into the specific movements of whatever they are tracking. For example, when GPS tracking a vehicle, businesses can determine whether a driver is speeding, driving erratically, or displaying any other unsafe behaviors. Collecting this information gives companies the peace of mind that their assets are safe and that their employees and those around them are too.
  • Improve customer satisfaction. Above all, the more efficient a company operates from the inside, the better the service. GPS tracking allows companies to get products through the lifecycle and into customers’ hands much faster. More customer satisfaction means more customer retention and more profit!

GPS tracking challenges

Although GPS tracking is extremely valuable in many ways, a company may encounter a few challenges as they start their tracking process and throughout its lifecycle. 

  • Implementation fees can be costly. A GPS tracking system requires employees to set up and maintain devices. This also includes paying those who will install and train. Small businesses may find the implementation price to be a bit too costly. 
  • Installation is tedious. Implementing a GPS tracking system is quite a lengthy process, especially if you plan to track a long list of items, people, or vehicles. Because of its highly technical nature, the system can also include a learning curve to understand its use cases and to train the necessary individuals. 
  • Improper training will stifle success. Training employees about everything GPS tracking is of the utmost importance. This is the time to explain why the tracking system was implemented, how to use it successfully, and what to do in the case of an error. Training is also the perfect opportunity to ensure that employees are comfortable being tracked. As mentioned earlier, the legalities of tracking are very important to keep in mind. Taking the time to give employees the information about the what, where, and when gives them more comfort around the logistics of tracking. 
  • Tracker upkeep. In the world of business, nothing is cheap. That includes those mini batteries that sit in all the battery-powered GPS trackers. For those trackers to keep tracking, companies have to maintain the battery life. Maintenance also includes ensuring that the other types of trackers are always in a state to continue operating efficiently. Keeping the trackers online is the only way GPS tracking works, and doing so could be costly for some companies.
  • Complete accuracy is not guaranteed. Although modern-day satellites are very accurate, absolute precision is never truly guaranteed. Entering an area with a bad signal or significant interference could jeopardize a GPS tracker's accuracy. 
  • Poor signal can negatively affect results. GPS tracking metrics are only as precise as the satellite signal being received. Because that accuracy cannot be guaranteed, companies should be aware that data can be skewed accordingly. For example, suppose a business is tracking a vehicle’s mileage during a specific period, and the tracking system goes offline at that moment. In that case, the mileage data collected is no longer entirely valid.

GPS vs. GPRS

GPS and GPRS (general packet radio service) are often confused because of how similar their acronyms are; however, they are very different in their uses and applications.

GPS vs GPRS

Global positioning system (GPS) is a satellite-based system that provides real-time location information. It is used for mapping out areas and navigating. 

General packet radio service (GPRS) is a cellular data platform that provides information services. These services include accessing emails, media messaging, and video calling. It relies on network towers to operate successfully and relay data to an Android or iOS mobile device.

GPS and GPRS are similar in that they collect information and supply data to the user. They are both beneficial and used in many ways in daily life. 

GPS and GPRS also differ in many ways. GPS can be used from anywhere, and the data it retrieves can be accessed at all times as well. GPS is so accessible that it is not limited to use on land and can be used at sea or even in the sky. It does this by connecting to the many available satellites in the area. 

GPRS works within a limited area because it relies on cellular towers within range; it is exclusively used on land. GPS systems are traditionally much costlier than GPRS because they require the purchase, installation, and upkeep of an entire system. GPRS can be accessed from any mobile phone. 

Are we there yet?

GPS tracking doesn’t just help you get to that place you’ve never been. Utilizing navigation technology in your business takes your operations to the next level. 

Whether monitoring your valuables for protection or keeping an eye on your vehicles and drivers, GPS tracking will give you the insights you need. If all else fails, you can always reroute and take the next exit. 

Curious how else you could keep an eye on your most important company assets? Learn more about inventory tracking and how you can upgrade your management system.

transportation management systems (TMS)
Where in the world are you?

And why aren’t you utilizing a transportation management system? Find out how a TMS can take your fleet tracking process to the next level.

transportation management systems (TMS)
Where in the world are you?

And why aren’t you utilizing a transportation management system? Find out how a TMS can take your fleet tracking process to the next level.

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