About 20,000 kilometres into space, a network of around 30 satellites beams radio signals back to millions of devices on the ground. Those devices are known as Global Positioning System (GPS) trackers. They use the satellite signals to determine where they are located on Earth, down to within a few metres.
A GPS tracker works by determining the distance between itself and at least four different satellites. It calculates the amount of time it takes for their signals to reach it and then uses that information to work out its own three-dimensional position.
When fitted to a motor vehicle, such a device can guide its occupants to their destination by using digital maps and pre-recorded voice commands. The technology can also be used to track a vehicle’s movements wherever it goes.
As the business world strives for ever greater productivity and the workforce becomes increasingly mobile, GPS and other tracking technologies are becoming more common and important. Making every minute count has become an even higher priority as the ability to track new information has increased.
Much like the old punch-clock in a factory, employees must now log in on their computers, where their attendance is recorded by time-keeping software. On the road, GPS tracking devices fitted to company vehicles reveal where those vehicles go and how long they spend at each location.
Every 20 seconds or so, such a device records the time, date, location, direction and speed of the vehicle. This data is then transmitted back to the office, where it is displayed on a computer dashboard, allowing management to monitor the status of their fleet in real time.
This is not only a way of measuring the productivity of employees, but can also be used to improve overall efficiency (i.e. being able to allocate each job to the nearest vehicle).
GPS technology has also found a use in crime prevention. If a stolen vehicle has a tracking device fitted to it, the owner of that vehicle can follow its progress in real time and pinpoint its final destination to within a few metres. The police can then be notified and the vehicle recovered.
To this effect, there are now a number of vehicle tracking services in operation, such as OnStar and LoJack in the USA and Toyota Link in Australia.
However, with GPS tracking now available on smartphones, some people may choose to track and recover their stolen vehicles themselves. This is not considered a wise course of action, as car thieves are criminals and can be dangerous if confronted. Authorities recommend that you always notify the police and let them handle the recovery of your vehicle.
The main limitation of GPS tracking is that it will not prevent your vehicle from being stolen in the first place or being damaged and stripped of valuable items before it is recovered. Nevertheless, it does provide yet another form of vehicle security, which when combined with other preventative measures such as alarms and immobilisers, will help to reduce vehicle theft.
Any measures you can take to help keep your car safe and reduce the risk factor not only from accidents and damage but theft as well can also have a huge impact on your car insurance premium, therfroe take the time and think about what systems you have in place that is keeping your car safe on and off the road.